The first two episodes of The Last Dance, the ESPN and Netflix 10-part docuseries, are in the rearview mirror.
And with this column coming out in the Friday edition of The Brazil Times, there shouldn’t be any spoilers for whoever may be reading my thoughts (if you haven’t watched the first two episodes yet, fold the paper up or minimize your browser, watch them on whichever streaming network you have and then come back to it).
Listed below are my takeaways from Episode I and II:
Jerry Krause was made out to be the villain
• Like I said in my introductory column on the docuseries, I didn’t have the privilege of seeing Michael Jordan and the 1990s Chicago Bulls in real-time. I’ve seen clips on YouTube and read plenty on the team and the history they made but hadn’t heard a whole lot on Krause and his time as the team’s General Manager. In Sunday’s first two episodes, Krause is one of the main subjects. He, obviously, deserves a ton of credit for putting together the team that has gone down in history as one of, if not the best, the NBA’s ever seen. But the way he went about informing Phil Jackson the 1997-98 season would be his last regardless of how they did, showed the power struggle the organization had.
• Also shown in the first two episodes was the way the players blatantly disrespected Krause and the way he went about his business in running the on-court personnel. Players would mock him behind the scenes, to the media, and even in front of Krause’s face. But despite all of the controversy Krause may have caused with his moves and words, the Bulls were able to put that aside and play out of their minds like they had in the past.
Scottie Pippen was a baller
• I think everyone who’s a fan of the game of basketball is aware of the caliber of player Scottie Pippen was, especially during his time with the Chicago Bulls. But in the second episode of the docuseries, which featured Pippen’s rise to greatness, it became apparent, especially to someone like myself who only saw him in the latter years of his career with the Portland Trailblazers, just how good he was. Yes, he was the Robin to Jordan’s Batman. But he had to be. There wasn’t any other choice when you’re playing alongside the best player the game has ever seen (again, my opinion). It was clear Pippen was one of the top-five players in the league at that time and was uber important to the success of the Bulls despite being criminally underpaid compared to his NBA counterparts.
• Him talking about his upbringing was particularly moving. He witnessed his father have a stroke at dinner one night and then his brother later became paralyzed when a classmate fell on top of him during a gym class, putting both men in wheelchairs. His route to becoming a Hall of Famer was a winding road. He was the equipment manager at an NAIA school that allowed him to practice with the team. He grew from 6-foot-1 to 6-foot-5 and eventually to 6-foot-9 and earned his way onto the team with a scholarship to go with it. His hard work continued and got him noticed nationally, which eventually ended in him becoming the No. 5 overall pick in the NBA Draft.
The 1986 playoff series against the Boston Celtics
• In the second episode of the docuseries, it takes you through the first round of the 1986 NBA playoff series between the Bulls and the Celtics. Although the C’s made “quick work” of the up-and-coming Bulls, Michael Jordan put the basketball world on notice with the performances he put up, especially in Game 2. Boston defeated Chicago 135-131 in double overtime, but Jordan did everything in his power for the outcome to be different. Playing 53 minutes, he scored a game-high 63 points on 22-of-41 shooting from the field and 19-of-21 from the free throw line. He did not attempt a shot from 3-point range. He sent the game into overtime by knocking down a pair of free throws with no time left on the clock but ultimately fell short of completing the historic win. The reason? Boston had the final shot. The best part of the highlights was at the end when Larry Bird made the comment that had people on social media and daily sports talk television and radio shows buzzing. “I've never seen it before. And I've never seen it after. That wasn't Michael Jordan out there. That was God disguised as Michael Jordan," Bird said.