The first two episodes of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” finally arrived on Sunday, and — for the first night in a month — the NBA fans of the world had what they wanted. For two hours, fans received an unprecedented look into the lives of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and the rest of the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls.
Between its background, subject matter and timing with the sports world shut down by the coronavirus pandemic, “The Last Dance” premiered as quite possibly the most anticipated sports documentary of all time.
It was certainly appointment viewing for NBA Twitter, which went into a frenzy on a moment’s notice throughout the two hours. Here are the first of likely many highlights.
The Bulls traveling cocaine circus
The first indication that this documentary was going to get very real was a prod from Jordan’s interviewer about a certain habit of his Bulls teammates when he was first drafted.
Point blank, it was a question of how accurate the term “the Bulls traveling cocaine circus” really was. After a prolonged laugh and claiming he had never heard that nickname, Jordan led his response off with an incredible “Ahhhh ... look.”
MJ's laugh at the "Bulls Traveling Cocaine Circus" pic.twitter.com/RddFdN7I1J— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) April 20, 2020
"ahhhhhh, look" JXSNAKSKDKSKZMXMSMSKXMDMM— charles (#1 social distancing fan) mcdonald (@FourVerts) April 20, 2020
Oh nah MJ hitting that "who let you in on the inside joke" laugh about that cocaine circus Bulls quote 😭😭😭— Beyonce has an uncle named Larry Beyince. Bruh.... (@DragonflyJonez) April 20, 2020
Every member of the 1984-85 Bulls watching in their living room is right now explaining to their family that they weren't in the cocaine circus.— Kevin Clark (@bykevinclark) April 20, 2020
Every fantasy basketball league will have a team named Traveling Cocaine Circus and I don’t hate it— Jilly (@jilldubs) April 20, 2020
Jordan went onto explain how he once walked in on his teammates partying with, among other things, cocaine and women, then walking right out to preserve his career. Hey, it was the NBA in the 1980s, what did you expect?
Naturally, a T-shirt has already been drawn up.
‘Former Chicago Resident’ Barack Obama
Sometimes, it’s the little things that elevate a work from good to great.
Take for example an interview with Barack Obama. The former president was a natural inclusion given his well-known fandom of Chicago sports, and it was a mark of how comprehensive this documentary is that he only got a few sentences in.
And then Twitter noticed how the producers described him.
Yeah, that’s the good stuff.
As you could imagine, people had thoughts.
THEY ID'D BARACK OBAMA AS "FORMER CHICAGO RESIDENT"— Ben Baby (@Ben_Baby) April 20, 2020
I’d like an oral history about who and how they decided to give Obama the “former Chicago resident” label— Paolo Uggetti (@PaoloUggetti) April 20, 2020
Former Chicago resident pic.twitter.com/OOqMYkpGlV— Jenny Dial Creech (@jennydialcreech) April 20, 2020
Another former president got a similar treatment a half-hour later.
Everybody Hates Jerry Krause
It’s hard to believe how everyone on the Bulls seems ready to pull the plug on a dynasty. One year, the Bulls had Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and Phil Jackson, and then, one year later, they did not.
They still had general manager Jerry Krause, though, and that was kind of the point. One thing that became very clear in the first few segments of the documentary is how much Jordan reviled Krause, and who followed his lead.
For starters, consider a United Center crowd booing its team’s general manager during a championship ring ceremony. As the first episode wraps up, Krause is the first man introduced for the Bulls’ fifth championship celebration and the jeers are audible through the background music.
Jerry Krause getting booed as they celebrate their FIFTH championship in seven years lmao jesus christ— Anthony Nash (@_anthonynash) April 20, 2020
The city of Chicago just straight up bullied Jerry Krause 😂— Ky Carlin (@Ky_Carlin) April 20, 2020
There was also Jordan’s casual bullying of Krause on camera and the infamous drama between the GM and Jackson.
Michael Jordan roasting Jerry Krause💀💀 pic.twitter.com/t9KDxTMnOD— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) April 20, 2020
Not sure any team in NBA history has had a unifying force greater than those Bulls did in their collective contempt for their own GM ...— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) April 20, 2020
Space Jam makes more sense when you realize that Jerry Krause looks like Mr Swackhammer pic.twitter.com/gepu7hB3wk— Charles J. Moore (@charles270) April 20, 2020
Fun game for the rest of the documentary: Take a shot every time MJ makes fun of Jerry Krause— Daniel Oyefusi (@DanielOyefusi) April 20, 2020
Jackie Mac just said the players called Jerry Krause “crumbs” because he used to spill crumbs all over himself. My god— Jessica Smetana (@jessica_smetana) April 20, 2020
Some noted it was a bit unfortunate that Krause, who died in 2017, wasn’t around to defend himself.
Jerry Krause is getting dunked on post-mortem. Yeesh.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) April 20, 2020
Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Phil Jackson, Steve Kerr vs A dead Jerry Krause pic.twitter.com/jgJWnSg5iP— Jovon (@IamJovonW) April 20, 2020
Man it’s amazing how NBA owner/ESPN business partner Jerry Reinsdorf is being presented as a reasonable authority figure in this ESPN documentary ... shame he couldn’t wrangle his villainous employee Jerry Krause (who’s dead and can’t talk)— Tim Marchman (@timmarchman) April 20, 2020
Scottie Pippen made how much?!
The exact numbers were never lost to history, but hearing the terms of Pippen’s long-term deal was still shocking for so many fans.
The man held up as a central pillar of a dynasty and a perfect complement to Jordan signed a seven-year, $18 million extension in 1991. As the NBA took off over the next decade, the contract quickly became one of the biggest steals in modern sports history. It was so bad that Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf looked physically uncomfortable talking about it.
Pippen explained he signed the deal because he needed the security in case of a debilitating injury. That justification was supported by an upbringing marked by poverty, as detailed in the documentary.
Many fans familiar with Pippen, but not well-read on him, were shocked to hear that Jordan’s No. 2 was the NBA’s 122nd highest-paid player at $2.78 million during his final year with the Bulls.
7 years for $18 million?!?! How much would Scottie Pippen get paid if he was playing today?— Cody Zeller (@CodyZeller) April 20, 2020
Seven years and 18 million?!?! That is just brutal and his reasoning for it is just devastating.— T.J. McBride (@TJMcBrideNBA) April 20, 2020
Scottie’s words about not taking a gamble on being able to provide are a gut punch.— Kerith Burke (@KerithBurke) April 20, 2020
For comparison's sake, the 122nd highest-paid player in the NBA this season is Andre Roberson of the Thunder at $10,740,740.— Peter Edmiston (@peteredmiston) April 20, 2020
Scottie made less than Luc Longley in '98, unreal pic.twitter.com/ejs8cHTdmb— Justin Phan (@jphanned) April 20, 2020
Another reason why professional athletes should try and get every dollar they're worth. Pippen deserved more.— Graham Hall (@GrahamHall_) April 20, 2020
How are you just going to rob Scottie Pippen like that? The Bulls are so dysfunctional.— Ky Carlin (@Ky_Carlin) April 20, 2020
maybe this will help people realize that scottie pippen has been comically underrated for 25 years— Brad Rowland (@BTRowland) April 20, 2020
‘God disguised as Michael Jordan’
The climax of the second episode is a moment in which Jordan’s lore as an NBA player really got going.
Facing the legendary Boston Celtics team that ruled alongside the Los Angeles Lakers for a decade, Jordan dropped an NBA playoff-record 63 points on the road despite missing most of the season with a broken foot. His team only made the playoffs as an 8-seed at 30-52.
Larry Bird summed it up nicely.
“That wasn’t Michael Jordan out there, that was God disguised as Michael Jordan.”— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) April 20, 2020
What a quote from Larry Bird pic.twitter.com/6m6LOotUY8
63 of them thangs 🥴— Ja Morant (@JaMorant) April 20, 2020
30-52 and had the Celtics SHOOK— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) April 20, 2020
Losing to Danny Ainge in golf that caused MJ's 63pt game was the detail I didn't know we'd discover tonight— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) April 20, 2020
MJ took four cokeheads and a tanking GM against the all-decade Celtics and dropped 49 and 63 IN BOSTON.— Kazeem Famuyide 🍎 (@Kazeem) April 20, 2020
As the unreal highlights rolled in, some were quick to note that Jordan was being guarded by Dennis Johnson, a future Hall of Famer who made nine consecutive NBA All-Defensive teams.
In the playoffs, MJ said got tell DJ ( who's the best defender, and future hall of famer of the Celtics) " I got something for him" 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣— 🏁 Jamal Crawford (@JCrossover) April 20, 2020
For all you young people and young basketball players out there The Great Dennis Johnson was one of the best perimeter defenders of all time.. (RIP) I say that just to let you know how impressive that performance by MJ was against him and the Celtics #TheLastDance— Darius Miles (@21Blackking) April 20, 2020
MJ made Dennis Johnson look like Dennis Franz that night. #TheLastDance— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) April 20, 2020
We somehow have four more nights of this and haven’t even touched the Dream Team, the Bad Boy Pistons rivalry and Jordan’s baseball career (and the tragic event that spurred it). Buckle up.
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