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The Long awaited “Last Dance” documentaries started airing this past weekend and episodes 1 and 2 were finally shown to the public. As anticipated the series is, it has exceeded expectations and is a must watch for any basketball fan. With many storylines illustrating the first two episodes here are my biggest takeaways.
Krause Desperate for Blank Slate
It's crazy to think that Bulls GM Jerry Krause and Owner Jerry Reinsdorf were pursuing an end to the Bulls dynasty after their fifth championship, but that’s exactly what we saw. Reluctantly re-signing Phil Jackson and flirting with the possibility of trading away Scottie Pippen, Krause had the notion that he wanted to rebuild after the 96-97 season. Ultimately Reinsdorf made an overriding decision to keep Jackson, and Jordan nixed any Pippen trade talk. Krause's plan to rebuild had to wait another season.
But the aftermath showed us that the relationship with Pippen (more to come) Jackson, and even their star Jordan was completely fractured. Krause alienated all three of the Bulls big guys which led to the Bulls imploding after their sixth and final championship. Years of turmoil made the Bulls a laughing stock in the early 2000's. Ending an era, and unfortunately for the Bulls, still yearning for similar success.
Scottie Pippen was Grossly Underpaid and Under Appreciated
Jordan was the brand and the face of the franchise, but Pippen was the glue that held the Bulls together. 7x All-Star, 10x All-Defensive team, the 93-94 All-Star game MVP, but yet during his time with the Bulls was the 122nd highest paid player in the league. Granted Pippen admits to making a mistake and opting for financial security after seeing his brother and father in a wheelchair in a blink of an eye.
Eventually the lack of recognition and the unwillingness from management to restructure his contract left Pippen feeling undervalued and disrespected.I haven't even mentioned the vetoed trade that would've seen a young Tracy McGrady come to Chitown. Not pretty. So needless to say Jerry Krause felt Pippens scorn as did the team as we saw. Pippen openly mocking Krause on a team bus and openly admitting he delayed surgery so he could enjoy his summer.
Scottie would eventually get his money from the Blazers and the Rockets and is credited by Jordan himself as the best teammate he ever had.
Jordan was a Mad Man
The sibling rivalry, the yearning for his fathers attention, the legendary story of being cut from his high school basketball team, it all culminated into the mad man that Jordan is today. Without all that there would be no MJ as we know him today, you add in the tutelage of Tar Heels legend Dean Smith, by the time Jordan got to the league he was already a man on a mission.
Whether it's a practice where Jordan is berating Ron Harper or punching Steve Kerr in his face, or if it's a an all-time performance against the Celtics that leaves the likes of Bird and Magic Johnson speechless, from a young was prepared mentally to push himself to be the GOAT.
Pre-Jordan Bulls Were on the Brink
The Bears were winning, baseball was popular in both ends of Chicago, with the North rooting for the Cubs and the southside cheering for the white Sox. The Blackhawks were prevalent in Chicago with their rabid fanbase. Even a goddamn indoor soccer team were more popular than the Bulls, laughable now but back then that was the reality.
Prior to drafting Jordan, Chicago missed the playoffs 7 of the last 9 seasons and Artis Gilmore was the most popular Bulls player in the franchise's less than stellar history at that point. You got to thank the Blazers for drafting Sam Bowie or the history of the Bulls could've been much sadder.