Michael Jordan in the documentary "The Last Dance"
Courtesy of Netflix
Final words on ‘The Last Dance’
Rick Olivares (Philstar.com) - May 23, 2020 - 12:48pm

MANILA, Philippines – While writing about “The Last Dance” and the missed-out stories, now you can see why some of Michael Jordan’s teammates were upset. Whether the 10-part documentary was moved up ahead of schedule or crammed into 10 episodes — down from the original 12 — it is no excuse.

Now, let me get this straight. I enjoyed the documentary. But as I have mentioned multiple times, the missed story — deliberate or not — have contributed to the discontent by some of the series. You can never please everybody, but you can minimize any collateral damage.

Like a biography or autobiography, the question you ask is: Do you tell all or do you skip out some parts? I was surprised that I didn’t even hear Sonny Vaccaro’s name. He was very instrumental in Jordan getting his Nike shoe deal. As it is, it looked like it was all because of Jordan’s agent, David Falk.

I mentioned in my commentary that “The Last Dance” focused too much on Michael Jordan. There’s no doubt he is the centerpiece, but “The Last Dance” as a whole wasn’t just him.

I heard that there was no budget to fly to Australia and talk to the starting center of the second three-peat, Luc Longley. That is a ridiculous excuse. Longley was a massive part of that team.

Let’s look at Horace Grant’s incendiary comments where he took umbrage at Jordan outing him as the snitch for Sam Smith’s explosive tell-all book “The Jordan Rules”. The book came out after the Chicago Bulls’ 1991 championship season.

But I wonder why he singled out Jordan when his other teammates BJ Armstrong and Will Perdue also went on record in “The Last Dance” to flag him as the source for the inside stories.

I think Smith explained it pretty well in his acknowledgements in “The Jordan Rules” (did people actually read this or am I the only one who reads the post-scripts, acknowledgements and credits?).

I quote Smith, “A few weeks following the end of the Bulls’ 1990-91 championship season, I called Horace Grant to confirm a piece of information for this book. I had taken all of the players and coaches aside early in the season to tell them I’d be working on a book this season, and Grant vaguely remembered.”

“’That’s right,’ he agreed. ‘I guess it should be interesting after everything that happened. I don’t know if you’re going to write any things that will make me look bad, but as long as they’re the truth, that’s okay with me.’”

Smith mentioned Grant once more in the final paragraph of his acknowledgements, which is the last page of “The Jordan Rules”. “And as for Horace Grant, well, after being around him for three years, I still can’t think of anything that would make him look bad.”

So that is probably one (emphasis on probably one) why teammates thought he was the source of the information. And it wasn’t like it was a secret that he didn’t like the way Jordan and then later, Scottie Pippen, got the preferential treatment. So he groused. Even Purdue said so in “The Last Dance”.

Smith acknowledged that he didn’t have access to the team plane or meetings, but he was able to piece together events through the relationships he built on the team. He got the information from going inside the locker room or talking to the layers and coaches.

When the book came out, Chicago center Bill Cartwright pronounced Smith’s book as “B.S.”

Grant was angry about Jordan telling the stewardess that he didn’t deserve to eat because of a bad game. This one, I think she have been on the cutting floor. If director Jason Hehir left it, he should have balanced it.

It should be in the same manner as Pippen’s. I can understand that the migraine episode and the checking out of Game Three of the 1994 Eastern Conference semifinals as well as his holding out for the early part of the 1997-98 season made him look bad. Make no mistake, he did this to himself. And him saying that if he were to do it all over again (Game Three), he would still not enter the game.

I felt that a crucial part of that incident was left out — if Hehir ever got it on video —when Scottie pointed out that prior to that last play, Kukoc not moving during the play contributed to the missed Pippen shot. I wonder? Judging by Phil Jackson’s reaction, Pippen did not explain it that way during the huddle. But once more, Scottie — who is one of my favorite players — shot himself on the foot or in the mouth again. Broadcast journalist Andrea Kremer, who covered Chicago in ESPN’s Windy City Bureau, expressed her shock on the Rich Eisen Show that Pippen intended to do it all over again. At least, Isiah Thomas in hindsight said that he would shake hands all over again following the Detroit Piston’s walkout during the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals.

Hehir tried to balance it out by showing Pippen’s monster dunk on Ewing during that 1994 series, but he should have also shown his series-clinching dunk versus the Washington Bullets in Game Three of the 1997 Eastern Conference first round. Or him leading Chicago in most statistical category during the 1993-94 season where he was the All-Star Game’s Most Valuable Player. They should have featured the time when both he and Jordan each finished a game with a double-double. Furthermore, in 1994, two other Bulls became first-time (and their only time to be one) All-Stars in Grant and Armstrong. That can also be attributed to Pippen’s share the wealth belief.

You balance it out.

Jordan sure had a lot of negative stuff shown, but he came out on top. They balanced out Steve Kerr’s story. I think they should have delved into Ron Harper’s backstory. Kukoc’s saving the Bulls on many an occasion, Brian Williams’ late 1997 contributions. Having Robert Parish on the 1996-97 team. I think they should have shown Reggie Miller’s antics against Chicago in 1994 when he thought he hit the game-winner. However, 0.8 seconds later, Kukoc hit the real match-winner.

As I pointed out in my other dissertations on “The Last Dance”, the producers did not show the coaching staff properly. Where was Tex Winter? Why did they not feature the coaching battle between Jackson and Pat Riley?

There were other tough and rising teams during the dynasty. The Cleveland Cavaliers and the last team of Larry Bird with Boston were contenders. Ditto with the Philadelphia 76ers and the Miami Heat. That would have presented a more concise picture of how they along with the New York Knicks, Indiana Pacers and the Pistons made for a very competitive and tough Eastern Conference.

Was it necessary to go into the back stories? Of course, you cannot tell the story of “The Last Dance” without going there. Grant is angry as is Pippen. While the players had a tough time under Jordan, it wasn’t always so. And as Bill Wennington put it, it was all worth it.

Many guys did toughen up. Come on, Grant couldn’t even get in the faces of the Pistons or even the Knicks. Ditto with Pippen. You could see in the footage how they were afraid of Charles Barkley, Dennis Rodman and company or even New York’s Xavier McDaniel. And you can attribute a lot of that to Jordan.

As for ending to the entire series... I felt that they should have made it more clear as to who was at fault. And why coming back was never going to happen. And why, they could have challenged for the 1998-99 season, but that was it because, save for Pippen and Jordan to an extent (Kerr went on to have a good year or so with San Antonio while Kukoc had some more good years in him with other teams), the others were no longer productive. 

I think that having the media personalities they featured talk about how the rebuilding failed would have made the story or the dynasty even more special.  

“The Last Dance” showed today’s generation what Gen X knew — that Jordan is the GOAT. And how he willed those teams to championships. Unfortunately, because of some missed stories or even not-so-good editing, it reopened old wounds. 

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