Highlights from ESPN’s ‘The Last Dance’: Episodes 9 & 10

Week five and the final two episodes of ‘The Last Dance’ documentary hit hard, delving into the final days of Michael Jordan as a member of the Chicago Bulls. For the most part, the last two episodes documented his last season, but tea was spilled on a Michael Jordan legend that we’ve grown to know, appreciate, and wear.

Here are some highlights from episodes nine and ten of ‘The Last Dance.’

Reggie Miller was a DOG.

People forget about how great Reggie Miller was. This generation of basketball fans know Miller mostly as a commentator, but not as a top-two shooter of all-time. Miller wrote the blueprint for guys like Steph Curry and Ray Allen. One of his brightest moments and biggest shots came from Game 4 of the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals when he hit a game-winner to even the series at 2 apiece, instead of falling to a 3-1 deficit.

Jordan wasn’t messing with Malone winning MVP.

In the next series, the 1998 Finals against the Karl Malone and John Stockton-led Utah Jazz, MJ had that inevitable chip on his shoulder. o one did anything to him, but he felt like the MVP award was stolen from him by Malone. That’s all the motivation Michael needed. He then went to average 33.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.3 assists for the series, won the series and capped off his Bulls career with the legendary mid-range jumper to ice the series with 6.6 seconds left.

Mike’s flu game was a lie.

I feel let down. I played a middle school basketball game during the All-City Tournament for Northeast Academy while I had a very bad cold. I didn’t have the flu, but the task of playing with a severe cold at 13 years old was quite the feat. It was all for nothing because MJ didn’t have the flu during Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz. Instead, he got some bad pizza via delivery the night before in Utah. He ended up getting food poisoning. Was this planned from the ruthless Jazz fan-base? Who knows. He scored 38 points in 44 minutes that night, though.

Steve Kerr’s heartbreak fueled the man he is today.

The story took a somber turn once we learned about Malcolm Kerr, Steve’s father, who was murdered by the Islamic Jihad Organization while serving as the president of American University of Beirut in 1984. Kerr was only a freshman at Arizona University when this happened, but it fueled him to focus more on basketball, and become a vital piece of the Bulls dynasty. I also assume that his father’s death motivated his activism. Kerr is very outspoken on social justice topics to this day.

Dennis Rodman missed practice for WCW with Hulk Hogan.

Rodman didn’t just miss the average practice. He skipped out on the team in the middle of the 1998 NBA Finals in between Game 3 and Game 4 to crash a taping of WCW Nitro with Hulk Hogan in Michigan. It wasn’t ideal and people weren’t happy, but that wasn’t atypical of him. He was in town for Game 4, and all was well. This wouldn’t have been taken that lightly in the modern era of the NBA.

The Bulls could have stayed together, and it wasn’t because of Jerry Krause.

The most disappointing aspect of everything is the fact that the Bulls could have stayed together. Yes, we’re all aware of Krause’s promise to Phil Jackson that he wouldn’t be bringing the five-time head coach back after the 1998 season, whether he won his sixth or not. It was also a contract year for the bulk of the Bulls core, and they didn’t want to return if Jackson wasn’t the coach.

In a rivetting ending to this documentary, Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf overruled Krause by asking Jackson to remain the coach of the team. Jackson declined the opportunity because of the damage that was already done, and the tarnished relationship he had with Krause. Reinsdorf also admitted that the Bulls ‘couldn’t afford’ to pay Jordan, Pippen, and Co., and planned to go into a rebuild because of that. After Jackson’s outstanding run as head coach, he didn’t want to coach a rebuilding team, understandably so.

But what if? That has always been the question, but now it holds a different significance because if Phil would have agreed to remain the coach, there’s a strong belief that the guys would have been willing to take pay cuts to bring in the seventh championship for the real “Last Dance.” Michael disclosed his optimism about winning that seventh championship. It’s amazing to see someone with such an accomplished career, and accomplished life still regret something from over 20 years ago.

Addam M. Francisco

Founder & Editor-in-Chief. National Association of Black Journalists. University of Central Oklahoma.

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