Here are five takeaways from Episodes 7 and 8 of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” documentary, which airs Sunday night.
Warning: Spoilers abound.
The bond between Michael Jordan and his father transcends conspiracy theories
Some media speculation following the tragic murder of James Jordan tried to link Michael’s gambling habits to the incident. It was beyond sad then and equally cringeworthy now.
Thankfully, the film explores the purity of their relationship, which played out in countless moments of James sitting by Michael’s side as his accomplishments grew.
“He was my rock,” Michael says poignantly. “We were very close.”
Baseball was very, very good to Jordan
The conspiracy theories continue with the exploration of whether Jordan’s gambling habits led to a secret suspension for his first stunning retirement in 1993. Important voices, including then-NBA commissioner David Stern, flatly reject the story.
Instead, Jordan’s foray into baseball gets lovingly detailed. And a theme consistent with Jordan’s approach to basketball unsurprisingly develops: Never cheat the game.
About the only downside to Jordan’s minor-league baseball pursuit is his lifetime ban of Sports Illustrated, which derisively detailed his experiment as an embarrassment.
“I never was interviewed for that,” Jordan said, confirming the ban.
Scottie Pippen’s 1993-94 season receives a comprehensive evaluation
From his MVP-caliber play to his shocking decision to sit out the final 1.8 seconds of a playoff game when coach Phil Jackson called Toni Kukoc’s number over his, Pippen is front and center.
He makes a stunning revelation related to the 1.8 second game in a current-day interview, even as his teammates address his decision with clear, level-headed criticism.
“We don’t know how to act because Scottie’s one of our favorite teammates, one of our favorite people in the world,” Steve Kerr says.
There may be no 72 victories without defeat
Jordan isn’t used to failure. So when his return from baseball in March 1995 ends with a crushing, second-round playoff loss to the Magic — on the United Center floor no less — it, uh, motivates him a little bit.
Long-time Jordan trainer Tim Grover, in one of the most riveting scenes of the night, details how the loss fueled Jordan. After all, Jordan had changed his body to go play baseball — and now had to do so again.
To say he attacked the 1995 offseason is like saying he sold a few pairs of shoes. From his offseason workouts to his preseason approach, which includes a fight with Kerr, Jordan is a man on a mission.
Jordan lives up to his reputation as a tough teammate
Breaking news: Jordan likes to win. And will do almost anything to do so, even if that means riding teammates.
“He was a jerk,” Will Perdue says, in one of the milder bites from this segment.
But even Perdue admits that Jordan’s leadership style worked and drove the Bulls’ dynasty. The theme culminates with a stunning conclusion to Episode 7, in which Jordan lays bare his true feelings about what drove him in an emotional and impassioned soliloquy.