After five weeks and ten episodes — along with however many other countless hours went into putting it all together — The Last Dance reached its conclusion on Sunday evening. The final two editions of our look back on Michael Jordan and the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls focused on both of their NBA Finals victories over the Utah Jazz, and in between, we got a whole lot of Reggie Miller, pizza, and Steve Kerr.
As we’ve done all series, we’re taking a page out of the playbook from our friends over at With Spandex and borrowing the Best and Worst format as we recap the episodes. For the final time, at least until we get a docuseries on another NBA dynasty, let us dive in.
Best: Reggie Miller
It has become very popular to hate Reggie Miller, the broadcaster, which is a bad take because Reggie Miller genuinely loves basketball and makes that clear during games, something that cannot be said about most color commentators on national broadcasts. Part of this is also because Reggie Miller made it very easy to hate him when he was a player, as he was the ultimate irritant. He flopped and talked and hit preposterous shots before preening and jumping around at the crowd. Reggie was a tremendous nuisance, but he also was an incredible player and is an excellent storyteller.
Having Reggie open this week’s episodes by talking about his battles with Michael Jordan — and having Jordan watch his 1993 fight with Reggie — was terrific. No one is more comfortable with admitting how annoying they were than Reggie, who happily smiles and notes he gave Jordan “a little shove” before his incredible game-winner in the ’98 conference finals. Reggie was a terrific sports villain but that only worked because he was so good as a player, all while being obnoxious, that you wanted to see him get his comeuppance. Unfortunately for Reggie, that happened often in the postseason, but to his credit he’ll always talk about those moments with a rather clear perspective that’s rarely given by those that have been in his position.
Best: Black Jesus
Imagine, for a moment, being so good at anything that you can call yourself Black Jesus and then Reggie Miller refers to you as such for the rest of your life. That’d be pretty cool, right?
Best: That one Pacers fan who is NOT related to Luke Kornet
Hey we got a meme out of all of this that did not involve Michael Jordan! This one Indiana Pacers fan, who is not Chicago Bulls center Luke Kornet’s mom, Tracy, despite a joke that she made on Twitter. Some examples:
Every Pacers fan yelling at Jimmy Butler during the next Pacers-Heat game. pic.twitter.com/logTFN5N7o
— Setting The Pace🏀🎙 (@SettingThePace3) May 18, 2020
"I want to speak to your manager" Karen Indiana Pacers fan pic.twitter.com/I369yCKeji
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) May 18, 2020
Best: Destroying Larry Bird
— Darren M. Haynes (@DarrenMHaynes) May 18, 2020
I don’t really have anything else to say about this other than there’s nothing more pure than a friendship that involves two people that can say things like this to each other, mid-dap, and keep it moving.
The “Flu Game” is, as Jordan, his trainer, and friend insist, really the “Bad Pizza Game.” I’m very skeptical of believing this is the truth, if for no other reason than some of the details of this whole thing seem fishy. For one, Jordan insists he ate the whole pizza and “no one else” did.
In a vacuum, this is understandable. Hell, it’s downright relatable right now in quarantine-land. However, Tim Grover says he thought it was fishy five guys delivered the pizza and even said so, so you’d think Mike would have one of his buddies take one for the team and see if the pizza was OK. Beyond that, why did they order a pizza and make it clear it was for Jordan while in Utah, knowing that would open them up to some potential foul play. Either they were all terrible decision-makers or something else was in play here. Who is to say?
Worst: Bryon Russell
He trash talked Michael Jordan while Jordan was still playing baseball.
[oh no baby what is you doing dot jpeg]
Best: Scott Burrell
You will never believe this, but there were multiple instances of Michael Jordan ripping on Bulls teammate Scott Burrell in this, including this:
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 18, 2020
God bless Scott Burrell for putting up with MJ for years and laughing the entire time. I am very glad that he is a normal, well-adjusted human after all of this.
Best: Steve Kerr
It can sometimes get lost in the fact that he’s the coach of the NBA’s current evil empire, but man, Steve Kerr rules. As a player, he was exactly what the Bulls needed for that second three-peat, a perfectly respectable role player who was always there for the team when called upon, no matter how rare that may be. He also got punched in the face by Jordan and seemed relatively cool with him, so god bless him.
Episode 9 dove a bit into Kerr’s backstory, which not enough people know, because it is tragic. Kerr’s father, Malcolm, was a fascinating man, as Dave Zirin of The Nation explained in a quick thread. The fact that Kerr’s family went through a tragedy the magnitude of his father’s murder (do a quick search for “Steve Kerr Arizona State,” it’s not great!) and did not become a total misanthrope, instead becoming one of the league’s more graceful and thoughtful people, really is stunning, and I’m glad he got some time to tell his story here. Also: dude’s got jokes.
— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) May 18, 2020
Best: Gus Lett
It was really cool to see Jordan make sure his lead security guard Gus Lett got some shine in this documentary. Jordan opened up about how Gus was like a father figure to him after his dad died and Gus’ wife explained how he would sometimes go see Jordan in the middle of the night when he was struggling. It was a rare glimpse at the human side of Mike, which was something the documentary offered a few times and it was those moments that were some of its strongest. Seeing Gus get the game ball after Game 7 of the conference finals and then them dedicate that episode to Gus and his other members of the security team — including John Michael Wozniak — that have died was a very nice touch.
The Dennis Rodman-NWO story during the 98 Finals isn’t new, but it’s always a delight to hear the people involved discussing that bizarre couple of days. The best part of how The Last Dance handled it was showing the practice footage from the next day, with Phil Jackson and Michael Jordan both joking about it. Jordan even broke the practice huddle with “1-2-3 Rodzilla,” referencing the name Hulk Hogan had given to him.
Best: God, this will never not be cool as hell
Best: Sing Us A Song, You’re The Piano Man
Michael Jordan getting drunk and smashing keys on a piano in his hotel room with no regard for the sounds actually being played was the most relatable he’s ever been. Never mind that this was in celebration of his sixth NBA championship, but who among us hasn’t gotten very drunk and tried their best to lead a sing-a-long.
Best: Young Leo
— Complex Ambition (@ComplexAmbition) May 18, 2020
Michael Jordan was so excited to meet the Man with the iron face In The Iron Mask! Leo telling Jordan that his play was “poetic” was adorable as well.
Worst: Scottie Pippen’s Back
My back also hurts really bad as I write this sentence so solidarity with Scottie during Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals for his stupid idiot back acting up. Fun fact: I once played pickup with a bad back, then went home and laid down for 20 minutes and when I got up to go get a drink I quite literally collapsed. It hurts like hell, man! I have no idea how Scottie Pippen played a basketball game with a bad back, even if there was a championship on the line.
Best: Barack Obama on Michael Jordan and the Bulls
One aspect of this that I wished The Last Dance was afforded more room to dig into was the cultural impact of these Bulls. We get into this a lot with Jordan specifically, and I think Dennis Rodman gets some shine in this regard, but the Chicago Bulls were the biggest team in the world during these years, and I felt it would have been an interesting thing to explore a little more.
As it turns out, I’m just impatient, because while the late David Stern laid out how the league expanded worldwide during the Jordan era, one Former Chicago Resident™ summed it up quite well at the end of Episode 10.
“There are great players who don’t have an impact beyond their sport,” Obama said. “And then there are certain sports figures who become a larger cultural force. Michael Jordan helped to create a different way in which people thought about the African-American athlete, a different way in which people saw athletics as part of the entertainment business. He became an extraordinary ambassador, not just for basketball, but I think for the United States overseas, and part of American culture sweeping the globe. Michael Jordan and the Bulls changed the culture.”
Worst: Jerry Reinsdorf
Jerry Krause gets painted as the primary antagonist in all of this, but the end of Episode 10 gives a pretty good glimpse into how Reinsdorf thought it was “suicidal” to bring everyone back for a bevy of reasons. Jordan, in response, said he believes everyone would have come back if the opportunity presented itself, and he is still visibly upset at not getting a chance to go for title number seven. Hey on that note…
Best: Giving Michael Jordan an iPad
Some of the best moments of the entire documentary came from someone’s brilliant decision to return to Michael Jordan after interviewing everyone else, handing him an iPad, and letting him react on camera to what they said. Every single time they did it, it was gold. His facial expressions birthed new memes, as, if nothing else, Jordan asserted himself firmly as the meme GOAT with this documentary.
I want them to produce an entire documentary that’s just Jordan reacting to people talking about him. It’s television gold.
Worst: The Washington Wizards
Episodes 11 and 12 are gonna be LIT. [holds fingers to earpiece] ah, well, nevertheless.
Best: Michael Jordan and The Last Dance
This was fun! There were some elements of this doc I wasn’t particularly huge on, and it brought back a bunch of dialogue around Jordan that I find kinda insufferable (see: here), and while I did not particularly care about this, I can see why people had gripes with Jordan having editorial control here, although in fairness, director Jason Hehir went onto SportsCenter after the series ended and challenged folks to point out instances where this hurt the product he put out.
But listen, we’re all locked inside because of a pandemic and this doc, if anything, gave us something to look forward to for five weeks. That something was endless clips of Michael Jordan, a fascinating subject regardless of the lens through which his story is told, and the greatest dynasty in NBA history. I, for one, and very glad it existed and that we all got to experience it with one another.