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“THE LAST DANCE” REVIEWED - EPISODE 2

That Celtics’ series

It’s crazy how many short and mid-range jumpers Jordan hit in this early phase of his career. His jump shot for still looks the same as it did in his college days. It’s still a bit raw and not as refined as it would get later in his career. Also, the guy is hitting no three pointers. It’s all dunks and jump shots. It’s awesome seeing the Celtic legends Larry Bird and Danny Ainge talking about that playoff series. Nothing but praise. They realize that Michael was turning the game into something different. It was a special performance, peak young Jordan. As Bird said, he’s never seen anything like it before or after that series. Pippen stews

I remember the narrative about Pippen being underpaid and asking for a trade. It was such a transition period for the NBA. In the 1980s you had players who had to have second jobs to support themselves in the off-season. Then the Bulls game through, turned the sport into a pop culture phenomenon, and suddenly the TV and marketing deals just swell up. Everyone wants a piece of what Jordan, Pippen and the Bulls created. But Pippen’s contract was locked in, long-term before the money really started pouring in. He was caught in the middle. He surely deserved to get some more coin for the popularity he was responsible for bringing to the game. Yet, as the documentary shows, the Bulls management weren’t willing to renegotiate. An unfortunate sour note in an otherwise soaring narrative of team dominance. Late night WGN rebroadcasts

Way back in time, before streaming services, before Instagram, before Facebook even, there were a limited number of television channels. One of the national channels you could get anywhere in the US was the local Chicago station, WGN. So back before League Pass, if you wanted to, you could watch every Bulls game live if you wanted. 

Looking back now, there was something magical about tuning into WGN on a random weekday evening in January. There were no stakes. The playoffs lay waiting far on the other side of winter and spring. But there was basketball, and there was Michael Jordan. It’s funny thinking of this now, in this era of insanely hyped up YouTube mixtapes. On WGN, watching the Bulls was almost casual viewing. The crowds wouldn’t be that hyped in Milwaukee or Charlotte or wherever the Bulls happened to be playing. You would just dive through the worm hole and get to be a fly on the wall in stadiums across the US as Jordan and the Bulls would come to town. There was no fanfare, aside from the local Chicago announcers pulling out their best hyperbole to describe MJ’s latest aerial feat. 

But a lot of the time, the game just kind of dragged. And it was beautiful. You’d see Michael Jordan just moving around the court, sometimes not even touching the ball. But when he did, it was electric. The crowds he was visiting wouldn’t make much noise as he beat up on their home team, but he kept on at a constant clip. Racking up dunks and stats. Slowly building, almost behind the scenes, to something that would add up to be seen by all. These little nightcaps became a comfort food. Something to unwind to after a day of school and an evening of practice. A little competitive snack. Somewhere, in middle America, the Bulls were silently marching.

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