Episode seven of The Last Dance begins with an exhausted Michael Jordan and his Chicago Bulls winning game one of the first round of the Eastern Conference versus the New Jersey Nets. Then the scene flashes back five years to 1993, touching on Jordan’s relationship with his late father.
Coming off of his finals “three-peat,” Jordan reminisces about the unbreakable bond he had with his father. He described his dad, James Jordan, as a “voice of reason” that always guided him and stuck by his side, like a best friend would do. Three weeks after Jordan’s third championship his dad’s body was found in a creek in North Carolina, having been shot by two burglars. Upon hearing the news, Jordan was devastated.
In his words, it was his father’s teaching of taking the negative in life and looking at it from a positive perspective that helped him through the tragedy. With the murder of his father looming over him, Jordan felt like he no longer had passion for the game, so he made a decision no one could have predicted.
On a Thursday night in October in 1993, Michael Jordan held a press conference officially announcing his retirement from the NBA. His father had always encouraged Jordan to play baseball professionally and now Jordan wanted to fulfill his wishes. In the 1994 MLB season, Jordan played Double A baseball for the Chicago White Sox’s minor league team. All the media and most sports fans around the globe were sceptical about whether or not he could make the switch and carry “his airness” to the diamond. All Jordan wanted to do was play well and mentally relieve himself from the pressures of basketball.
Boys junior varsity basketball guard, Adrian Swift-Henry ’20, was inspired by Jordan’s decision despite backlash from the media.
“To understand your mental situation and act on it as a black man is often looked down upon, but he did what he thought was right for him,” Adrian said.
Jordans resilience has always been idolized by many and this trait was shown during his short baseball career. Although he didn’t experience the level of dominance in baseball that he did in basketball, his work ethic never stopped. He was always the first to practice on the field and the last to leave. Jordan brought the same winning attitude he had from playing with the Chicago Bulls to the minor league.
By the end of this season, he hit fifty runs, surpassing multiple other prospects and exceeding expectations. Overall, Jordan’s baseball tenure was a well needed break from the NBA before he decided to return in 1995 with his famous two word press release: “I’m back.”
The second half of the episode goes back in time and focuses on Jordan’s “killer attitude.” Here we see various teammates’ perspectives on Jordan’s leadership and impact on one another. Jordan is well known for the tough love he gave his teammates.
“He crossed the line numerous times but… he was a hell of a teammate,” Bulls center Will Perdue said. Jordan saw his perfectionist mentality as a way to push his teammates to greater heights. And it did.
Episode seven closes with a synopsis of the 1994 Bulls during Jordan’s absence. Here we see players like star forward Scottie Pippen and Croatian shooter Toni Kukoč tested in the competitive Eastern Conference. The team put up a valiant effort but in the end they lost in the Eastern Conference semi-finals to the New York Knicks.
The beginning of episode eight opens with a reunited Bulls squad playing in the 1998 playoffs versus the Charlotte Hornets. In the first game of that Eastern Conference finals, former Bulls guard, B.J. Armstrong leads his team into victory against the bulls and ultimately lights a fire in Jordan. Armstrong’s excellent performance and reckless trash talk made Jordan step up and, with his teammates, win the series 4-1 to advance.
The episode then moves back to 1995 where we see Jordan end his baseball career after 13 months of playing. He starts to scrimmage with his former Bulls team who were struggling in the 1995 season without him. Having recently lost forward Horace Grant to the Orlando Magic, the Bulls needed a push to find their way back to the league’s summit. Micheal Jordan proved to be just that. Winning his first game back versus the New York Knicks with 55 points (his famous Double-nickel game) there was no question that Jordan could still play at a high level.
However, in the Eastern Conference Semifinals vs the Magic, Jordan started to show signs of fatigue. His body had not fully acclimated to playing competitive basketball so Jordan and the Bulls lost the series 4-2. Jordan never forgot this loss. He spent the whole summer filming the movie Space Jam and used this time to get back to play as much as he could. He lifted weights six days a week and held scrimmages with the best NBA players to return to his dominant figure.
Jordan came back better than ever in the 1996-97 season. The Bulls made league history in the regular season by achieving 72 wins and losing a mere 10 games. They went on to get revenge on the Orlando Magic in th Eastern Conference Finals and moved on to the finals where they met the Western Conference’s best: The Seattle Supersonics.
Even with the Supersonics great regular season and playoff success, the finals matched was touted as the “the greatest mismatch in NBA finals history,” as the Bulls were the clear favorites. The Bulls lived up to the hype and won the first three games. The fourth and fifth games saw the Supersonics clinch tough wins. The decider, game six, occurred on Father’s Day, a very emotional time for Jordan due to his father’s passing. This was the first championship game Jordan was playing without his dad there to cheer him on, so Jordan dedicated the game to his father.
Putting on a show, the Bulls won the series and their fourth NBA championship 4-2. After the game, all of Jordan’s emotions spilled out. Photographers captured Jordan crying on the floor, clutching his trophy in grief.
Many Loomis students’ athletic careers have been impacted by their family and friends. Girls varsity guard Bryanna Johnson ’20 connects to Jordan’s passion for the game through her parents.
“They do things that most parents wouldn’t do such as my dad leaving New York to drive 2 hours to pick me up for practice,” Bry said. Like many others, while watching The Last Dance, Bry has reflected on and been grateful for the sacrifices that her family made to constantly support her.