The Last Dance aired its seventh and eighth episodes on Mother’s Day and, per usual, fans and onlookers alike are familiarizing themselves with the legacy of Michael Jordan. The NBA legend’s first retirement, the tragic murder of his father, and his infamous squabbles with his Bulls teammates were all covered in the episodes.
Episode seven examined Jordan’s relationship with James Jordan, which he credited with pushing him to be excellent in sports and in life. Jordan recalled a conversation he had in high school with his father when it appeared the future superstar was heading down the wrong path.
“I got suspended three times in one year,” Jordan said. “My father pulled me aside that summer and said: ‘You don’t look like you’re headed in the right direction. If you want to go about doing all this mischievous stuff, you can forget sports.’ That’s all I needed to hear. From that point on, it was like tunnel vision,” Jordan shared.
The elder Jordan was murdered in the summer of 1993 and months later, the younger Jordan decided that it was time to walk away from the game. It was heavily speculated that due to Jordan’s gambling that his father’s death was somehow connected. At 30 years old and easily the best player on the planet, Jordan walked away to the shock of many. In the 17 months away from the game, rumors persisted that then-commissioner David Stern quietly suspended Jordan due to his gambling habits, which were shot down.
Also debunked in time and once again shared in the episode, Jordan’s father was killed as a result of a robbery gone wrong. Two teenagers were arrested and charged in connection with the crime. In addition, Jordan says that he intended all along to retire, sharing that his final conversation with his father centered around the impending event and a return to a sport of his youth in baseball.
Episode seven also revealed how strained things were in the locker room with Scottie Pippen and the Chicago Bulls organization, including an infamous moment when Pippen, now leading the team, essentially quit on the team after Coach Phil Jackson drew up a final play for Toni Kukoc instead of him.
In episode eight, the record-setting 72-win 1995-1996 season was part of the focus but told via Jordan’s teammates who have long endured his demands for excellence on the court. After losing in the previous season to the Orlando Magic, Jordan returned to the game at 32 years of age with a renewed focus on becoming a dominant player. That transferred over to Pippen and the two leaders.
Jordan felt that teammates Steve Kerr and Luc Longley didn’t take the team’s earlier success into consideration while also stating they didn’t have the same tenacity as the first three-peat squad. One of the biggest moments of the episode came with the retelling of a heated practice session where Jordan put a hard foul on the much-smaller Kerr, who responded by hitting Jordan in the chest, who then socked the Golden States Warrior coach right in the eye.
As potentially damaging as the exchange was, Kerr and Jordan both recognized it as a turning point. Jordan also apologized to Kerr during the documentary, and Kerr added that it made their bond as teammates stronger despite how it looked on the surface. Adding a nice bow to the down then up nature of their relationship, the documentary focused on Kerr’s game-winning shot against the Utah Jazz in the 1997 NBA Finals on an assist from Jordan.
Across Twitter, reactions to episodes seven and eight of The Last Dance have been robust per usual and we’ve listed those responses below.
Michael Jordan wasn't a bully. He was the greatest leader/motivator ever. "I pulled people along when they didn't want to be pulled," he said in tonight's Last Dance. Amen, GOAT.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) May 11, 2020
Not prepared for next week to be the final week of The Last Dance...— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) May 11, 2020
whoever did the soundtrack to The Last Dance deserves an award.— Chiney Ogwumike (@chiney) May 11, 2020