The final two episodes of The Last Dance played yesterday, culminating in the 1998 NBA championship win by the Bulls over the Jazz, and the end of an era. I hate to join the chorus, but I have to agree that this is one of the best things I’ve seen. I’ll go further than that. I feel so grateful for the opportunity to re-live so many great moments. It’s almost heartwarming to go back and recall such a vivid era. And I’m grateful that this is on the record now. It’s not lost, here it is again.
Watching the program, there were many things recalled to me that had passed from front of mind, further questions posed and, of course, so many insights and secrets exposed.
I found myself watching fascinated by the suits the NBA stars wore, and no less MJ. Almost without exception they were awful – oversized, boxy three-button suits, often in garish colours. I love, you man, but really…
Remembering MJ over the years, I recognised him for his playing prowess, and why wouldn’t you? There’s never been a better player. He was a competitive beast, and probably close to the best clutch player of any sport at any time. I was also fascinated by the petty rivalries he conjured up to motivate himself, and how successful that was. It was a great insight into the man.
What I had forgotten was what an immense personality he was. It’s not uncommon for the best of the sporting stars to have personalities to match. That greatness gives them permission to be whoever they want to be, say whatever they want to say. He was a dominant personality, in the media, in the locker room, on the court. He was a man of supreme confidence and seemingly disdainful of what anyone thought about him. That he was quick-witted and smart, as well as being super-cool, which helped a shitload.
It was great seeing some of the other players of the era in action, too. Reggie Miller was one of my favourite players of the time, and I had a soft spot for the Pacers, largely on the back of his heroics. Then, watching John Stockton again, who was almost the antithesis of what an NBA player was – the weedy, white guy who had game smarts and skills as good as anyone who’s played the game – generally underrated. And I had forgotten what a great player Karl Malone was.
Watching Steve Kerr throughout the series, and particularly last night, it was clear to see why he’s become such a great coach. Intelligent and humble, with great EQ, he’s the rare character who can put his ego aside and seem almost self-effacing – while forging a great career. He’s a lesson many could heed – but that’s a rare kind of intelligence that few possess.
This was an epic series charting a turbulent, eventful, and often, spectacular era. That it centred on Jordan is obvious – he was the man who made the era and made the Bulls to a large extent. They were a good team without him, but he made them great. I loved seeing him again, hearing his voice, listening to his take on the events of those years.
It’s still utterly bewildering that the team was broken up after 1998. Who in his right mind would do that? This was a team for the ages who probably had at least another championship in them. But then, blame the egos for that. Sad, it deprived us of MJ at the top of his game.