Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James, Dennis Rodman drama and more: 10 big questions ahead of ‘The Last Dance’
ESPN announced Tuesday that “The Last Dance” — a 10-part series on the Bulls’ dynasty that featured Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson and Scottie Pippen — will begin airing on April 19.
The documentary focuses on the 1997-98 season, which was the last of six NBA championship runs for Chicago. By the time the first few chords of “Sirius” by the Alan Parsons Project hit, you’ll already be screaming, “What time is it?”
Ahead of its release, here are the 10 questions we hope the documentary series answers.
Who gives the best interview?
The first trailer showed an A-list roll call of personalities interviewed for the documentary.
Where else can you get Barack Obama, Jerry Seinfeld, Justin Timberlake and Carmen Electra weighing in on one of the greatest sports dynasties of all time?
The Bulls were not just a basketball team. They were a cultural phenomenon that extended well past Chicago. It will be interesting to see which person inside (and outside) of the organization brings the most compelling material to the series.
What more can we learn about Dennis Rodman?
The early favorite to do that would be Rodman, who was the subject of ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary “Rodman: For Better or Worse.” Rodman led the NBA in rebounds for the seventh consecutive time in 1997-98. He had 16 games with at least 20 rebounds.
That likely will not be discussed much.
Rodman’s over-the-top behavior will be a topic, and his segments in particular will definitely be worth watching.
Which beefs will resurface?
Former Bulls general manager Jerry Krause died in 2017, so we will not get his side of the story in his long-standing feud with Jackson.
There are other storylines, though. “Scottie was being selfish,” Jordan says in the trailer. That relationship with Pippen likely will be explored in open-air fashion.
What about that time Jordan punched Steve Kerr? That happened in 1995, and Kerr figures to be a prominent interview given how much he’s featured in the trailers.
How did the Bulls’ rivals view the team?
Patrick Ewing and Charles Barkley are shown in the trailer, and they are among the players on the 1992 “Dream Team” who did not win a championship because of the Bulls.
Two other “Dream Team” members — Karl Malone and John Stockton — were stars on the Jazz teams that lost back-to-back NBA Finals to Chicago. Are they interviewed?
It will also be riveting to explore the Bulls’ 1998 Eastern Conference finals matchup with the Pacers, the rare series that pushed Chicago to a Game 7. That Indiana team featured Larry Bird at coach and star guard Reggie Miller.
How do all those stars view the Bulls’ dynasty more than 20 years later?
How will the Bulls describe the 1998 NBA Finals?
Chicago capped a sixth NBA championship run by beating Utah in six games. It’s easy to forget Game 3 when the Bulls crushed the Jazz by a final score of 96-54 behind one of the greatest defensive performances of all time.
Everybody remembers Jordan’s final shot in a Bulls’ uniform, which put Chicago ahead for good and locked up a sixth championship.
How did players and coaches react in the locker room knowing that the NBA would never see a dynasty quite like that again?
Was there ever an exodus like it?
Look at the Bulls’ 1998-99 roster. Tim Floyd is the coach. The top three scorers were Toni Kukoc, Ron Harper and Brent Barry.
Jordan and Jackson retired. Rodman went to the Lakers, and Pippen went to the Rockets. Hearing the first-person accounts of those exits should re-open some of those rifts about how the dynasty ended.
It also will roll into how another one was born.
What did Phil Jackson bring to the Lakers?
Jackson took a year off, and he returned to lead the Lakers to three straight NBA championships with the help of Shaquille O’Neal and the late Kobe Bryant, who is one of the stars featured in the trailer.
The Bryant interviews promise to be emotional given his death in a plane crash on Jan. 26. Bryant was the heir apparent to Jordan, and the link between the two dynasties will likely be explored in later episodes.
How do those Bulls stack up against the Warriors?
Kerr has been asked that question several times. The Bulls’ story will give a greater appreciation for how hard it is to three-peat in the modern era. Chicago did it twice, and had Jordan not retired after the first run to play baseball, there was a chance for the Bulls to win eight in a row.
Granted, the Warriors had to contend with LeBron James, and it will be interesting to see how the debate between five straight NBA Finals appearances against six championships in eight years plays out while the series is being aired on ESPN.
Would you rather be 73-9 without the ring or 72-10 with a championship? MJ fans know the answer to that.
Will this humanize Jordan to a younger generation?
Jordan’s most recent public appearance was a eulogy for Bryant that showed a rare emotional side of the superstar. The trailer splices in a few Jordan clips that come with some classic quotes.
“My mentality was to go out and win — at any costs.”
Jordan press conferences are rare, and this will be the most he has offered for public consumption since his playing days.
He might not be the best interview, but Jordan will get the most attention. How much will he reveal?
Will you finally recognize MJ as the GOAT?
Given how much an old picture of Jordan and LeBron James at a basketball camp recirculated on social media a few weeks ago, this documentary is sure to rekindle the “greatest of all time” argument between the two superstars.
For his part, James has already tweeted how excited he is to watch the series:
That might be the best way for everybody else to approach it. Do not use this as a prop to compare the two superstars. Enjoy the experience of reliving what was a dynasty led by arguably the greatest player and greatest coach of all time.
It’s almost game time. April 19 cannot get here soon enough.
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