ESPN’s 10-part docuseries about the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls debuted on Sunday night. The first chapter of The Last Dance focused on the first month that Bulls team was together, along with a whole lot of backstory into Michael Jordan.
This edition of the series also gave the backstory behind how the phrase “the last dance” was forever tied to this Bulls squad. Two players on that squad, Steve Kerr and Bill Wennington, explained to ESPN that it stemmed from a document that head coach Phil Jackson handed out during the first team meeting of the year.
“Phil always looked for a theme for every season, and given that it was the last year we were gonna be together — management had already made that decision — in typical Phil fashion, he had a name for it,” Kerr said.
“We’d arrived at the practice facility, it’s our first official meeting as a team,” Wennington said. “Get the team handbook, laminated on the front page, The Last Dance.”
Previously, it had already been announced that Jackson would not return at the conclusion of the 1997-98 campaign, and the Bulls front office had already made it clear that they did not think this version of the franchise had a particularly long shelf life. Of course, Jordan would go on to retire at the end of the season, while the team lost a host of players, like Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman.
“I talked to the players about particularly how important it wad for us to really be together in this last run that we were going to have,” Jackson said. “So I called it The Last Dance.”
There was plenty of tension that existed between the Bulls’ locker room and its front office, something that is evident throughout the first episode. But fortunately for everyone, it ended up turning into a last dance to remember.