The Last Dance: Episodes 7 and 8

We will start things off with episode seven.

We saw the relationship between Michael Jordan and his father, James Jordan. James and Michael were very close. James was also a best friend to Michael. In the Summer of 1993, James Jordan was murdered. It devastated Michael Jordan and the entire family. One of the things Jordan remembered his father telling him is, “Turn a negative into a positive.” It’s one of my favorite quotes because I try to apply that for myself as well.

The worse part is when the media tried to tie Jordan’s gambling problems to his father’s murder. Can you imagine being blamed for your father’s death in public while you’re grieving? I felt that it was a cheap shot.

When rumors started spreading about Michael’s retirement, the media went insane.
There was speculation that former commissioner David Stern suspended Jordan for 18 months. I highly doubt that is true. Also, Jordan had told someone back in 1992 that he was going to “shock the world” and play baseball. Jordan didn’t play baseball right away because of the Olympics, and Magic and Bird never won three titles in a row. If it weren’t for those reasons, he would’ve tried baseball earlier.

While Jordan was in the minors, he was productive in April. Jordan was hitting fastballs pretty well. When pitchers started throwing curveballs, he began to struggle. He would continuously strikeout. The media got on him calling the month of April a “fluke.” No one criticized harshly than Sports Illustrated. Jordan felt betrayed because he’s been on the cover for Sports Illustrated so many times. He never interviewed with Sports Illustrated ever again.

In episode eight, we saw how the Bulls thrived in the first season without Jordan. Scottie Pippen, BJ Armstrong, and Horace Grant all became All-Stars. Bulls won 55 games. The triangle offense was even better without Jordan. Bulls had a real shot of making the NBA Finals.

Scottie Pippen quitting on the Bulls in a late-game is something I already knew. But it’s good to see things that you probably didn’t know before. For example, I never knew about Bill Cartwright’s speech to the team after the game. Cartwright told Scottie that he quit on the team with tears in his eyes. Scottie cried as well, and he apologized to the team.

The documentary forgot to highlight one crucial part of that season—game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals between the Bulls and the Knicks. Hue Hollins was one of the referees in that game. He made a very controversial call, which became the highlight of his career. Bulls were up 86-85. With 2.1 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Hubert Davis attempted a 23-foot shot, which was defended by Pippen. Hollins blew the whistle and called a personal foul on Pippen. Hollins felt that Scottie made contact on the play. This call allowed Davis to go to the free-throw line, and Davis made both of his free throws. Knicks would win 87-86. If it weren’t for this call, the Bulls would’ve won Game 5 and eventually close the series in Game 6. The Bulls got robbed, and they failed to mention this in the documentary.

Jordan was very tough on his teammates. He didn’t do this because he wanted to be an asshole. Jordan wanted to win. He wanted effort from his teammates. Jordan knew that the team needed to be ready when they go up against teams like the Knicks or anyone else in the playoffs that were physical teams. Like Jordan said, “Winning has a price. Leadership has a price.” At the end of the episode, you can see Jordan in tears.

In episode eight, I love the fact that we saw more of BJ Armstrong. The documentary did an excellent job of capturing Game 2 of the 1998 NBA Playoffs between the Bulls and Hornets. Armstrong knew the Bulls system very well. He won three championships with them. When BJ hit the game-winning shot, he talked trash to the Bulls. Hornets won Game 2. However, BJ made a mistake. He woke up a lion. Jordan dominated for the rest of the series, closing out the Hornets in five games.

Speaking of trash talking or motivating Jordan, there was another player who became a victim. His name is LaBradford Smith. Smith played for the Washington Bullets. He is best known for scoring 37 points on the road against Jordan in 1993. After the game, he told Michael Jordan, “Good game, Mike.” The next game, Jordan and the Bulls had to fly to Washington. Jordan told his teammates that he’s going to score 37 in the first half. Jordan ended up scoring 36 points in the first half, destroying LaBradford Smith.

I can’t forget to mention Steve Kerr. The infamous fight between Jordan and Kerr. During practice, Jordan and Kerr were playing physical. It resulted that Jordan punched Steve Kerr in the face. Phil Jackson threw Jordan out of practice. Afterward, Jordan felt awful about the whole situation. Jordan called Steve Kerr and apologized to him. Jordan and Kerr’s relationship blossomed from there. Kerr earned Jordan’s respect and trust.

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