We wanted ruthlessly competitive Michael Jordan, and ESPN's "The Last Dance" wasted little time showing us to him.
As a matter of fact, Jordan wasted no time showing the Bulls that side of him, either. One of the defining anecdotes of Episode 2 of "The Last Dance" came from Jordan's second season, when he sustained the first major injury of his career, a broken left foot.
Jordan quickly grew restless in his cast and pushed to return to action, deeming the Bulls' insistence on keeping him out as a decision made with the intention of losing more games and securing a higher draft pick. A cardinal sin in his eyes.
After independently rehabbing and playing basketball on his broken foot for several weeks back in North Carolina (to the point that Jordan said his injured leg was stronger than his uninjured leg by the time he returned to Chicago), he was eventually cleared to play after missing 64 games in the 1985-86 season.
The rub: He would be kept on a minutes restriction — seven minutes per half, according to team management.
That tension boiled over in a late-season game against the Pacers in Indiana, which the Bulls needed to win to keep their playoff hopes alive. In the moment, Bulls coach Stan Albeck was told that if he played Jordan even a second more than 14 minutes, he'd be fired on the spot.
“At the time, the coach was Stan Albeck,” Jordan said. “So I said, ‘Stan, [expletive] these guys. Give me the most important seven minutes that you could think about.’"
Jordan made the most of his allotment, but he ran out of playing time with seconds left against Indiana and the Bulls trailing 108-107. A loss would seriously put in jeopardy Jordan's goal of making the playoffs every year of his career.
“I’m begging Stan, ‘Put me in the game, come on,'” Jordan recalled. “‘It’s only 14 [expletive] seconds, Stan, 13 seconds. Put me in for 13 seconds.’ He says, ‘MJ, I can’t put you in, I’d lose my job.’
"It fueled the whole theory that here we’re trying to not make the playoffs so we can get a better draft pick. But I vowed to make the playoffs every year, and this is a chance for us to make the playoffs.”
Funny enough, John Paxson came to the rescue that night, sinking a game-winning floater with just under 10 seconds left. And the Bulls made the playoffs, where, even in defeat, Jordan put himself on the map with dazzling performance after dazzling performance against the Celtics. But mistrust had been sowed between Jordan and Bulls management — a theme that will surely continue to permeate the documentary.
But if, for any reason, you ever had a doubt on Michael Jordan's thoughts on load management or tanking... Well, there you go.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.