By Cole Parkinson
Alta Newspaper Group – Taber
Life sure is different from just a few months ago.
If you would have told me this time last year that almost all things would be put on hold due to some new virus, I would have thought you were describing some movie.
But alas, here we are.
Of course, one of the biggest negatives from my perspective is the postponement of all sports seasons.
There hasn’t been a time in my life where there hasn’t been some kind of sports on TV but now the MLB, NHL and NBA seasons aren’t ongoing and there is no firm deadline as to when they may come back.
This has left me a lot of free time to catch up on TV series that have either ended or are ongoing.
Better Call Saul just wrapped up one of the best seasons of television since Breaking Bad’s fifth/final season back in 2013 and now there’s a long wait until the sixth and final season.
Another one of my favourites — Westworld — still has one episode to go in its third season, though I still haven’t started it yet as I’m waiting for it all to be out so I can binge watch it this coming weekend before the finale.
Netflix has also finally added Community back after several years of it missing, so I’m getting a rewatch of one of the best comedies ever created.
While plenty of other options are available with the vast amount of streaming services, no program may be higher on my anticipation level than the newest Chicago Bulls/Michael Jordan ESPN documentary titled The Last Dance.
With the first two episodes dropping last week and episodes three and four releasing in Canada this past Monday, and with six more episodes left, this is the best option for people craving sports.
Sure, we know the outcome —spoilers — Jordan and the Bulls will win their third in a row and complete their second three-peat of the ‘90s.
But really, that doesn’t matter.
This inside look at one of the best athletes of all time during his heyday is absolutely fascinating.
I wasn’t alive during the first three-peat and I was incredibly young during the back half of the second so I really don’t remember Michael Jordan and the dominant Chicago Bulls.
I vaguely remember his second return from retirement with the Washington Wizards but Jordan was well past his prime by then.
This documentary gives people like me who never got to witness what Michael Jordan was all about during the ‘90s when he and the Bulls were dominating the NBA.
The intensity he brought was like no other and this documentary, which features never-before-seen footage from the 1997/1998 Bulls season, shows just how much focus Jordan brought when he hit the hardwood.
One thing I’m excited to see in coming episodes is why MJ decided to retire the first time and sign with the Chicago White Sox.
I don’t think there has been a more odd manoeuvre like that in sports and I don’t think we’ll ever see that again. Imagine Sidney Crosby retiring this offseason and signing with the Pittsburgh Pirates for the 2021 MLB season.
It must have been a major head-scratcher for NBA and Bulls fans to see one of the best players of all time retire in his prime to go play baseball so I’m excited to see what the man himself has to say about that odd decision.
While the focus is largely placed on Michael Jordan and his rise to the legend he would become, episodes also focus on some the Bulls’ key players during the runs including Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and Phil Jackson.
Another key player in all of this is former Bulls GM Jerry Krause.
Krause was a major factor in the Bulls being a dominant force in the NBA as he hired Phil Jackson, drafted Pippen and MJ, and made the trade to bring Rodman in for the second three-peat.
Even with this in mind, it’s on full display just how much the players hated Krause.
Described as ‘small man syndrome’ in the documentary, it is mind-blowing that any GM would even entertain the idea of blowing up a team that had won five championships.
Telling Phil Jackson he could go 82-0 and win the Larry O’Brien, and he still would be let go at the end of the season is about the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard someone say in sports but that’s exactly what Krause did after 1998.
The Bulls win the championship, Jackson is let go, Michael Jordan retires again and Scottie Pippen is traded to Houston…what a turnaround.
The Toronto Raptors are defending championships, imagine if they fired head coach Nick Nurse and shipped off Kyle, Pascal and Fred after the championship to go along with Kawhi leaving.
There was talk that some of the older players may get moved —Kyle, Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol— but, Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster aren’t championship-winning executives by luck and that decision was paying dividends this season.
Unfortunately, we may never know what may have been if things aren’t restarted at some point.
And this was a Bulls team who still could have won a lot of games moving forward if Krause’s ego didn’t get in the way.
It may be cliche but ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ is a perfect analogy for the ‘90s Chicago Bulls.
Krause died in 2017 so he can’t explain his decisions but I think the documentary does a great job of showing that he was a guy who wanted to prove everyone wrong.
He wanted to win without the best coach of all time, the best player of all time in MJ and an all-time great in Pippen, all because he wanted to prove he was the reason the Bulls were who they were.
Of course, once Jordan, Pippen, Jackson and Rodman all left after the ‘98 championship, Krause never sniffed an NBA title again.
And this isn’t a ‘lets all jump on Krause’ because dumb decisions are made every day in sports but this one was all about ego and nothing else.
Imagine what could have been if the same team, including Jackson as coach, returned in ‘98/99?
Instead, Jackson took the year off before returning to the bench in 1999/2000 with the Los Angeles Lakers where he would win another five championships between 2000 and 2011.
I wonder if Krause ever looked back and realized how insane his idea to blow up the Bulls was.
His whole mantra of “players and coaches alone don’t win championships; organizations win championships” is particularly interesting considering he would eliminate the most important aspects from his championship-winning organization — the coach and the players.
The whole saga at least produced a blueprint on what not to do when you have a winning team.
Either way, I can’t wait for the final six hours of The Last Dance and with all this extra time, it should be on your list to watch, sports fan or not.