I’m sad to say, but “The Last Dance”, the ten-part documentary from ESPN showcasing the final run of the late 90’s Bulls and Michael Jordan, has finally reached it’s finale.
Episodes 9 and 10 bring the series to an end by showing us the Bulls final championship, Steve Kerr’s moving segment, the “Flu Game” and more. Every week I will be recapping the episodes with some of my favorite moments. Here are a few that stuck out:
Last Dance Finale: Bulls-Pacers Series
In the Last Dance finale I’m glad they showed just how tough that Bulls-Pacers series really was. Reggie Miller was cold and that whole Pacers team gave the Bulls one of their toughest tests. Going into that fourth quarter I remember thinking to myself, “this might actually be it”.
Then, it happened. Phil Jackson switched Scottie Pippen onto Mark Jackson, and Pip hounded Jackson full court. That disrupted the flow of their entire offense and propelled the Bulls to victory. Wish they showed that in the Pacers segment, but it is what it is.
Steve Kerr Segment
The Kerr segment was great storytelling. I had first read about the Kerr family story back in 2014 when ESPN writer Ian O’Connor wrote a piece titled “Steve Kerr is tough enough to coach”. In the piece, O’Connor talked about Steve’s journey and his father’s death. A lot of the things we saw in last night’s episode, just in more detail. I recommend it if you are interested in learning a little bit more about Kerr the person.
That was then beautifully tied into Kerr hitting the big shot to seal a Bulls title and his great speech he made at the championship rally. I also kind of loved the unspoken bond between both Jordan and Kerr, both of whom had lost their dads.
They went into detail surrounding Jordan’s “Flu Game”. They showed what happened and then just how sick he really was during that game. That game showed Jordan’s will to win. No matter how sick he was, he was going to play. On top of playing, he was going to be amazing. On top of being amazing, he was going to win. MJ ended up playing 44 minutes and scoring 38 points, capping off one of the all-time great performances in NBA history.
Now to this day, there are still a lot of question marks surrounding the illness. Some don’t buy the story that it was food poisoning aka the pizza story. A few years back I had the pleasure of speaking to Jordan’s trainer Tim Grover. Among other things, I straight up asked him if MJ was possibly hungover. Grover proceeded to double down on it being food poisoning and also gave a great reason as to why MJ would never jeopardize everything he has worked so hard to achieve. You can hear the audio segment of us speaking here.
The Finale or Last Dance
All good things must end. I love that they showed Jordan watching Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf talk about not bringing the team back for one more run. You could tell from Jordan’s face that he was still upset that they did not at least even get a shot at trying to defend their title. Something that still bothers him and all of us fans until this day. Unreal when you think about it. Still stings.
Anyways, the ending with a montage of Jordan highlights set to Pearl Jam’s “Present Tense” was pretty perfect. I loved them sharing the Phil Jackson bonfire type scene story and there was terrific symbolism in the end by Director Jason Hehir.
I loved the doc as a whole, but there was one thing missing from it that I couldn’t believe they left out.
Scottie Pippen and Karl Marlone
I understand all the other cuts because of the time constraints, but leaving out Pippen’s all-time classic trash talking line to Karl Malone stings.
Scottie Pippen: I just whispered in his ear, “The Mailman doesn’t deliver on Sundays.”
Malone subsequently missed those 2 FTs and MJ hit the game-winner. That sequence changed the entire series. To me, it is the most glaring omission of the series.
Anyways, I’ve enjoyed the doc, so I am not criticizing. Those are just a couple of topics that I wish they had time to touch upon. At the end of the day, I know the Director said he had to leave out a ton of footage to get this thing bumped up early, so I will cut him some slack. I hope ESPN releases the extra footage every Sunday from now until forever going forward.
Well, I can’t believe The Last Dance has reached it’s finale. Like the Bulls dynasty, this too had to end. Watching this docu-series the last five Sundays has been the highlight of my week. There were so many good memories and nostalgic moments. Will miss it like I miss the old days. Stay safe and thank you all for reading this weekly piece.