If you’ve enjoyed The Last Dance, ESPN’s mega documentary about Michael Jordan’s final year with the Bulls, you might find yourself saying, “I want to understand some of the events mentioned in this documentary in greater detail, and also this documentary has way too much access and budget. I’d prefer something objectively worse.” Many of you say this.
Well, you’re in luck! Here is a guide to some SB Nation videos that dig deep on topics The Last Dance may only mention in passing.
Jordan’s early career
Before Jordan had a reliable co-star in Scottie Pippen, and before he had a brilliant coach in Phil Jackson, the Bulls were merely OK. But even by himself, Jordan was a force, and a star attraction. This episode of Rewinder examines that early era through the lens of the controversial 1988 NBA Slam Dunk Contest in Chicago. From his battle with Dominique Wilkins, you’ll get a sense of how quickly Jordan became a very big deal ... and how unbelievably good he was at dunking:
A couple years later, Jordan’s Bulls finally experienced some playoff success. One of those victories was a close call, and it came against a Cleveland Cavaliers team that, in 1989, seemed just as likely as Chicago to become the next great Eastern Conference contender:
Jordan’s first retirement
After winning championships Nos. 1-3, the dude really left the NBA to play baseball. Here’s how that could have gone differently:
And here’s an extremely serious analysis of the award-winning film about what Jordan did during his time away from the NBA:
And here’s what the Bulls — especially Toni Kukoc and Scottie Pippen — were up to in his absence:
Jordan’s last shot as a Bull, and what came next
Maybe skip this if you’re watching The Last Dance with minimal background, but we’ve got an episode of Rewinder that digs into the tightly contested 1998 Finals between the Bulls and Utah Jazz, particularly the Xs and Os of the critical closing seconds:
And I guess this might be a spoiler, too, but The Last Dance addresses the finality of the 1997-98 Bulls season, and general manager Jerry Krause’s plans to immediately rebuild the team. Here’s how that went:
Finally, if you’re wondering about the greatest opponents Jordan’s Bulls toppled, and how close those matchups came to going the other way, I recommend a couple episodes of our series Untitled:
Enjoy! If you’re into this sort of thing, feel free to subscribe to our YouTube channel for even more of this sort of thing.