(Shenandoah) -- Sad, depressed and bored that there’s no high school or college sports, Major League Baseball, NBA or NHL action? No NASCAR, Kentucky Derby or Indy 500 to look forward to?
“The Last Dance” is there for you.
With the absence of sports due to the coronavirus pandemic, ESPN was facing some major holes in its programming (besides, you can only air “The Greatest Cornhole Moments,” and “The Wit and Wisdom of Mel Kiper Jr.” so many times). That’s why the Total Sports Network moved up the airing of its epic, 10-part series on Michael Jordan and the 1980’s and ‘90’s Chicago Bulls from June to mid-April.
Some individuals who never experienced Michael and the Jordanaires’ championship run questioned whether 10 parts for a series was too much. But, anyone who remembers ESPN’s multipart 2016 documentary series, “O.J.: Made in America” knew what to expect: a no-holds-barred look at a controversial era in sports history.
That’s exactly what “The Last Dance” has delivered. Punctuated with historic highlights and anecdotes from a long list of interviewees—including Jordan and other Bulls’ personalities—the series has filled a tremendous vote in a world without sports. If anything, the comprehensive documentary serves as a reminder of a number of things:
---The greatness of His Airness: from the mid-80’s to the early 2000’s, Michael Jordan nominated both sports and pop culture. Period. I have the jerseys and Bulls championship t-shirts at home to prove it.
---The dominance of the Bulls: let’s face it—except for (CACK!!) the New England Patriots, the ‘90’s Bulls were the last great sports dynasty. No team has come close to the team that three-peated TWICE in a decade. And, who knows how many championships Michael and his cohorts could have won had Jordan not retired once in 1993, and again in 1998.
---The enigma of Jerry Krause: Krause, who died in 2017, isn’t around to defend himself. That’s too bad, because it would have been interesting to hear Krause’s insights on why a general manager who magnificently built a basketball force in the early ‘90’s decided to tear it all apart in the later part of the decade—chasing off not only Jordan, but Scottie Pippen, Phil Jackson and other key parts of the Bulls’ dynasty. To say Jordan and Pippen weren’t too happy with Krause during the 1997-98 season is a statement only Captain Obvious could make.
---How BAAAAAAAD the “Bad Boys” really were. I’m referring to the Detroit Pistons, whose rough, bully ball style of play helped the team win the NBA’s 1989 and 1990 championships. In running roughshod over the league, the Pistons were more physical than some pro hockey teams. Granted, the Motor City Hitmen boasted skilled players as Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars and Vinnie “the Microwave” Johnson, it was the take-no-prisoners antics of Bill Laimbeer and Dennis “The Worm” Rodman that gave the Pistons their dubious reputation.
“The Last Dance” was not shy in covering how Detroit dominated the Bulls. Not until Jordan and the rest of the team discovered weight training and adopted a more hard-nosed attitude did the Bulls finally dispatch the Detroit Pond Scum ERRRRRRRR Pistons in the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals.
---You get the idea I don’t care for the Pistons? Not only did they treat the Bulls terribly, they weren’t too kind to my Los Angeles Lakers, either (how did Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas ever maintain a friendship?). In fact, the only time I ever really rooted for the Boston Celtics was when they played the Pistons. It’s a good bet that Laimbeer and Larry Bird don’t send each other Christmas cards to this day.
---How amazing was it that Dennis Rodman—perhaps the most notorious personality of the Pistons’ championship run—ended up playing for the Bulls? His rebounding and defensive talents complimented Jordan’s and Pippen’s dynamics. Colorful antics aside—without Rodman, it’s doubtful whether the Bulls would have three-peated a second time from 1996-’98.
---The importance of Jordan’s “supporting cast”: This is the main justification of a 10-part series on the Bulls: You need that many parts to fully recognize the characters that made Chicago the professional sports team of the ‘90’s. Pippen and Rodman received their just dues during the first four parts of the series. Former Iowa Hawkeye great B.J. Armstrong has also added his comments, as well as other members of the Jordanaires: Horace Grant, Bill Cartwright, John Paxon, Steve Kerr, Bill Wennington and Will Perdue. Here’s hoping Toni Kukoc and Luke Longley receive recognition in later parts of “The Last Dance.”
---How great of a coach was Phil Jackson? Sure, assistant coach Tex Winter was the architect of the triangle offense that helped Jordan, Pippen, et al flourish. But the Zen Master was the man who, somehow, orchestrated the entire operation. The man who mixed all of the egos together on that team into one collective kick-butt unit. Who else could keep Jordan and Pippen happy, and was comfortable enough to give Rodman time off in Las Vegas during a key part of the ’97-’98 season, without flinching. Even more amazing is that Jackson guided the late, great Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers to five NBA titles in the 2000’s. Jackson has more than enough on his resume to warrant a mention as the greatest coach in sports history.
Those are all revelations gleamed for the first four parts of “The Last Dance.” Parts five and six, which air tonight at 8 p.m., promise a glimpse of Jordan’s and Pippen’s experiences with “the Dream Team”—the 1992 U.S. Olympics Men’s Basketball Team. It’s definitely appointment-worthy watching.
One viewing tip: For those previously unaware, “The Last Dance” airs uncensored on ESPN. The censored, family-friendly version—if you can call it that--is simulcast on ESPN 2. Pity the poor editor charged with censoring Rodman’s uh, colorful language.
Mike Peterson is senior news anchor/reporter with KMA News. The opinions expressed in this blog are not necessarily those of this station, its management or its ownership.