Sure, some sports are back. But "sports" as we know them are largely still on pause due to the coronavirus pandemic. Today is Day 68 Without Sports.
The music is no longer playing for "The Last Dance," as the 10-part documentary that aired over the last five weeks on ESPN about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls' dynasty of the 1990s released its final two episodes Sunday night.
Complete with never-before-seen, behind-the-scenes footage from the 1997-98 season, dubbed "The Last Dance" at the time by coach Phil Jackson, the documentary caught up with more than 100 people in the present day and provided starved sports fans new content and entertainment.
While the Bulls won six championships – a pair of three-peats (1991-93, 96-98) – during the decade, there were plenty of other winners and losers from the documentary itself:
Winners of 'The Last Dance'
Jordan: Starting with the obvious, Jordan is the clear-cut winner. As a partner in the project, this was always going to be the outcome. No opinions about Jordan the person were likely going to be changed over 10 hours of a documentary. Perhaps some saw "a side of (him) you maybe haven't seen," and he dove deeper into the more controversial parts of his past than usual, but there were hardly any bombshell revelations. No one was going to think less of him, as he needlessly feared before the documentary's release.
Jordan roasted his enemies and created a place for millions of people to gather and watch his highlight tapes. When you come at the king, you best not miss. When you are the king, you can’t miss.
John Michael Wozniak (shrugging security guard): One of the more viral moments since a global pandemic shut down the sports world. Wozniak was a Chicago narcotics officer and Army veteran (he died in January), according to Yahoo! Sports. He eventually joined Jordan’s security team and stayed with him after his retirement, and that comfort level is evident when he defeats Jordan in a game of tossing quarters.
Aware of how much it’d irk the superstar and his competitive side, Wozniak hits Jordan with his own patented shrug. What happens next makes the moment. He turns around and breaks gaze with the camera, this time turning to see Jordan and making sure Jordan watches, and shrugs again. A hero.
Phil Jackson: “The Zen Master” was portrayed as a sage, the smartest man in the world. Hey, it’s hard to argue against 11 NBA titles as a coach. Jackson deserves respect for maintaining two locker rooms: one consisting of Jordan, one of the remainder of the team. His feud with Jerry Krause was a catalyst in terminating the dynasty. And without his penchant for giving playbooks and game plans artistically apropos titles, “The Last Dance” might have been “The Final Ride” or something even more cliché.
Sports fans: It’s been a tough couple of months for those passionate about sports. Settling in front of the television for a few hours every Sunday over the last five weeks allowed the public to retain some sense of normalcy and expectation.
Jordan, the baseball player: Right or wrong (that swing was pretty ugly in the beginning), Jordan’s baseball prowess has received a generally positive public spin since Episode 7. Bulls and White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf reiterated his belief Jordan would have made the major leagues had MLB not went on strike during the 1994 season. Taking 14 years off from the sport and then playing professionally is also a testament to Jordan’s freak athletic ability.
Sports media: What else would we have talked about over the last five weeks?! Once again, “The Last Dance” was a much-needed occurrence for the sports ecosystem.
Scottie Pippen: Putting Pippen in the “loser” category a month ago would have seemed blasphemous. He was (and still is) the beloved sidekick. And while his reputation remains intact, the documentary resurfaced various low points for Pippen’s career: the migraine game, sitting out the final play against the Knicks in the 1994 playoffs, delaying knee surgery before the final season. On the other hand, the documentary showcased how underrated Pippen was on the court and the severity with which he was underpaid. Present-day interviews with former teammates confirmed their adoration for him.
Partying in Las Vegas: Dennis Rodman and the Bulls worked out some of the best PTO policies known to humanity. The legendary story of Rodman’s “48-hour” jaunt to Sin City that ended with Jordan knocking on the big man’s hotel-room door and Carmen Electra hiding behind a couch is one only “The Last Dance” could have produced. Electra’s appearance in the documentary was an example of the many interview subjects that enhanced the breadth of the film and elevated it from “sports-only” to a much more meaningful level.
MJ’s lesser-known teammates: Bill Wennington. Bill Cartwright. Jud Buechler. Luc Longley. The list could go on. But without “The Last Dance,” these guys wouldn’t have had the face time they received in 2020. Ride the coattails they did.
Scott Burrell: New to the Bulls in 1997-98, he is the subject of much of Jordan’s ire and bullying in the flashback footage. He takes it in stride back then and is able to laugh about it and move on now. It’s a deft handling of the superstar-role player dynamic.
Toni Kukoc (on the Bulls): Kukoc overcame the scorn of Jordan and Pippen to become a respected teammate and key piece of the second three-peat. “The Last Dance” helped Kukoc’s case for how vital he was to the success of those clubs.
Steve Kerr: Not that he hasn't done enough winning on his own as coach of the Golden State Warriors. Everyone knew he took a punch from MJ during practice, but hearing the two of them explain what the incident did for their relationship was revealing. The emotional look Episode 9 provided of him, starting with the murder of his father and ending with the game-winning shot in the 1997 Finals, lands him on this list.
Michael Jordan memes: Credit director Jason Hehir for many things, chief among them handing MJ an iPad playing video of another individual being interviewed — so that Jordan could hear directly from the source. His reactions, ranging from smirky pleasure to derisive laughter, are perfect — and the “Jordan meme” takes on new life.
Losers of 'The Last Dance'
Also known as the "stood in Michael Jordan's way at any point in his career" category.
Jerry Krause: Unfortunately, Krause's death in 2017 prohibited the architect of the dynasty from saying his piece. But his feud with Jackson created the dark cloud around the '97-98 season. No Jackson meant no Jordan, who had already walked away once without much reason. The bad blood with Pippen over his contract meant No. 33 had one foot out the door. Reinsdorf deserves his share of the blame here, too, because any owner worth should not give up on a dynasty that quickly. The flimsy explanation he offered in the closing episode does not exonerate him — and Jordan indicated he would have returned for a shot at a seventh title in 1999 if things had played out differently. Still, Krause's alienating didn't do him many favors, but six championships is nothing to slouch at.
The "Cocaine Circus" Bulls: One of the documentary's first episodes detailed Jordan attending a hotel room party where former teammates were allegedly doing lines of cocaine during the preseason of his rookie year in 1984. It didn't reflect well on the group of Bulls who were Jordan's first professional teammates.
Isiah Thomas: "I don't know what went into that process. I met the criteria to be selected," Thomas says, pausing contemplatively. "But I wasn't."
The phrase has become popular on social media over the last couple of weeks, since it's a fancy way of conveying rejection. Of course, Thomas uttered the words when explaining why he was left off the 1992 Olympic "Dream Team" squad.
Thomas' absence from the team led to several news cycles in present day. The documentary addressed the feud between the Bulls and Detroit Pistons during the early 1990s. No one in Detroit came off well when the Pistons walked off the court without shaking hands during the 1991 Eastern Conference finals.
Clyde Drexler: Maybe Drexler's biggest fault was being the best player on the opposite team of the Bulls during the 1992 NBA Finals. Jordan caught wind the media was comparing him to Drexler, and that was it. The "shrug" was born during those Finals.
Dan Majerle: A year following his exploitation of Portland and Drexler, Jordan had a new foe in Majerle. As one of the Phoenix Suns' top defenders, he'd drawn the eye of Krause. That was the quickest way to end up on Jordan's naughty list. Of course, Majerle had no idea of Jordan's personal vendetta until watching the documentary like everyone else.
Toni Kukoc (during the 1992 Olympics): Having Jordan and Pippen rain hellfire on you on both ends of the court because of the general manager of the team you don't even play for yet, leading to an embarrassment on the Olympic stage, isn't what Kukoc signed up for. He persevered, though.
Jordan, the gambler: The ridiculous theories the press harped on following his father's murder was obscene, and the documentary properly displayed that. The film also dug into Jordan's gambling "hobby," from his golf bets with "Slim" Bouler to the high-stakes blackjack during team flights.
The "I don't have a gambling problem, I have a competition problem" line is eternal, though.
Knicks fans: Even without basketball, the Knicks fan base loses. The 1990s saw a collection of top-tier Knicks teams who constantly were stonewalled by Jordan and the Bulls during the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Adidas/Reebok:Jordan wanted to sign with Adidas in 1984, but the company didn't reciprocate those feelings. Deloris Jordan, his mother, made him listen to the Nike pitch. The rest is history.
Reebok outfitted the 1992 Olympic team, but Jordan famously draped himself in the American flag to cover the Reebok logo.
LeBron James: The modern-day GOAT debate will always prove fruitless, but one could argue this was Jordan's rebuttal to James' dominance of the 21st century. The Los Angeles Lakers star is still the best player of his generation, but the documentary forced the public to reckon with Jordan's greatness as a player above all else.
Chronological storytelling: This documentary bounced between years, seasons and even decades without much regard for time. It was confusing at times, but didn't have an overall negative effect on the project.
Sports video of the day
The last game of "The Last Dance" season: MJ scores 45 points, including what is probably his most iconic bucket, to secure the 1998 championship for the Chicago Bulls.
What to watch
Some classic games airing on NFL Network, including: Packers-Lions 1993 wild-card playoff game, 4 p.m. ET; Falcons-Vikings 1998 NFC Championship Game, 5:30 p.m. ET; 49ers-Saints from 2019 season, 8 p.m. ET.
A number of classic playoff games on NBA TV: 76ers-Celtics Game 7 from 1981 playoffs, 9 a.m. ET; Bucks-76ers Game 7 from 2001 playoffs, 11 a.m. ET; Heat-Celtics Game 6 from 2012 playoffs, 1 p.m. ET; Cavaliers-Celtics Game 7 from 2008 playoffs, 6 p.m. ET.
At 3:30 p.m. ET, MLB Network will re-air Game 6 of the 1977 World Series, which saw Reggie Jackson launch three home runs in a Yankees clincher.