Sports staff reacts to ‘The Last Dance’ episodes 1, 2

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Photo Courtesy of TNS / Lori Shepler

Lakers Point Guard Magic Johnson tries to drive past Chicago Bulls player Michael Jordan during the 1991 NBA Finals.

ESPN’s “The Last Dance” documentary miniseries has been highly-anticipated since the cancellation of nearly every national sport. Surrounding Michael Jordan and the 1997-1998 Chicago Bulls team, the series will expose new and surprising information in 10 episodes. The first two episodes aired Sunday.

Our staff writers were either newborns or unborn when the Bulls won their six championships. While we’ve all heard about Jordan and have watched his highlights, a lot of this information is brand new to us.

Realizing Steve Kerr has not aged one bit and seeing the giant suits Jordan and company used to wear were just some of the surprising and interesting moments, but we discuss other pieces that made for compelling TV.

Gabby Hajduk – Sports Editor

I obviously didn’t grow up watching Jordan, and even after watching highlights, reading and hearing about this basketball legend, I couldn’t fully grasp that he really is the greatest to ever play. In just two hours, my mind had been changed. Seeing the genuine love and dedication Jordan had towards basketball both at UNC and with the Bulls is something I can’t stop thinking about.

Sure, most athletes who play at that level love the sport, but Jordan was at a different level. After hearing things like Jordan played every game like it was the last and then seeing how he reacted to things like being benched with a serious injury or to hearing speculation about purposely missing the playoffs made me realize no current athlete brings as much intensity and passion as Jordan did. So, yeah, I’m a little mad at my parents for not having me a decade earlier.

While Jordan could practically tear apart a team on his own, without Scottie Pippen, it’s hard to imagine how many rings the Bulls would have. Seeing the way Pippen played was honestly beautiful — the touch he had on every pass, the way he could gracefully dunk any missed shot. Was Pippen OK with never being the No. 1 guy on the Bulls? I’m sure we’ll get more of an explanation in the coming episodes, but it seemed Pippen’s only issue was with Jerry Krause.

It’s hard to not root for Pippen at this point, as he was grossly underpaid and underappreciated by management and while we obviously know he ends up playing at some point in the ’97 – ’98 season, his trade demands were so intense it made me question whether he gets through the season. All I know is you can catch me on my couch at the same time next Sunday to find out how Pippen’s situation really plays out.

@gabby_h11

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Nithin Reddy – Staff Writer

With the coronavirus canceling sports for the time being, we have all been at home looking for some sort of nicotine patch to help our withdrawal.  Thankfully, ESPN moved up the Michael Jordan documentary, the Last Dance, and it’s off to a strong start. Through just two episodes we’ve seen a team with the best player in the world, Michael Jordan, the best contract in the league, Scottie Pippen, and one of the best coaches in the sport, Phil Jackson, falling apart at the seams. The Last Dance already looks to be one of ESPN’s great documentary series and we haven’t even gotten to the hyped-up behind the scenes coverage

Favorite moment

Whether it’s Larry Bird telling the Atlanta Hawks where he’s going to hit a game-winner and then doing it or Dirk Nowitzki scoring 21 points and a game-winning layup in the NBA Finals with the flu, the best NBA stories are the ones with a hidden background. Michael Jordan scoring 63 points against the eventual NBA champion Boston Celtics because he lost money to Danny Ainge in golf the day before qualifies. Only a few players can use that level of pettiness as fuel for destruction.

Biggest surprise

I never knew the relationship between Scottie Pippen and the Bulls front office was this bad. In the Jordan Rules, Sam Smith outlines the disdain between the front office and players, but I assumed if anything was going to come out about Scottie it would have happened before the Bulls went on a historic streak of winning. I was shocked to hear that Scottie wanted to be traded in ’97, when the Bulls were favorites to finish off a three-peat. With that said, I have a feeling we’re in for some great surprises to come, especially since the next episode is about the one and only Dennis Rodman.

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Brendyn Jones – Assistant On-Air Editor

Growing up, I always heard how good of a second man Scottie Pippen was to the Bulls franchise in the ’90s. But, what I have never heard was how disrespected he was. I know, some of it was his fault for signing such a bad contract. But, being the 122nd highest-paid player in the league?! Come on.

After hearing that, it makes perfect sense why he would demand a trade. But, that doesn’t mean that anyone could’ve seen it coming. That’d be like Klay Thompson demanding a trade one year and a half ago after the Warriors won their third title in four years.

It just shows how much those players actually despised Jerry Krause as a general manager. They essentially bullied him, which should really make us feel bad. But, we don’t. We don’t because of how much he tried to use his power over these guys that just wanted to win and play the game.

Speaking of playing the game, it makes me so happy to see how much it hurt Michael Jordan to be on a minutes restriction. Now I am by no means anti-”load management.” If you need rest to help your team win a championship, do it. But, you have to love an athlete that wants to be on the court so much that not being on it causes them that much pain. You could see the restrictions grinding on him with each and every clip and when John Paxson hit the game-winner, Jordan was as happy as anyone because they won.

What might’ve been better was to see what happened when that restriction was lifted, and Jordan exploded for 112 points in two games. Every Jordan fan has seen those highlights, but for it to be fueled by the context of what led to it made it that much more satisfying.

I can’t wait to spend another two hours glued to the screen next week.

@brendyn_jones

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Alec Busse – Assistant Video Editor

Similar to most sports fans, I was looking forward to “The Last Dance” as much as anybody. Being born in 1999 and not growing up a Bulls fan I am not familiar with many of the details presented in each episode. After the first episode, it was apparent the Bulls dynasty may have been cut short by Jerry Krause and the conflict he caused within the organization. The first two episodes showed how much conflict there was between Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson and Krause. I am excited to see how Jackson and the front office handle the Pippen situation in episodes three and four.

@alec_busse

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