Wizards

Wizards

With NBA players and personnel staying home to help slow the spread of coronavirus, they've had to turn to digital meetings and workouts to stay together during this difficult time. 

It's harder for teammates to bond without the personal connection they're afforded by the day-to-day grind of a practice and game schedule. But as general manager Tommy Sheppard explained to Bleacher Report's Howard Beck on The Full 48 podcast, the Michael Jordan documentary has certainly helped.  

"I tell you one thing," Sheppard said. "The Last Dance has been a fantastic topic of conversation and that's kind of bonded our players together."

The Last Dance aired the first two episodes of a 10-part series on the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls Sunday and it instantly became the talk of the basketball world.

Jordan vs. LeBron debates were sparked once again, Scottie Pippen's contract shocked many who'd never known about it before the documentary, and there was a decent amount of criticism thrown toward former general manager Jerry Krause. Another theme of the past week has been coaches and former players sharing their fair share of Jordan stories. 

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Sheppard, who worked for the Nuggets from 1994-03 as a Director of Team Services and Player Relations, remembers a specific moment during the Bulls' 72-win 1995-96 season.

 

The Nuggets handed the Bulls their fourth loss that season while Chicago was in the middle of a road trip, which Sheppard admitted probably had a lot to do with the result in Denver. Forward LaPhonso Ellis had a solid game off the bench for the Nuggets and celebrated as he left the floor, though Jordan saw things differently. 

"LaPhonso Ellis was walking off the court and kind of gave me one of those fist pumps and ran off the floor," he said. "Michael Jordan said, 'I'm not gonna forget LaPhonso Ellis jumping up on the scorer's table and getting the fans all whipped up.' I was like, 'That didn't happen! I watched LaPhonso walk off the court.'

"Sure enough we went back to Chicago and he couldn't wait to take it out on us, and they did. The Bulls were the greatest team I've seen in 26 years, but I'll never forget that and what Michael would do to motivate himself," he said. 

Whether Jordan fabricated certain details to get himself going or not most likely won't keep anyone from tuning in for the next two installations of The Last Dance each Sunday.

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