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Emotions Run Deep as ‘The Last Dance’ Heads Toward Anticipated Finale

As we entered this past weekend, the world was fascinated with security guard John Michael Wozniak. Unfortunately, the security guard for Michael Jordan passed away before he could become famous after his appearance in ESPN’s documentary. This guy would have done more appearances in these last 10 days than anyone could possibly keep track of.

Sunday night introduced many of us to a new person. LaBradford Smith. He was one of Jordan’s sources for motivation, but this story was pretty ridiculous. Michael made up a story that Smith said something. First of all, I don’t understand how you make up a story to fool yourself. Overlooking that, the offensive comment by Smith was apparently, “Nice game, Mike.”

George Karl avoided speaking to Michael when they both attended the same restaurant. He knew of Jordan’s tendency to twist any comments. Michael then motivated himself over the snub. I didn’t think this was a mistake by Karl. Many thought George should have had Gary Payton guarding Jordan sooner. MJ watches a video of Payton speaking and laughs hysterically. If you want to talk about a mistake, Karl told Scott Van Pelt after the documentary that Seattle flew home following Friday’s game and played a 12:30 Sunday contest. It was 4:30 out there. 7:30 where us normal people live.

They barely acknowledged a Knicks-Bulls series in 1996. Just showed that Chicago had advanced with their series win over New York. Chicago was 14-1 in the postseason and just one win away from wrapping up the title until Seattle won twice at home. Sticking with the motivation topic, Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy once talked about how Jordan was basically a con man. He would be friendly with a player before lighting him up for 45. Naturally this didn’t sit well with Jordan. Michael hit the Knicks up for 51 when they next met. MJ also had some choice words for Van Gundy after the game.

Another Knicks moment that was glossed over and could have been featured would be the Hue Hollins foul call against Scottie Pippen. This might have been the difference between Chicago getting past New York without Jordan and a loss in 7 games. Some speculated that it was left out because maybe Chicago could’ve advanced and possibly won it all when Michael wasn’t there. One caller to WFAN had an interesting take about this. Perhaps the NBA didn’t want to highlight a controversy involving an official. Apparently somebody who was announcing criticized Hollins and was reprimanded. I am not convinced that Chicago would have defeated Indiana, and Houston certainly wouldn’t have been easy.

There were so many major storylines in Sunday’s episodes. Probably none more interesting than Jordan’s decision to retire in 1993. I was watching the ALCS when CBS broke that shocking news. No tweets back then. If everybody was telling lies, they did a good job. It seems like Jordan definitely was suffering from burnout, and reportedly talked about retirement a year earlier. The last few weeks have shown us that people in this country enjoy conspiracy theories. I don’t know the details about his father’s murder. People just assume that it was tied to Jordan’s gambling. If you believe that, I probably will not be able to convince you otherwise. David Stern says there was no secret suspension.

I side with those who feel Stern probably would not willingly sideline his cash cow. Let me put it another way. Has anyone ever assumed something about you that wasn’t true? They just decide that you are guilty of something because it makes sense to them. No shred of evidence. It’s hard to prove a negative, so you’re powerless. Throw in the part about your father being murdered. As you grieve, people decide that this was your fault. Things either happened or didn’t. This isn’t some fun sports debate where we can talk strategy and what would have happened if certain teams met. It might be interesting to hear from the people accused of Mr. Jordan’s murder. Maybe it should be looked into a little deeper. The thing that makes absolutely no sense to me is when people say they wanted Jordan to step away for a year or so and let things cool off. It’s 2020, and people are still talking about it. They were before this documentary. Michael leaving would only increase speculation and conspiracy theories.

A huge topic was Scottie Pippen’s refusal to play the last 1.8 seconds of game 3 against the Knicks in 1994. I remember this leading to a big argument on WFAN between Mike Francesa and Chris Russo. Occasionally I’ll question myself. Maybe I was too hard on someone or didn’t judge fairly. Usually, I’m reminded to trust my judgement. This guy always was an idiot. He says he’d do the same thing today. Thanks for your honesty. You are honest, but can still be considered stupid and a jerk. So, the play was called for Kukoc. Pippen said he at least wanted to be a decoy. You would be. On the floor. Knicks players don’t know that you’re not an option. They do when you are not on the floor. I can’t spend much more time on this. It makes me angry. I hate him so much. However, Bill Cartwright crying over this was a little much. Pippen proved that he didn’t deserve big money. The guy was not a leader, and he should not be mentioned among the greatest ever. Anyway, Kukoc made the shot. Phil Jackson’s choice was a good one.

Jordan’s return was so big. I usually watched games at home, but that day I went to watch with a friend who rooted for Chicago. As you see in the documentary, Bob Costas spoke before the game started. Without knowing it would be in the documentary, that came to mind as I was getting ready to start watching Sunday night’s episodes. I also remember that there was another NBC game on that day. Jordan announced his return the day before his first game back. NBC had no idea that this would happen. Obviously just about everybody saw Michael, but I remember feeling bad for those local markets that couldn’t. It was the highest rated regular season game in 20 years. MJ must have been pretty nervous. His shorts were on backwards. Doug Gottlieb wasn’t the only one who did this. Maybe Doug was just trying to be like Mike.

Bill Wennington speaks throughout the documentary. I kept thinking about his final shot when Jordan scored 55 against the Knicks. We finally saw that. People talk about how the 1993-94 Bulls were very good without Jordan. Chicago was 34-31 the next year when Michael came back. They went from barely having a winning record to 72-10 one season later. Yes, Rodman was added, but I think we know who deserved more credit.

Game 1 in 1998 against the Nets went to overtime. We don’t see that the Nets nearly won it in regulation on a desperation heave. This documentary has been great, but youtube is often a better way to discover exactly how things played out. I didn’t watch all of that game. The Knicks-Heat opener was also scheduled for that night. It started earlier. When they finished, I flipped over to Nets-Bulls.

Steve Kerr and MJ had a feisty exchange in practice. Coach Jackson sent Jordan home. I don’t think Chicago was necessarily great because of incidents like this, but we have definitely seen Michael’s competitive spirit. Even when struggling. It seemed as if Michael willed his teammates to championships. I definitely think that he was capable of elevating others around him. He tried to beat other strong teams instead of joining them.

Episode 7 started with a question from Craig Sager. Jerry Krause was annoyed, and walked away from the gathering. It ended with a surprising moment. An emotional Jordan spoke about how he played the game and his mentality. Jordan then asked for a break to compose himself. We also saw Michael crying on the locker room floor after winning the 1996 championship on Father’s Day. SVP spoke about hearing it. The image was famous. Actually hearing him cry was shocking.

One other note. Jackie McMullan talked about Scottie Pippen in 1994. She said it was more than 15 years ago. This is technically correct, but sounds like a mathematical error. 1994 was 26 years ago. Those of us who remember that era don’t want to admit we’re getting old. It was a long time ago. I graduated high school that year. Just two more episodes remaining!

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