Every basketball fan has The Last Dance circled on their calendar as must-watch television (besides, there’s literally no sports on right now). The 10-hour documentary will surely provide a lot of never-told-before stories of Michael Jordan and his final season with the Bulls.
With all of this footage being released from the vaults, it’s still hard to fathom whether 10 hours is enough to cover all of the drama that surrounded the Bulls path toward a sixth championship in 1998. Here are 10 storylines we would love to see in the upcoming documentary:
Did it really have to end after the ‘98 season?
The whole premise of the documentary is about how this was the last dance for Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and Phil Jackson. But did it really have to be the end? Jerry Krause famously said, “coaches and players don’t win championships.” Although the former Bulls GM claimed he was misquoted, the damage was done. Before the start of the ‘98 season, the rift was just too strong for all parties to come together and extend the partnership.
Here’s what we know: Jordan was still at the height of his powers even if he was no longer in his prime. Pippen went on to be a key contributor on the Blazers. Rodman had two more NBA stops with the Lakers and Mavericks. Jackson went on to coach the Lakers to a bunch more championships. So I ask again: did this really have to be the end of the Bulls dynasty? Hopefully we get some insight into what appears to be an irreparable rift between the players, coaches, and the front office.
Stories from the legendary pick-up games on the ‘Space Jam’ set
After coming back wearing the 4-5 and losing in the second round to the Orlando Magic in 1995, Jordan spent the summer filming Space Jam. There was also an entire basketball court built so he could get himself ready for a climb back to the top (spoiler: the Bulls won a record 72 games the following season and Jordan won his fourth championship).
Those who were there at the famous Jordan Dome talk about the pick-up games as some of the most competitive they’ve ever participated in, which is no surprise when you consider Jordan invited the likes of Cedric Ceballos, Charles Oakley, and other competitors on set.
How much do the Bulls players credit Phil Jackson for their championships?
There’s no question the Zen Master deserves plenty of credit for steering the ship in Chicago, especially in the second three-peat when he had to juggle the egos of Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman. Beyond just Xs and Os, Jackson also challenged and managed the mental psyche of the Bulls team. Meditation sessions. Breathing exercises. Team bonding took on a completely different meaning under Jackson.
Which begs the question: How many of the players really bought into Jackson’s approach, or did they just think anyone could have won with a roster like the Bulls?
How much did Jordan and Pippen really resent Toni Kukoc?
It’s been well-documented how much Jordan and Pippen resented the hype Toni Kukoc received as a prospect, to the point where both guys made it a point to go at Kukoc on every possession when Team USA played Croatia at the ‘92 Olympics in Barcelona. The rift extended further. In the 1994 playoffs, Pippen famously refused to check in to a pivotal playoff game against the Knicks after Jackson drew up the game-winning play for Kukoc. Throw in Jordan’s maniacal approach with his teammates and surely we’ll have some behind the scenes footage and interviews about the strange dynamic between the three of these guys.
What was the Pippen-Rodman dynamic really like?
As far as one-on-one dynamics go, Pippen and Rodman might not even crack the top three, which says a lot about how this Bulls team, especially during their second three-peat, was constructed. When the Bulls traded for Rodman, he was coming off a tumultuous year in San Antonio. The price for the rebounding king was low. Chicago only had to give up Will Perdue, but more importantly, they needed both Jordan and Pippen’s approvals to make the trade.
The two gave the go-ahead, but it must not have been easy for Pippen, who had many physical battles with Rodman during the height of the Bulls’ rivalry with the Bad Boy Pistons. The two also seemed to be polar opposites when it came to their personalities. We’ve heard about all of this, but now is the time to see what it was really like for Pippen and Rodman to share a locker room together as teammates, and how they figured it all out.
How many more Jordan-as-a-manic-teammate stories will we get?
Every story about Jordan’s competitiveness has become the stuff of legends. From getting a ping-pong table during the ‘92 Olympics just so he could beat everyone, to dressing down his teammates in public regularly. Whether it was basketball, table tennis, or card games, Jordan was always looking to scratch his competitive itch.
Surely, we haven’t heard all of the stories, and we have to hope a 10-hour documentary featuring interviews with every single person around Jordan (and MJ himself) will uncover a few more iconic anecdotes about one man’s competitive drive to beat every single person at every single thing.
What did Jordan and Rodman talk about? Did they even talk at all?
By all accounts, the Bulls did their best to put up with Rodman’s off-court antics as long as he brought it on it, which he always did when the lights shone the brightest. It’s been well-documented that Jordan and Rodman didn’t have any kind of personal relationship during their time together with the Bulls, beyond just being teammates who won championships together.
Dennis Rodman: 'For a minute, I was more famous than Michael Jordan in Chicago'— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) September 10, 2019
We talked to @DennisRodman about how he rivaled MJ's fame and his unique relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jung-Un.
Read: https://t.co/19oMRuiegq pic.twitter.com/i0VIEHnXY2
Some have even said Jordan and Rodman never had a single conversation outside of when they were on the basketball court. How was that even possible? And did Jordan ever reach a breaking point with Rodman and his constant distractions? It’s time for us to learn the whole story.
An inside look at the most adverse moments
When you look back at Jordan’s six championships, it’s really hard to pinpoint too many moments of adversity. There was the time they fell behind 2-0 to the Knicks in the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals, or when the Indiana Pacers pushed them to seven games in the 1998 East Finals, or even the Utah Jazz, who appeared on the verge of forcing a Game 7 at home in the ‘98 Finals before Michael Jordan hit his iconic jumper over Bryon Russell to win the series.
How threatened did the Bulls feel in each of those situations? And what did Jordan think was the toughest championship to win? Or the toughest team he had to beat? We’ve spent years debating these things, and now it’s time for Jordan to actually give us those answers.
A fresh look at Jordan’s baseball career
Decades later, it still feels like we haven’t properly processed how wild it was for the best player in the NBA to walk away from the sport immediately after winning three championships. Twice. That alone would make for a 10-hour doc before you consider the fact Jordan not only walked away from the game in his prime, he decided to go pursue a baseball career, and ended up languishing in the Chicago White Sox minor league system. How did his Bulls teammates feel about this? Did they support him? Did they feel slighted? Did they feel like Jordan owed them another season to go for a four-peat, and perhaps more? And how does MJ feel about his decision today?
How did Jordan stay motivated?
This might seem like a silly question given Jordan’s drive. But, when you continue to conquer the league year-after-year, it has to be hard, even for someone with Jordan’s competitive drive, to keep finding ways to motivate yourself.
Judging by his infamous Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame induction speech, Jordan spent his entire life looking for slights, both real and perceived, to keep pushing him. I hope he’s got every single slight (again, real and perceived) catalogued from his championship run. I want to know every single person who said the wrong thing to Jordan on the court that ticked him off and made him go for 50. I want Jordan to pull out all of his receipts once and for all.