The End Of "The Last Dance"
For the past month, sports fans have come together on Sunday evenings to enjoy "The Last Dance," ESPN's 10-part docuseries on Michael Jordan and his final season with the Chicago Bulls in 1997-98.
Sunday night, "The Last Dance" came to a close, as the series turned its focus to Chicago's run to those 1998 NBA Finals, Jordan's "Flu Game," Dennis Rodman's professional wrestling detour in the middle of that final series against the Jazz, "The Pushoff," and much more.
And as always, the internet was out in full force with reactions, jokes, and appreciation for both Jordan and the storytelling. So for the final time, here's how "The Last Dance" played out on Sunday.
On Dennis Rodman's wrestling detour
Yes, it's true. In the middle of the NBA Finals, after the Bulls won Game 3, Rodman missed practice to continue taking part in a professional wrestling storyline as a member of World Championship Wrestling's New World Order, where he was allied with Hulk Hogan.
And NBA players in particular seemed to love the latest Rodman antics in "The Last Dance":
What "The Last Dance" didn't mention, though, was that Rodman was in fact feuding with Karl Malone in that professional wrestling storyline — seriously, while also squaring off in the Finals — and the two would clash in the ring on July 12, just weeks after the Finals ended.
If you're interested in learning more, the WWE Network has its own special dedicated to Rodman's time in wrestling:
On the Flu Game
For years, we've heard that Jordan's gutsy performance in Game 5 of the 1998 NBA Finals might have been food poisoning and not the flu. And on Sunday, Jordan and his trainer, Tim Grover, confirmed that theory, telling a story of ordering a late-night pizza that was delivered by five pizza guys, traveling together, and then consumed by Jordan and Jordan alone.
It's a great story, but color our Mark Titus, among others, highly skeptical of MJ's version of events:
Still, whatever the details of that game and the day preceding it, "The Flu Game" will always be part of the legend of Jordan.
Indeed, the shoes Jordan was wearing in that game, a black and red version of his Jordan XIIs, have since been known as the "Flu Game" colorway, and the pair he wore in that game would fetch a pretty penny in 2020:
Regardless of what happened, the details of the story, with so many people making the delivery, had Twitter cracking wise:
Even the brands got in on the fun:
Well played, DiGiorno. Well played.
Anyway, while we're here, take a minute to watch Stuart Scott's classic call of the highlight of the Flu Game, the Pizza Game, the Food Poisoning Game, or whatever else you want to call it. We miss you, sir.
On Steve Kerr
Last week, we saw some of the more fraught moments in Kerr's relationship with Jordan. But in Episode 9, His Airness showed Kerr the ultimate respect by dedicating an entire segment to Kerr, the loss of his father, and his success as the perfect role player for Chicago's second threepeat.
And while "The Last Dance" didn't necessarily explicitly say it, the bond between the two seemed to at least in part be built on their common sense of loss. The death of Jordan's father has been an important touch point throughout the documentary; on Sunday, Kerr shared his story, in which his father was shot and killed outside of his office in Beirut, Lebanon, where he was a professor and president of the American University.
Between their battles and their brotherhood, Jordan learned to trust Kerr. So when it came time for the final play to win the Bulls' 1997 championship, MJ told Kerr to be ready — and he was.
On "The Pushoff"
You know what's kind of tired, according to both those involved with "The Last Dance" and those watching on Sunday? The notion that Jordan's "push" against Bryon Scott made much of a difference in MJ's ability to hit the game-winner that clinched the Bulls' sixth championship.
Instead, as Bob Costas, the man who called those Finals, said, the hand on Russell's backside "was the equivalent of maître d' showing someone to their table" — a quote Kevin Love found rather enjoyable.
Indeed, most everyone simply marveled at Jordan's coming up clutch once again:
On "The Last Dance"
Sad though it may be, Sunday was the end of "The Last Dance." And after it came to an end, fans, players, and the internet in general gave their thanks and appreciation for the documentary.
In the end, "The Last Dance" painted a portrait of a legend. It didn't cover everything. It wasn't always balanced in its treatment of all parties. And some parts weren't pretty.
But it was unquestionably Jordan.