The Last Dance Shows Michael Jordan’s Ruthlessness On and Off the Court
Everybody remembers where they were and what they were doing during the 1998 NBA Finals. It was the culmination of what Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson coined “The Last Dance,” knowing that it was the team’s final shot at the championship.
The Last Dance is the title of the captivating series produced by ESPN, which started streaming its first two episodes on Netflix on April 20. It shows the enormity of the team that was the 1997-1998 Chicago Bulls. No other team or period in sports is so compelling or enormous that it has brought two ex-Presidents—Bill Clinton and Barack Obama—to participate in the documentary.
It makes no pretense that Michael Jordan was the greatest athlete the world had ever witnessed, with his ruthlessness, precision, and commitment to perfection. And when the situation called for it (after Scottie Pippen decided to take a sick leave during their final season), he did not hesitate to berate his teammates during practice when they were slacking off.
“If you can’t take the heat, get out of here!” Jordan said.
ESPN’s unprecedented and exclusive access to the Chicago Bulls during the 1997-1998 season gave us a glimpse of what happened in the Bulls’ locker rooms, practice gym, and their bus.
A lot of backstabbing, frontstabbing, and hatred was going on between the team’s general manager Jerry Krause and coach Jackson, Krause and Jordan, and Krause and Pippen.
The documentary had initially made a villain of the late Krause, painting him as a selfish, vengeful, and greedy team manager.
Jordan loathed him so much for his alleged disrespect for the sport and its athletes that he openly insulted him in front of his teammates. To Jordan, Krause was the antithesis of every fiber in his sportsman ethos.
“I would never let someone who is not putting on a uniform and playing each and every day dictate what we do on the basketball court," said Jordan, referring to Krause’s decision to sack Jackson as the team’s coach and his pronouncement that the team does not win championships, the organization does.
There are few things you can’t say when you’re Jordan, but the things he said to the team’s general manager were often below the belt.
Throughout his career, Jordan had always been unfiltered during press conferences and interviews, often expressing his blunt thoughts. But off-court and off-cam, he was just as ruthless, and he bullied Krause when he had the chance.
“Are those the pills you take to keep you short or are those diet pills?” he shot at the team’s general manager during practice.
Krause was a short, rotund office guy among the world’s greatest athletes, and who was he to spar with Jordan? But The Last Dance does not intend to disparage Jordan. It simply shows how his competitiveness and passion for perfection and basketball played into the dynamics of the 1998 NBA Finals.
Through the lens of the 1997-1998 Chicago Bulls title run, we also see the struggles and resentments of Jordan, Pippen, Dennis Rodman, and Jackson—the pillars of sports in that decade, who incidentally were brought together by none other than Krause.
Despite his shortcomings, Krause had the uncanny ability to scout talents and procure them for the team. He was responsible for building a beautiful roster for Jordan, with picks and trade-offs made specifically to support the latter’s explosive plays.
The Last Dance takes us to the period when the Chicago Bulls were gods. For the first time in history, we saw an entire sport personified as a man in Jordan. It is impossible to exaggerate when speaking of Jordan, and The Last Dance is a tribute to him as much as it is to the Chicago Bulls’ sixth and final title run, a feat no other team has ever done since. Drafted out of college in his junior year, we see how Jordan took flight and rescued the Chicago Bulls from NBA purgatory and cemented it as the most legendary team ever assembled in sports history as it performed the sweep of history in its final, historic “last dance.”