The Last Dance Reactions: Episodes 5 & 6


Prasham Jobanputra

A great photo with two global icons, Muhammad Ali (left) and Michael Jordan (right).

The Last Dance premiered episodes five and six of the ten-part documentary Sunday night.  The two episodes focused on Jordan’s relationship with Kobe Bryant, the 1992 dream team, the first three-peat, and Jordan’s gambling problem.  Here are my thoughts and reactions to episodes five and six.

We finally got the answer we had been waiting for. Did Michael Jordan leave Isiah Thomas off the 1992 Dream Team? And the answer was no.  Before Jordan made a decision to play for the USA Olympic team, he asked Rod Thorn, the person in charge for selecting the team, who was playing.  Thorn basically said Thomas was not going to be on the team.  So, Jordan is off the hook for the false narrative that he was the one who left Thomas off the team.  The documentary hit it spot on, Thomas from a talent point of view should of have been on the team, but the chemistry would not have been very good since a lot of the players had their problems with Thomas.

The notion that Jordan did no wrong should be completely erased after these two shows, and that’s on and off the court.  I’ll start with on the court.  The stat was thrown out there that Jordan went 3/18 shooting in the second half of a playoff game.  In other words he had a bad game in the clutch.  A lot of people think that Jordan was always clutch and was perfect in the 4th quarter.  Well this is now the second case of Jordan being not clutch, as it was shown that he missed a late game free throw in an earlier episode.  I’m not saying Jordan wasn’t clutch.  I’m saying he wasn’t perfect.

I always thought Jordan was a great leader.  And that’s still true, he won six championships as the best player.  But, he wasn’t always the best teammate, and if it weren’t for the championships, I don’t think a lot of people would have wanted to play with him.  He told his teammates to not pass it to a certain guy in clutch time and issued a threat if they did.  That’s over the line by a lot.  You can not say that about a teammate and should not put your other teammates in that position.

Now off the field.  Episode six dived deep into Jordan’s gambling problem, and that’s what is was, he can deny all he wants, but he had a gambling problem.  One of the greatest honors in sports is visiting the White House after winning a championship.  But, Jordan thought it was more important to go gamble on a golf course and missed the White House visit.  Staying up late the night before a game, yet alone a playoff game, to gamble, that’s a big problem.  Phil Jackson, who once again I think is the greatest coach ever, let maybe too many things slide on his teams as he gave no discipline towards Jordan for gambling the night before a playoff game and later on let Rodman go on a vacation in the middle of the season.

This leads me to my next point.  Jordan’s gambling led to a lot of negative attention from the media and he could not handle it.  He went silent and ignored one of his duties (and it is a duty to speak to the media as a professional athlete) because of all the questions about his actions.  Let’s bring this to present day now.  If he couldn’t handle the media attention in the 90s, what would have happened to him today.  Think about the media attention LeBron attracts on the daily;  all the Instagram posts, thousands of tweets a day, news reports from the thousands of internet sites, and shows like First Take and Undisputed nitpicking every detail of Lebron’s life on and OFF the court.  Jordan would not have been able to handle it and the comparison that comes to mind is, Kyrie Irving.  Irving has had a hard time dealing with the media and has spoke about his feelings towards them.

Imagine if Jordan went 3/18 in the second half of playoff game today.  It would be on every sports new station and all over social media.  His gambling problem would be discussed by sports analysts all throughout the day.  Luckily for Jordan, he did not have today’s social media attention, or else maybe he would have stepped away from the game even earlier than he did.

We’re now in the home stretch of the documentary as it will pickup next Sunday with the Bulls starting the 1998 playoffs and Jordan’s stint in baseball.  Check back next week to see my thoughts and reactions.