“The Last Dance” has come and gone. A few days ago, I thought I was going to have to lament that fact here and there would be nothing to look forward to during this pandemic. But there have been announcements that summer sports can be played in Iowa starting in June and more businesses can be reopened starting Friday, May 22.
Is it a coincidence that after the biggest television event since the final season of “Game of Thrones” ended people have decided to try and get things back to normal? Sure, it’s probably a coincidence. But as a kid that was 12 when watching that final shot against the Utah Jazz, I’d like to think Michael Jordan pulled us through. Here are my biggest takeaways from the final two episodes of “The Last Dance.”
1: Why did they break up the Bulls again?
I understand everyone was getting older. Dennis Rodman was on his last legs, Scottie Pippen had a bad back and wanted out anyway while Jordan was 35. Jerry Reinsdorf, the owner of the Chicago Bulls, said it would cost a lot of money to bring back everyone on a one-year deal. That’s true. It would cost a lot. But the Bulls were practically printing money then and selling out arenas everywhere.
You know what would also ultimately end up costing a lot? Breaking up a dynasty and going 13-37 the following year and not making the playoffs again until the 2004-05 season. You get what you pay for.
2: Handing Jordan an iPad is the best trick ever.
I’m in print media, so I don’t video record my interviews. I just care about the audio. However, watching someone hand Jordan an iPad and getting his reaction to someone else’s comments is fascinating.
Managing editor Ty Rushing and I had a conversation through Twitter about this. I would watch another 10 hours of people handing Jordan an interview on an iPad and just getting his reaction. I don’t care if it’s about basketball, baseball, television, coronavirus, gymnastics, baking or farming, I would watch it.
3: The “flu game.”
Jordan had his famous “flu game” in game five of the 1997 NBA Finals. Or so we thought. Turns out he just ate a bad pizza and it was food poisoning. The “food poisoning game” doesn’t quite roll off the tongue the same way.
Whatever ailed him, he still finished with 38 points, seven rebounds and five assists. I don’t believe I’ve ever had food poisoning. I have ate things that didn’t sit well and made me feel worse (hello fast food). No way could I have gone out and even played a game afterward, let alone dominate.
4: Jordan didn’t push off.
Like many people, I assumed Jordan had a push-off on Bryon Russell during his famous go-ahead shot against the Utah Jazz in game six of the 1998 NBA Finals. It didn’t bother me. Who’s going to call a foul with six seconds left in a deciding game of the NBA Finals against the greatest player ever? I just assumed Jordan got away with one.
That new angle they showed during the series shed some new light on everything. Sure, Jordan did touch Russell. That didn’t make any real difference though. Russell was off balance and going that way anyway.
5: Jerry Reinsdorf has done a masterful job of deflecting blame.
Jerry Krause, the former general manager of the Bulls, takes most of the criticism of the Bulls getting dismantled. I think that’s fair, to a degree. But somehow, Reinsdorf doesn’t get mentioned the same way. Reinsdorf hired Krause and was his boss. Reinsdorf could have kept the team together. He could have told Krause not to antagonize Phil Jackson so much, although Jackson isn’t without blame either.
The Bulls won three consecutive NBA championships twice. They had won six of the last eight. They deserved a chance to go for seven. Would they have done it again? Who knows? It was a strike-shortened year so there were fewer games. But they crammed those games into a more compact schedule. Playing 50 games in three months would take a toll on an aging team.
But at the end of the day, are you going to count out Jordan in the 1990s?