Sports

“The Last Dance” Recap Part 4

See “The Last Dance” Recap Part 3 HERE.

I’m writing this maaany days after watching episodes 7 and 8 because, well, even in quarantine, life gets in the way. Since the finer details escape me, I’m going to do my best to avoid them like the plague. See what I did there?

Anyway, here are some highlights from The Last Dance.

Episode 7

Two moments from late April of 1998

  1. During an interview with Jerry Krause, the unexpected star of The Last Dance, Craig Sager asks if there is any “backstabbing” going on between the Bulls front office, the team, media, etc. Krause, who is the knife, is stone faced claiming that nothing of the sort is happening. At the same time, he has refused to acknowledge Michael Jordan’s impending retirement, or the mutiny of Phil Jackson, which Krause himself led.
  2. During the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs, Michael Jordan and the Bulls are facing the New Jersey Nets. Michael Jordan, fairly unprovoked, says that the Bulls would have to “fall asleep” to lose to John Calipari and the Nets. The Bulls would sweep the Nets, but not without being taken to the edge in Game 1 and Game 2, which they won by a combined eight points.

1993

The year the Chicago Bulls beat the Phoenix Suns in the NBA Finals would prove to be one of the most pivotal moments of Michael Jordan’s life, and of The Last Dance. The Bulls, led by Jordan’s record 41.0ppg Finals average, beat the Suns in six games. In the fourth quarter of Game 6, John Paxson hit the game winning three pointer. Those were the only Bulls’ points scored by anyone other than Michael Jordan in the fourth quarter.

When the Suns’ attempt to take the lead failed and the buzzer went off, the world couldn’t expect what would coming the months following.

Jordan and the Bulls best Regular Season MVP Charles Barkley, USATSI

July 23, 1993

James Jordan (Michael’s dad) was declared missing after he didn’t arrive on a scheduled flight. The initial family assumption was that he was in Hilton Head and had lost track of time playing golf. Nope. James Jordan was missing for weeks, until his car is found stripped and hidden on the side of a road in the Carolinas.

Sopan Deb, NY Times
Sue Ogrocki, Reuters

August 13, 1993

The body of James Jordan was found in a creek between North and South Carolina. Declared a murder — James Jordan was shot in the chest a single time. Michael and James had been on top of the world only five weeks earlier.

The media began publishing terrible things about MJ’s gambling catching up with him, and his alleged debts being the cause of his father’s murder. It was a real black mark on the media — at least for those who saw it for what it was.

The Last Dance features a clip of Bob Costas coming to the defense of Michael Jordan and shooting down any and all accusations that floated through the media. Costas proved once again that he is a stand up guy that just believes in good. Without a shred of evidence, the media drew false connections between MJ’s gambling and James’ murder.

Hear what Bob Costas thinks about The Last Dance.

Side Note: Bob Costas, like me, is a Syracuse University grad. I’ve heard so many stories about his time there, and I’ve been lucky enough to run into him on more than one occasion.

Once, while at the Belmont Stakes, some friends and I were standing near a broadcast desk when Costas walked onto “set” to warm up. We began cheering and doing all of the things you do after you’ve inhaled 14 cervezas. Of course, NBC security swarmed. Costas heard one of us yell that we were from SU and he quickly parted security like the Red Sea. We talked for maybe 15 minutes — mostly about Syracuse and the day’s races, but Bob also took a moment to make fun of one friend who had indulged a bit more than the rest. It was a really special moment to see how genuine he was. 

Our other run-in was in, of all places, Atlanta. I’ve spent a grand total of about 48hrs in Atlanta, and about 45min in the Terrapin Taproom at Truist Park. Time is a crazy thing because at that exact time, Bob Costas was also in the Terrapin Taproom.

October 5, 1993

The White Sox are in the ALCS and Michael Jordan is throwing out the first pitch. It’s during Game 1 that Michael Jordan meets with Jerry Reinsdorf and Jerry Krause to tell him that he would be retiring from professional basketball. Even without Twitter, you can imagine the news spread quickly. The White Sox lost Game 1, but the bigger news was Michael Jordan speeding away from the stadium while avoiding media clamoring for a statement.

Associated Press Photo

Redefining Retirement

Michael Jordan redefined retirement. The very day after making the Bulls front office aware of his plans to retire, the team and Jordan held a press conference that stopped the world. Jordan officially announced that he would be retiring (for the first time).

Jordan retires for the first time with teammates and front office by his side

“You can do anything you want, even come back.”

Michael Jordan, The Last Dance

Some people (crazy people) immediately started to speculate that the retirement was actually a suspension that the NBA and Jordan were too embarrassed to admit to. A suspension related to Jordan’s gambling, possibly including gambling on NBA games. Mark Vancil took advantage of the opportunity in The Last Dance to clear this up. You are insane if you believe that David Stern would tear apart the NBA and subsequently devalue the league’s crown jewel franchise and the league itself by penalizing Jordan for gambling. There was an investigation that found what you’d expect. Jordan liked to play golf and really liked to play golf with high stakes on each hole.

Do you remember that third championship Jordan and the Bulls won? Yea, only a few weeks ago if you’re following the timeline. Well, by the time John Paxson’s game winning three left his hand, Jordan had already made the decision to retire. At the time only he and his father knew how certain it was. But, in June of 1992 he had made his tentative retirement plans pretty obvious to a select group of close friends and media.

Herego, there was no secret suspension. Michael Jordan was on top of the world and was looking for something else to chase. Then his dad was murdered and he vowed to go chase that next thing — that next thing just happened to be professional baseball.

The White Sox

While the 1993-1994 NBA season has already started, Jordan is getting ready for Spring Training with Reisndorf’s Chicago WHite Sox. And don’t worry, although Michael isn’t playing basketball, Reinsdorf has decided to continue to honor his contract’s salary due to how drastically underpaid MJ had been through the early portion of his career. Michael made a lot of people around him a lot of money. And for that, he probably deserved to continue collecting his salary, however absurd that may sound.

Yea, Jordan was a BMFD. The greatest basketball player of all time (oops, I said it again) is playing PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL. This made so much noise that the White Sox had no choice but to put the guy at Double A. The Last Dance was the first time this had been made clear to me, it all makes sense now — generally a new player would be in Rookie Ball or Single A, but in this case those stadiums literally didn’t have the media capacity for Michael Jordan…

Well the experiment as many people called it, started pretty hot. Jordan got his feet under him and got himself into a 13 game hit streak. And then he met his maker — the breaking ball. Jordan drops into a slump and the media attacked. Sports Illustrated published “Bag it, Michael”, and because of that headline, Michael Jordan refused to ever speak with SI again after they failed to request an interview or get in touch before running that headline on the cover.

“Error Jordan”

All in all, Jordan averaged .202 and drove in 50 runs. A more than respectable stat line for a guy that jumped into professional baseball at age of 30. There are plenty of people on record believing that had Michael given baseball a full shot, he would have made it to the Majors at some point. Just think about that.

Can you imagine being a player on that team? And I’m not talking about losing innings or at-bats to MJ, but literally being on a team with Michael Jordan. Man, that’s a wild thought.

Back to April 1998

Players are talking about the pressure that MJ put on them. Taunting in practice, yelling after bad games, and so on. One specific example The Last Dance narrowed in on was Scott Burrell. Jordan targeted Scott during that season. He set his eyes on Burrell’s commitment and tested it. Jordan tried to get Burrell to fight him, but Burrell was too nice to break. The guy was too nice.

“Garbage, don’t bring that bullshit.”

Jordan to Burrell during a ‘98 practice

Will Perdue and Jud Buechler were actually AFRAID of MJ, but both called him a great teammate and knew he was pushing them to win. If The Last Dance makes one thing clear, it’s that everyone understood that Michael was more competitive and just flat out better at the game of basketball than anyone ever. It was best to just jump onboard.

Jordan wouldn’t ask anyone to do anything on the court, at practice, or in the weight room that he wasn’t already doing. And everyone knew it.

You could run through a brick wall after that segment of Michael lifting, running sprints, and breaking the pre-game huddle. The man’s determination and intensity simply cannot be matched.

October 1993

It’s the first workout without MJ. Pippen takes the lead role, and immediately displays a softer touch than Michael. He’s comforting players. He’s befriending players.

Toni Kukoc finally arrives in Chicago for his “rookie” season. He ends up taking last second shot in the ‘93 East Semifinals against the Knicks. Scottie Pippen is PISSED to be looked over by Phil Jackson. After all, he is the team’s leader now. Pippen proceeds to refuse to inbound the ball for the final possession. Kukoc nails the shot, regardless. 

Scottie Pippen and Toni Kukoc

The Jordan-less Bulls have a sincere come to Jesus moment after calling out Pippen for quitting. The team came to the conclusion that it was out of character for Pippen and accepted an apology. Despite that, during his The Last Dance interview, Pippen says he wouldn’t change it. The Bulls go on to lose the series to the Knicks. Both, Phil Jackson and Michael Jordan agree at that very moment that Pippen won’t live down the embarrassment.

Episode 8

March 1995

The MLB is in the middle of a players’ strike. The league is looking for players to play in replacement games, but the MLBPA has taken a hard stance. Jordan is a G, so he walks out of White Sox training camp after vowing not to cross the picket line.

With the baseball season in question, Jordan  meets up with BJ Armstrong and heads to Bulls practice to “say hey”. Inevitably, he Jumps into a 1-on-1 with Armstrong and ends up at three practices in a week. Momentum begins in media reports that Jordan might be coming back. During pre-game during this same time, Pippen stares into the tv cameras and asks the Air Jordan logo to come back.

On March 18, 1995, Jordan announces he is back via a simple message… 

The Bulls were 34-31 and needed a jolt of something. Michael Jordan is that something. Ya think? The Last Dance wouldn’t be here, if not.

Jordan played in his first game since his dad’s murder. He emerged from the tunnel wearing the number 45, which was the same number he wore throughout high school. He starts the game shooting 0-6, but gets back on track despite the loss. Six days later, hits a vintage buzzer beater and is officially back.

No surprise his eventual return to the Garden was a big fucking deal. Dubbed the “double nickel” game, Jordan scores 55 to overshadow Patrick Ewing and John Starks.

Penny, Shaq, and Horace

The Bulls are staring down a familiar face in the Eastern Conference Semifinals — Horace Grant. Grant had left the Bulls to become a true face with the Magic. The Magic take game 1 and are confident that they’ve stifled Jordan. Not so fast. When Jordan walks out of the tunnel for Game 2, he’s wearing the all too familiar 23 on his back. Jordan and the Bulls torch Orlando and Jordan gets a massive block on Shaq. 

“No. 45 is not No. 23.

Nick Anderson after Game 1 of the 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals

For the first time ever, Jordan’s fitness catches up with him. Afterall, baseball shape is very very different than basketball shape. The Bulls fall to the Magic, and for the first time since 1990, Jordan won’t win a championship (in a year that he plays basketball).

It might have had something to do with Horace Grant taking center stage in Orlando’s celebration, but MJ made a quick call to his trainer, Tim Grover, and got right back into basketball shape. Michael has said it 100,000 times — “if you commit three hours of your day to watching me play basketball, you’re going to get my best.” Michael was getting back to his best.

Space Jam

So now, Michael Jordan is getting in shape, and oh by the way, he’s filming a movie. Warner Brothers went ahead and built a full gym for use during the duration of filming. Jordan’s days were looong. 6:00am call times for filming and then 9:00pm workouts. There were NBA stars regularly coming through the lot to play pick-up with Jordan. They said it was some of the most competitive basketball ever played. Just imagine being a part of that exclusive club.

The Jordan Dome at Warner Brothers Studios

1995-1996 Training Camp 

The 1996 team might have been the greatest of all time. It probably was the greatest of all time, though people say that about every Jordan team.

It all started in training camp, as any season does. Steve Kerr is guarding Michael Jordan. Can you imagine? Tensions rise and there’s a fight when Jordan reacts to a tic tac foul call. A small shove from Kerr turns into a black eye delivered by Jordan. Ironically, all of this changes the relationship for the better. This was in many ways an introduction to most players, who hadn’t been with the team for the first three-peat.

The Bulls start 23-2. That’s really really good for those of you not keeping up at home. It’s pretty obvious they’re chasing down the all-time wins record. But guess what… “It doesn’t mean a thing without the ring.” Inevitably, the Bulls and Michael Jordan end up in an Eastern Conference Finals rematch with the Orlando Magic. This one isn’t as close as 19994-1995. The Bulls sweep the Magic.

It was supposedly the greatest mismatch in NBA Finals history — Bulls vs. Supersonics. Gary The Glove Peyton, Sean Kemp, and George Karl. Names any NBA fan would recognize. George Karl snubs Jordan for a handshake or even “hello” while out at dinner before the series and that’s all Jordan needed for that little bit of extra motivation. Chicago is up 3-0 and Payton comes out guarding Mike in Game 4. He’s coming off a Defensive Player of the Year, but hadn’t been guarding Jordan. Payton talks lots of shit, gets physical, and gets the win to prevent the sweep. In Game 5, Payton proved again that he can do it at both ends of the floor. Karl had originally been afraid of tiring Payton out, who was coming off of a calf injury.

Teleport back to Jordan completing an interview for The Last Dance… Michael is watching the Gary Payton interview and maniacally laughing. Payton says he didn’t back down from Jordan the way others did, and because of that, he was able to shut him down. 

On June 16, 1996, Game 6 landed on Father’s Day. For the first time, James Jordan wasn’t there to see his son play in the NBA Finals. In case you were wondering, that’s all the motivation Jordan and the Bulls needed to close the series.

1997-1998 Eastern Conference Finals (Pacers)

Reggie Miller thinks he’s going to “retire” Michael Jordan. 😅

Part 5 (Episodes 9 and 10) Premiere Next Sunday, May 17th at 9:00pm ET.

Sports

Premier Lacrosse League Announces 2020 Championship Series

Last year, the Rabils announced a new era of professional lacrosse.

Mike, Paul, and the rest of the PLL team have brought professional lacrosse the the forefront of television and, more importantly, digital media. The league is partnering with Adidas, Gatorade, Vineyard Vines, Capital One, Ticketmaster, and more to bring lacrosse to the mainstream. As the 2019 season brought the first look at what full-time professional lacrosse players might look like, the league developed new broadcast offerings (in-game, on-field interviews with players), a touring model, and massive engagement with their festival atmosphere.

What happened next, no one would have expected — COVID-19 or Coronavirus. As the agile upstart company does best, the PLL pivoted. The league announced the start of the 2020 season would be delayed. Then on May 6th, the PLL announced the Championship Series Powered by Ticketmaster.

PLL Championship Series Presented by Ticketmaster Banner

The Championship Series Powered by Ticketmaster is a fully quarantined, tournament-style season to crown the second PLL champion. A 14 game (four games per team) group play stage will determine seeding for a single elimination tournament. The Series will be played at a yet-to-be disclosed location between July 25th and August 9th on the NBC family of networks. This will be the most condensed and widely distributed lacrosse product ever — 20 games in just 16 days.

Find everything you need to know about the Championship Series HERE or listen to Mike and Paul discuss the announcement on Unbuckled Chinstrap.

Additional details and why it matters:

  • The announcement was made by Paul Rabil during the third hour of The Today Show on NBC News.
  • All PLL staff, players, and NBC staff (less than 300 total) will be required to arrive on the first day of a mini training camp, pass comprehensive health screenings, and remain on site through the completion of the Series.
  • The PLL is the first North American sports league to announce a return to play plan. The architecture of their plan may be applicable to other leagues, such as the NBA who has also floated the idea of a quarantined finale to their season, which was suspended on March 11th.
  • With the postponement of the 2020 Olympic Games, NBC was left with a surplus of broadcast availability. The PLL will take advantage of those broadcast slots, as well as the influx of time spent at home by individuals and families across the world due to COVID-19 quarantines.
  • Leading into the second season of play, the PLL has added an expansion team (Waterdogs LC), held three separate drafts, signed new sponsors, and announced a partnership to incorporate sports betting (explained here) into lacrosse beginning with the Championship Series.
PLL Championship Series Presented by Ticketmaster Logo
View Other Sports Blogs HERE.

Sports

“The Last Dance” Recap Part 3

See “The Last Dance” Recap Part 2 HERE.


Episode 5

“IN LOVING MEMORY OF KOBE BRYANT”

Gut-wrenching to read that across the screen. I’m sure we all agree on that.
Kobe Bryant, The Last Dance

1998 All-Star Game

To hear Larry Bird coaching the team up in the locker room and say, “Well we’re here, we might as well win” might be one of my favorite quotes of all time. It’s a mindset that rings true in every industry, lifestyle, and so on. If you’re doing something or going somewhere, do it all the way. For Michael Jordan, that’s the only way he knows. There’s no first gear.

As the team sits around the locker room mentally prepping, taping ankles, tying shoes, etc we hear what might become the most noted comment of the entirety of “The Last Dance” when it is all said and done. “That little Laker boy…” Yes, Kobe Bryant.

Kobe Bryant (Left), Michael Jordan (Right)

A sit down conversation with Kobe offers commentary on the relationship, and pressure, that comes with being compared to Michael Jordan. Kobe mentions the fans that would suggest he would easily take MJ in a one-on-one match-up, which he sort of waives off.

Kobe Bryant arguably had two separate Hall of Fame careers, as number 8 and number 24. And even he, one of the fiercest competitors we have known, gives all of the recognition to Jordan. Kobe explains (firmly) that with Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant doesn’t win five NBA Championships. Pretty much everything he knows about professional basketball comes from watching and playing with Jordan.

Even though this game spotlighted the transition that would soon take place and the change of power in the NBA, the chapter hadn’t closed yet…

“The All-Star of All-Stars, the MVP of the All-Star Game — Michael Jordan”

David Stern, NBA Commissioner presenting 1997-1998 NBA All-Star Game MVP Trophy to Michael Jordan

“He’s still the star among stars…”

Bob Costas
Side note: Can we go back to the traditional home vs away jerseys? I get it, the special edition jerseys are a great merchandise opportunity but the home vs away is just so nostalgic. Just think about it, please.

March 8, 1998 — So Long, Madison Square Garden

In what would be Michael Jordan’s final appearance at Madison Square Garden, he pulled one of the coolest moves of all time. He hopped in a time machine, got his hands on a pair of OG Air Jordan 1s and scored 42 points. The Last Dance is magical.

Even though I’m not sure Jordan mentioned this in The Last Dance — allegedly they were a full size too small. Jordan made a comment in the locker room pre-game about how far Air Jordans had come. A pair of Air Jordan 13s were being laced up by a trainer/equipment manager, presumably for Jordan to change into. The advances in the shoe (and maybe the size issue) were evident at halftime when Jordan’s feet were actually bleeding. But the man had 30pts and refused to change. He finished the night with 42pts.

“It’s gotta be the shoes.”

Spike Lee, Nike 1989
Michael Jordan playing in Air Jordan 1s from 1984 during a 1998 matchup with the New York Knicks

David Falk, ProServ and FAME

I would be remiss to not mention David Falk. Falk is the namesake of my college at Syracuse University (Go Orange). David Falk literally paid for my college education through a very generous donation to our alma mater. And for that, I will forever be grateful.

David Falk

Without a doubt, I’m quite sure, both, Michael Jordan and David Falk are rather appreciative for one another. Falk, and his then agency ProServ, took an approach common among individual sport athletes and applied it to Michael Jordan, a team sport athlete. The result? $126 million worth of shoes sold in year one of the deal. Jordan’s game sold shoes. It is as simple as that. And to think, companies like Converse and Adidas didn’t want to touch the pedestal Falk was preparing to put Jordan on. That being said, Michael originally had his own thoughts on where to sign…

https://www.instagram.com/p/B8KHadOlWNB/

For more on David Falk, check out The Boardroom’s Rich Kleiman sitting down for an interview on the famed agent. Easy to say, we wouldn’t be watching The Last Dance without David Falk.

1992 NBA Finals

Maybe (probably) the best Bulls team of all time. This was Michael Jordan’s second championship. The one that made him even with Isaiah Thomas and Magic Johnson, whom had also won back-to-back championships.

Before the series, Jordan was quoted as saying “Clyde was a threat… but me being compared to him, I took offense to that.” Imagine being offended by being compared to Clyde “The Glide” Drexler. Woah.

“Clyde was a threat… but me being compared to him, I took offense to that”

Michael Jordan regarding comparisons to Clyde Drexler before the 1992 Finals

Michael Jordan proceeds to burn Drexler for about a BILLION (39) points in game one. Followed by 39, 26, 32, 46, and 33 (35.8ppg).

After capturing the repeat, MJ (quick on his feet per usual) takes the opportunity to get in a sharp dig at Bulls GM, Jerry Krause. During the locker room celebration, Krause asked Michael if he was smoking a cigar. Anyone with eyes could see he was… Michael’s response?

“You can’t smoke it. It’ll stunt your growth.”

Michael Jordan to Jerry Krause, 1992

Dream Team

The Last Dance makes a point to note that Isaiah Thomas was snubbed from the Dream Team. Jordan has been asked on multiple occasions if he had anything to do with this. He denies, of course. But Jordan, and many other members of the team, name the camaraderie of the team as the greatest asset and experience of the Olympic Games. Would Isaiah Thomas have ruined this had he been on the team? Yes, absolutely. It wasn’t just Michael Jordan that hated him. A slew of players had their run ins with the Pistons great.

The real competitive storyline of the Dream Team’s games would be their showdown with Toni Kukoc. Yup, Toni Kukoc. Eventual teammate of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Well, Jerry Krause had taken a keen liking to the Croatian star and had given him a bit of attention. Maybe more attention than he had given his team (specifically Scottie Pippen) during the 1991-1992 season. Krause spent much of the season in Europe negotiating Kukoc’s move to Chicago (he had been drafter by the Bulls in 1990, but stayed in Croatia as he was making considerably more money as a star in the Italian League and Euro League). That didn’t sit well with Jordan or Pippen, and that means that Kukoc didn’t sit well with the Dream Team.

The USA faced Croatia twice in the 1992 Summer Olympics. Once in the early stages and once again in the Gold Medal game. Scottie Pippen played absolute lockdown D in the first meeting, holding Kukoc to just four points. In the Gold Medal game, Kukoc and Croatia earned the respect of Team USA, despite losing by 30+ points. Kukoc would have a stat line of 16 points, 9 assists, and 5 rebounds.

The gold medal was a point of contention for Michael Jordan. Say what? Winning the gold medal meant that Jordan (and the team) would be presented with the medal during a ceremony. During that ceremony, the team would be contractually obligated to wear the Team USA track suits sponsored by Reebok. Jordan was so committed to his Nike deal that the clause had made ripples throughout the games. Now at the medal ceremony, a moment that Reebok more, or less, paid millions of dollars to see these athletes clad in their brand, Jordan had vowed to hide the logo. He did so with the American flag. Can you argue with Patriotism, whether authentic or not?

Larry Bird, Scottie Pippen, Michael Jordan, and Clyde Drexler receive their gold medals

The Elusive Tickets

In 1998, it was almost certainly Michael’s farewell tour. Phil Jackson was on his way out, and Michael had made it known he wouldn’t be playing for the next coach. That meant that each, and every, city Michael played in would be The Last Dance, including his 42 point performance on March 8th at Madison Square Garden.

The Last Dance gave us a glimpse of what that chaos was like. A-list celebrities were waiting at Will Call to collect their tickets to see His Airness. While I’m sure they had an easier time coming by those tickets than normal folks, it was still a site to see.

Jordan’s final game in Atlanta was a spectacle. The Georgia Dome had fans seated in the opposite endzone. I was reminded of two of my favorite moments as a basketball fan at Syracuse University. In 2013 and 2014, respectively, I was able to see the Orange’s final Big East showdown with Gergetown (still sucks) and the first ACC matchup with Duke. The Carrier Dome was at capacity — with fans sitting so far away that they needed binoculars to see the action on the court. While I was watching CJ Fair and Trevor Cooney, and not the greatest of all time (uh oh, I said it), the environment matched that of the late 90s NBA faithful.

Programming Note: Have we already decided not to call it "The Facebook Company" anymore? Has anyone else noticed that Facebook's ad card has changed each week?

Episode 6

We’re past the halfway point of The Last Dance and there is something I’ve been meaning to get off my chest… Ah Ah AHEM!

THE 1990s WARM UPS ARE THE MOST FIRE ‘FIT THERE HAS EVER BEEN. DON’T EVEN TRY TO CHANGE MY MIND.

Quarantine Jordan

We caught some insight into the life Michael Jordan was living during the 1997-1998 season when he was being interviewed in his car on the way to the arena, and then again in his hotel room before an away game. Jordan more, or less, says that he isn’t going to miss the life he was living — we’ve actually heard him say this a few times throughout The Last Dance. And that no one should dream of living that life or being Michael Jordan. These moments are when you truly realize that this might be the end of Michael Jordan’s playing days.

Jordan couldn’t go anywhere without hoards to people (fans and media) following him from his house to the arena to the locker room to the press conference to the parking lot to the bus to the hotel, and all over again in every city. In any event, I don’t know that anyone has ever followed me anywhere, so I can’t say that I have the same understanding as Jordan. What I do know is that at a net worth of $2.1 billion, Michael Jordan is the wealthiest former athlete of all time.

At the end of this segment, the only people that I really felt bad for were the other players. Can you imagine being Scottie Pippen playing on that out-of-wack contract and still having to answer to the media and fans? Or to be Steve Kerr, or even the guy at the end of the bench, answering questions about Jordan’s impending retirement after every game. Sure, Scottie Pippen and the rest of the Bulls weren’t under nearly as much pressure or scrutiny as Jordan. In reality, the frenzy was one of the most tiring motivations for MJ to get out of the game.

TBH, since watching The Last Dance,I've done some quick internet research on Scottie Pippen and I take back any ounce of sorrow I ever felt over his contract.

The Quarters Game?

What are we calling this?

  • The Quarters Game
  • Quarter Wall
  • Carpet Bocce

I don’t care what it’s called. It’s ELECTRIC, and gave us all a new quarantine activity. If you haven’t played yet, I highly recommend. The Quarters Game feels a lot like that weird hook and washer game that you might play to pass the time. The best part of it might be that there is a brand new way to gamble.

The Quarter Game is played by two individuals. The first player tosses a quarter towards a wall in an attempt to land the quarter on the floors as close to the wall as possible without touching it. The second player then receives a pre-determined number of attempts to beat that toss. Bets can be placed on individual turns or a best of seven series.

The United Center guard who took Michael Jordan’s money and put it in his pocket is one of two things — he is either the bravest man alive or he may very well be dead. Michael Jordan does not like to lose. And to add insult to injury, dropping a shrug on MJ…

United Center Security Guard, The Last Dance

Is this the gambling episode?

Jordan wasn’t only gambling $20 on The Quarters Game. He was playing golf for thousands of dollars per hole and blackjack for thousands of dollars per hand. No judgement from me. However, the early ’90s had a different prerogative. For the first time, Jordan may not have been the squeaky clean, by-the-book guy.

It all started (or at least came to the surface) with an afternoon drive from New York to Atlantic City. No harm, right? Jordan and his Dad played blackjack and whatever else at Bally’s that afternoon and evening. Well some Bally’s employees and patrons allege that the Jordans were in the Casino until at least 2:30am. Michael Jordan disputes this, claiming that they were home by midnight or 1:00am.

So what? Spending some time in a casino? Well, this was the night before an Eastern Conference Finals match-up with the New York Knicks, in which Jordan had a pretty slow start. It was during this series that things began to unravel around Jordan’s off court life.

Rumors began swirling that Jordan had gambling debts ranging anywhere from $57,000 to $1.2 million. Crazy, but I just don’t really care about this. I don’t know about you, but I’ve bet on horses, cards, dice, etc. As a matter of fact, I enjoy gambling. Everyone jumped to the conclusion that Michael must have been betting on NBA games or somehow breaking league rules. He was questioned about it and David Stern came back with the same understanding as pretty much any reasonable person. Michael Jordan was betting on his golf game the same way that any other Joe would, albeit with a few more dollars than most of us.

“It didn’t affect his endorsements. It didn’t affect him monetarily. It didn’t really affect his popularity. But the damage was in his reputation.”

Andrea Kremer, Former ESPN Correspondent

To me, the above quote points out one of the largest issues with the media. “It didn’t really affect his popularity. But the damage was in his reputation.” Is your popularity not very very closely tied to your reputation? Right? So if your popularity has gone unchanged, how can someone allege that your reputation is damaged? I don’t think I need to answer that one. The very fact that The Last Dance exists is proof enough that almost nothing will ever be able to touch Jordan’s reputation — even drafting Kwame Brown.

Magic Johnson warned the media and those listening to it that they were putting additional pressure on Jordan and were potentially forcing him away from the game.

They built him up only to pivot their energy to tearing him down. That wouldn’t fly. Afterall, Jordan himself said he has a “competition problem.” The media’s scolding was going to be silenced on the court. Boom — the Bulls beat the Knicks in the Eastern Conference finals and went on to take down the Phoenix Suns to three-peat as NBA Champions for the first time. 

Michael Jordan after winning the 1993 NBA Championship

Part 4 (Episodes 7 and 8) Premiere Next Sunday, May 10th at 9:00pm ET.

Sports

“The Last Dance” Recap Part 2

See “The Last Dance” Recap Part 1 HERE.

Boom just like that, it’s time for The Last Dance Episodes 3 and 4. That’s right the quarantine weeks are getting faster!

Jumping right into the highlights…


Episode 3

Dennis Rodman

Michael Jordan and Dennis Rodman

After an early morning news report that was near disaster, Dennis Rodman was reborn as The Demolition Man. The transformation took place in 1993 after being traded from Detroit to San Antonio. In only two seasons with the Spurs, there were front office blow-ups, suspensions, motorcycle accidents, and eventually an off-season trade to Chicago. 

The trade to Chicago was nearly a mirage as Bulls GM, Jerry Krause once again tried to sabotage the Bulls. Assistant GM, Jim Stack had done his due diligence and had come to the conclusion that Rodman would thrive under the leadership of Phil Jackson, Michael Jordan, and Scottie Pippen. The trade was executed before the 1995-’96 season. The exchange was a back-up center (Will Perdue) for the Third-Team All-NBA Rodman. It must be assumed that some in the NBA had given up on Rodman, despite being in the midst of his prime (Quinn, CBS Sports). Rodman would win three championships in three years with the Bulls.

Some of the greatest moments from his highlight episode in The Last Dance?

Southeastern Oklahoma State University Savages

Yes, Dennis Rodman’s college team was called the Savages. There has never been anything more perfect. Though Rodman wasn’t yet The Demolition Man, the team’s name is a natural fit. Homeless for two years before enrolling at the NAIA school, Rodman fully committed to the university — rounding out his college career by averaging 24.4 points and 17.8 rebounds as a senior. In 1986, Rodman was drafted in the second round of the NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons.

Dennis Rodman, Southeastern Oklahoma State University

Bumming a cigar from Michael

In 1997: While Scottie Pippen was out of the line-up due to his recent foot surgery, Michael Jordan had made it clear that Scottie Pippen needed to step up and play the second lead. Rodman was notoriously inconsistent, both, on and off the court. Early in the season, the Bulls were already in dire need of wins. One particular night, Rodman was ejected from a game. Jordan was livid. Rodman knew it. Everyone knew it. That night, Rodman knocked on MJ’s hotel room door — something he had never done before. The reason for the knock? To ask Jordan if he had an “extra cigar.” No apology was ever spoken, but Jordan has stated he knows this was Rodman’s attempt at one. It was at that moment that Rodman flipped a switch, and became the most dependable he had ever been.

Gary Peyton calls Rodman a “fuck-up person”

In one of the most bizzarre comliments I may ever hear, Hall of Famer Gary Payton refered to Dennis Rodman as a “fuck-up person” due to his innate defensive ability to fuck everything up for the opposing team.

Miller Lite

Most important thing I learned about Dennis Rodman through The Last Dance? He absolutely ripped Miller Lites whilst talking to reporters and fans in the arena tunnel. Now, I hate Miller Lite, but I can’t give this man enough props for this move. In 2020, we’re all whining about a pre-game glass of wine, but in the 90s… I’m willing to wager this wasn’t Rodman’s first beverage of the evening.

Dennis Rodman

Doug Collins

There are two great Collins moments in Episode 3, and no, neither of them are him being replaced by Phil Jackson.

Doug Collins

“Coach, I’m not going to let you lose your first game.”

Michael Jordan to Doug Collins on November 1, 1986

“Get the ball to Michael, everyone else get the fuck out of the way.”

Doug Collins on the final play of the game, Game 5 of the first-round of the NBA Playoffs in 1989

Yea, that’s pretty much it. We won’t pretend there was a whole lot going on in Collin’s storyline.


Episode 4

Dennis Rodman

48 Hours in Las Vegas

Remember when Dennis Rodman stepped up to take Scottie Pippens place as Michael Jordan’s wing man? Well there came a point that Pippen returned. It’s a good thing because that was about the time Rodman was burned out and ready for a vacation. That’s right — Rodman walked into Phil Jackson’s office and requested a vacation in the middle of the season. The best part? The decision whether, or not, to grant the time off was left to Michael Jordan. That’s how an agreement on a 48 hour vacation to vegas turned into a week long sabbatical that caused The Demolition Man to miss three games. Oh by the way… Rodman was sipping on some Miller Lattes in Vegas before cruising the strip on a motorcycle. Remember that motorcycle incident in San Antonio…

Rodman’s escapades in Vegas were accompanied by his then-girlfriend, Carmen Electra. In the days after episodes 3 and 4 airing, it was revealed that Rodman and Electra had taken part in other explicit activities at the Bulls’ expense (Tasch, New York Post).

Phil Jackson

Phil Jackson, 1989

We all know Phil Jackson is a little different. Maybe not Bill Walton different, but the guy is interesting. He’s a guy with a lot of interests outside of basketball — including Native American and other indigenous cultures. It probably goes without saying that Dennis Rodman and Phil Jackson run in different crowds. That doesn’t mean they can’t share interests.

Phil Jackson is quoted telling Rodman that in the beliefs of the Lakota people, Rodman would be known as “heyoka”, which is a term meaning “backwards walking person.” It probably goes without further explanation. This may be the only way to define the man that has has more hairstyles than we could count.

If you need further evidence of Jackson’s intriguing world, try this on for size. We learn (at least I did) that Jackson’s coaching career actually started in Puerto Rico. That’s right.

The mayor of a city that Jackson’s team was playing in was actually convicted of shooting an official in the leg. The punishment was bizarre as the crime itself. A suspension from remaining home games through the end of the season...

More Phil Jackson is surely coming as The Last Dance dives deeper into the 1997-’98 season and beyond.

Michael Jordan

Phil Jackson and Michael Jordan

Who knows what would have happened if Doug Collins had remained the head coach of the Chicago Bulls. Had Phil Jackson not taken the reigns, who is to say that Jordan would have six rings. Jordan gleaned so much from the relationship that he made it clear, that he would not be playing for anyone else in Chicago. He stuck to those guns.

It wasn’t until Jackson introduced the triangle offense that Jordan accepted that he had a supporting cast of capable players. There were early bumps, such as the time Tex Winter instructed Jordan to “Move the ball…there’s no ‘I’ in ‘team’”, only to be met with “There’s an ‘I’ in ‘win’.”

Eventually, Jordan accepted the transition. Scottie Pippen became one of the original point forwards — a position he was more accustomed and comfortable with. Despite agreeing to give up some of his possessions, Jordan made it clear that the idea of Bill Cartwright possibly ending up with the ball with an expiring clock was “fucking bullshit.”

Eventually the Triangle offense and a team-forward mentality (and some John Paxson contributions) led to Jordan and Bulls first NBA Championship.

“If you’re going to lose, you’re going to lose to them, and I’m going to  lose to Michael.”

Magic Johnson on losing the 1991 NBA Championship to Chicago

1997 – 1998

The Bulls were on a road trip to Salt Lake City to face their eventual Finals opponent — the Utah Jazz. Krause said that Jackson would not be back next year, and despite Jordan’s declaration that he would not play for any other coach in Chicago, Krause makes it known that the Bulls organization hopes to have Michael Jordan back — stating if he is not, it is by his choice.

*Closing Curtain*


Bonus

Colin and Samir’s Michael Jordan Documentary: The real reason you’re watching The Last Dance

Colin and Samir

Colin and Samir are filmmakers that I have been following on YouTube and Instagram since they were working at The Lacrosse Network, a company Samir started in 2012. In early 2019, they completely departed from the channel and committed to their own ventures — making documentaries with the Premier Lacrosse League, Paul Rabil, Adidas, Gatorade, and so on. They make weekly-ish videos explaining internet, pop culture, and media trends. They’re relatable and have a firm grasp on the landscape.

Colin and Samir produced this video on The Last Dance, more or less explaining why this was a great time for it, and who has interest in its performance. I won’t write a review or recap of their video because, well, they are far superior storytellers than I. But I will leave a few bullet points below, which outline some important notes from the video, as well as some thoughts they sparked for me.

  • Yes, the documentary is more, or less, a 10-hour ad for Jordan. No duh, Vice.
  • ESPN x Netflix — will we see these cable x streaming collaborations in the future?
  • Carole Baskin is off the hot seat.
  • Reese’s commercial during every break. This is the Super Bowl of quarantine.
  • I like shoes but tbh, the trendiest shoes I have ever owned are probably Ultra Boosts. I wish I was cool enough for a pair of Jordan 1s in an OG color way.
  • MJ is the GOAT. I wish I could have seen the competitive glimmer that Mike had in his eyes when he made the call to green light the series.

The Last Dance Part 3 (Episodes 5 and 6) Premiere Next Sunday, May 3rd at 9:00pm ET.

Sports

Unveiling New 2020 NFL Uniforms

Seven (yes, 7) NFL teams are going to be debuting new or modified uniforms this season. The first looks for most of these teams have taken place over the past two weeks. Initial thoughts below…

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

April 7, 2020

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Uniforms
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

A relief. That’s what I would call these at first glance. Not a bit of creamsicle to speak of. Wait, hold on. What’s that, orange trim on the numbers? Ahhhh, we’ll live with it. We’ll just chalk that up as Nike being Nike.

Other than the faint note of orange on the numbers, these are exactly what I expected. A return to the uniforms I grew accustomed to as a child. The uniforms they won Super Bowl XXXVII in. No true throwback to the 70s, 80s, and early 90s until the NFL changes their one helmet policy.

This might come off a little conspiracy-like, but we all agree Tom Brady had a look at these, right? There was no way Tom was going to wear the robo-uniforms of 2014-2019.

Atlanta Falcons

April 8, 2020

Atlanta Falcons

What have you done? No, I’m not saying what they had going on prior to these was exceptional, but these are, I don’t know.

The throwback on the far right is what I was expecting. Who doesn’t love when Atlanta throws on that 1990-2002 throwback uniform?

But unless Adam Sandler is subbing in for Matt Ryan (yes that was a Longest Yard joke), then they missed the mark. They were six miles from the mark. A gradient, gimmicky font, and extremely outdated side panels / striping make up what might, in my opinion, now be one of the worst uniforms in the NFL.

To put it lightly, these would fit better in the now defunct Arena Football League. Speaking of which, did anyone know the AFL had folded?

Indianapolis Colts

April 13, 2020

Indianapolis Colts

A light refresh. The Colts are one of the few teams that never needs to introduce a new uniform. At the same time, it’s always fun to jump on the bandwagon (again, there are SEVEN teams with updates this year) and “unveil” something new.

New numbers in homage to the past, without coming off as dated. A new word mark to bring the brand to the 21st century. And a new secondary logo that, thanks to Uni-Watch, I’ve learned may be borrowed from a local high school.

Oh, and one very small edit to the logo… Slight enough that you may not notice, but enough that you’ll never unsee it once you know.

Cleveland Browns

April 15, 2020

Cleveland Browns

Thank you! The Browns turned back to clocks and went traditional. Without being picky, it looks like a transition back to the uniforms Cleveland was accustomed to before their last rebrand. The lone exception being that they’re sticking with a brown facemask.

My only real question on the Browns is when they are going to finally update their primary logo? The specific helmet used for the logo has been outlawed by the league. Remember when Antonio Brown was crying about his helmet?

New England Patriots

April 20, 2020

New England Patriots

Half ass. Tom Brady has left the building, making this the perfect time for a refresh. New QB, new uniform, new slate.

I really thought the Patriots might consider ditching Flying Elvis for their old pal Patriot Pat. I was wrong. A lot of us were wrong. We’ll have to wait a bit longer.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with what they did. Removed the silver stripes and doubled down on red white and blue with new wider shoulder stripes, taking the place of the secondary numbers. The Patriots uniform is becoming classic. This is just a small evolution.

Los Angeles Chargers

April 21, 2020

Los Angeles Chargers

🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 240°C Fire Flames. Yes, yes, yes! I don’t know if it’s all a show, but the Chargers put more effort into this announcement than any other team. And they did it RIGHT!

Don’t believe me? Scroll through their landing page and tell me I’m wrong. I’m waiting…

They used an Instagram video to set it straight. Their uniforms have always been the best. And no surprise here — these are the best. From the solid color blocking to the clean bolt to the number on the helmet. These are the perfect meld of tribute and modern touch. Leave it to the team from L.A. to decimate the rest when it comes to branding.

Los Angeles Rams

May 13, 2020

Los Angeles Rams

Please hold. We’re still waiting on the Rams new uniforms. In fact there hasn’t been a release date announced.

Earlier in the offseason, the team unveiled a new logo, which was met with “mixed reviews” to put it lightly. Didn’t I just say L.A. teams were good at this?

I was going to say that I see this as the logo of a team in a corny tv comedy, and then I came across this. I rest my case.

Update

Los Angeles Rams

The Los Angeles Rams waited until May 13th to unveil their new threads. I wish they waited longer, much longer. Like never ever letting these see the light of day… They did, however make the wise decision to pay the players to react in a positive manner.

My first thought is that the gradients on the yellow numbers is a clear rip off of the 2019 Pro Bowl uniforms (SB Nation). Ask anyone — the Pro Bowl isn’t known for knocking the socks off of the uniform game.

When I spent some more time with these (maybe 6 or 7 more seconds), I realized that this was all a mistake. These MUST be the prototype for a new Backyard Football game, or maybe even some sort of venture into sports for the Lego franchise of movies. There isn’t much more to say.

To sum it up, we have an ombré set of numbers (as described by my girlfriend), an “off-white” bone color in place of white, left chest patches in case you forget the team’s name, and two separate approaches to TV numbers (shoulder/sleeve numbers). That’s not to say there is nothing good. The Ram’s New Look site teases potential additions to the uniform line coming in 2021 and 2022.

Uni Watch hit the nail on the head with their deep dive. Check out their Rams review, as well as notes on all of the other team’s announcements from the past month.

View Other Sports Blogs HERE.
Sports

“The Last Dance” Recap Part 1

Before we get into this, let’s get the obvious out of the way. The Last Dance premiere was the biggest sports event since March 12th — the day American sports fell victim to COVID-19 suspensions and cancellations. Not since then has the country watched, in unison, a single “sporting event.” Yes, documentaries are now “sporting events.”

I read a few days ago that 30 For 30’s You Don’t Know Bo was the most watched debut of an ESPN original Documentary. Something like 3.6 million people watched. That was on December 8, 2012.

  • Update: The Last Dance’s April 19th premier averaged 6.1 million viewers. (Axios Sports)

There’s no question that The Last Dance will surely have surpassed that number.


I’m not going to get into a full summary or breakdown of each episode. You don’t want to read that, and I don’t want to write that. Here are a few of the highlights…

Episode 1

  • The Heavy Pour: Should this be the number one thing on the list? I never said there was any significance to the order. You made that up yourself. But to answer the question, this is the most important thing on the list. Michael Jordan waited over 20 years to release The Last Dance. When he sat down to film the confessional interview portions of this, he decided to fit an entire bottle of whiskey in his glass. I have to assume there were refills. No bottle to be seen, not an ad in sight. Just a guy that loves a tall glass of whiskey.
Michael Jordan w/ Whiskey
The Last Dance, ESPN
  • Barack Obama: Let me say it again. Barrack Obama. Michael Jordan has had such a significant impact on our society that we are out here interviewing the 44th President of the United States of America. More important than this is the title President Obama was given by the producers — “Former Chicago Resident.” This guy was the leader of the free world for eight years and we are, both, interviewing him about basketball and referring to him as “Former Chicago Resident.” That is the Michael Jordan effect.
The Last Dance, ESPN
  • Jerry Krause: How can you not be shook by his part in the opening episode? I’m 26, which means I’m too young to remember the political climate of sports during the Bulls run to Championship number six. But I swear, I remember sitting on the end of my parent’s bed watching in awe as Michael did what Michael did. But what really matters here — how did anyone ever let this guy take control? I know, he helped arrange and maintain a core group that won six championships — give the guy some credit. But, you win five championships in seven years and consider rebuilding, and that’s where we all have to call bulls*t. Were Michael’s jokes really taking that much of a toll? People all over the internet are saying this, but if it’s true, why not say it again… Space Jam’s Mr. Swackhammer makes so much more sense now.
Jonathan Daniel, ALLSPORT

“So those are the pills you take to keep you short. Or are those diet pills?”

Michael Jordan during practice, 1997

“Jerry, you want to do some layups with us? They gotta lower the rim.”

Michael Jordan during pre-game, 1997
  • No Autographs, Please: Looked to me like Michael was having a great time strutting around Paris. Who wouldn’t? That is until the arena security guard/handler asked for an autograph. Michael went stone cold. And he had that right. I’ve never been big on autographs or celebrity pictures. But, this is Michael Jordan, so I would be lying if I said I would play it cool. I’d be that little kid running through the streets to stop Jordan’s Corvette and block traffic.
  • Cheat Sheet: In the lead up to the premier of The Last Dance, ESPN put out these “cheat sheets” from a number of their hosts and personalities. Will anyone ever trust Kendrick Perkins or Ariel Helwani again? If you were alive to see MJ play and you pick any other player as your favorite Bull (EVER), you are a certified psychopath. It’s not bandwagon. It’s just reality.

Before I jump into Episode 2, let me start by saying that last night’s premier was the only form of anticipation that I have felt through this quarantine, isolation, hibernation, etc. That made it all the worse when our Xfinity cable box decided to crash in the first 10 seconds of Episode 2. I’m talking full on crash — even deleted the DVR recording I had in case of snack and bathroom breaks. So here we are two days later and I’ve just finished watching.


Episode 2

Top 5 Quotes

“Depends on how f*cking bad the headache is.”

Michael Jordan on whether he would bet on a 90% of survival, 1985

Jerry Reinsdorf escalated the hypothetical from a career ending injury to straight up death and Michael didn’t even flinch.

“For 14 minutes, I would just go absolutely ballistic.”

Michael Jordan on his 7-minute per half time restriction post broken foot, 1985

When Jerry Krause ran out of the suite to demand Michael comes out of the came with 13 seconds left. Phew! Bold move.

“Let’s go out and get our first [road] win, I ain’t gonna say this shit again.”

Michael Jordan pre-game in Los Angeles, 1997

If Michael Jordan tells you he isn’t going to repeat himself, you better go out there and get it done. And when you don’t, you better pray to God that he does what he does and carries the team.

“I’m Not Gonna Fuck My Summer Up”

Scottie Pippen on delaying surgery until October, 1997

Are you telling me if Jerry Reinfeld and Jerry Krause were screwing you, you wouldn’t do the exact same thing as Scottie? This man was playing on a five year (plus two remaining rookie contract years), $18M deal at a time when salaries were skyrocketing. Yea, yea, I know,Michael is right — Pippen signed a contract and made a commitment to his teammates, but c’mon man!

“Jerry did a phenomenal job with the team. He made great trades, made great free agent signings. He deserves a lot of credit. But he couldn’t get out of his own way.”

Steve Kerr on the 1987 Draft and Charles Oakley Trade

I mean, yea, we knew this. The first episode is full of video of Michael Jordan absolutely destroying Krause with middle school jokes. If you didn’t guess that it would come to blows with Scottie Pippen — the man that was practically playing for free, you’re just as clueless as Krause, himself.

Michael Jordan

Bonus (because everyone and their mother is talking about this one)

“That wasn’t Michael Jordan out there, that was God disguised as Michael Jordan.”

Larry Bird on Michael Jordan’s 63 points against the Celtics in 1986 Playoffs

If Larry Bird and Magic Johnson’s admiration and borderline fear of Michael Jordan don’t make the point that he is the greatest of all time, then you are likely the kid from Role Models that is arguing over the Bulls’ six championships.

The Last Dance Part 2 (Episodes 3 and 4) Premiere Next Sunday, April 26th at 9:00pm ET.