Column: ‘Last Dance’ brings back fond memories

By JAMES PHILLIPS, Daily Mountain Eagle
Posted 5/19/20

“The Last Dance” is finished. If you haven’t seen the 10-part docuseries on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls dynasty of the 1990s, watch it. Even if you are not a basketball fan or sports fan at all, it is worth a watch.

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Column: ‘Last Dance’ brings back fond memories

NBA Champions, from left: Ron Harper, Dennis Rodman, Scottie Pippen, Michael Jordan and coach Phil Jackson are joined on stage by Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, second from right, during a city-wide rally Tuesday, June 16, 1998, in Chicago, to celebrate the Chicago Bulls 6th NBA championship. (AP Photo/Beth A. Keiser)
NBA Champions, from left: Ron Harper, Dennis Rodman, Scottie Pippen, Michael Jordan and coach Phil Jackson are joined on stage by Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, second from right, during a city-wide rally Tuesday, June 16, 1998, in Chicago, to celebrate the Chicago Bulls 6th NBA championship. (AP Photo/Beth A. Keiser)
AP
Posted

“The Last Dance” is finished. If you haven’t seen the 10-part docuseries on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls dynasty of the 1990s, watch it. Even if you are not a basketball fan or sports fan at all, it is worth a watch.

As a child growing up in Empire, Ala., I had three heroes: Jim O. “Sharky” Phillips (my grandfather), Hulk Hogan and Michael Jordan. It is probably a close race on who I tried to act like the most, but there wasn’t hardly a day that went by from the late 1980s until the late 1990s that I didn’t spend a few hours on a basketball court attempting to “Be Like Mike.”

When I was really young, I’m sure it was the dunks and incredible play on the court of “Air Jordan” that caught my attention. 

The older I got, it was seeing his work ethic. He was the best player on the court, but he worked like he was the last guy on the bench trying to get playing time. He also expected his teammates to work just as hard to improve their games. That is why the Chicago Bulls won six championships in eight years.

“The Last Dance” documented the ups and downs of that Bulls’ run, and gave a very insightful look at the personalities that had to mesh to make the team as good as it was.

Michael Jordan is the greatest player to step on a basketball court in the history of the game. For anyone who thinks LeBron James is in that conversation, I’m sorry, he isn’t. A friend of mine texted me after watching the series and said, “Wow. MJ sure was an arrogant son of a gun.” My response was, “You’ve got to be once you reach that level.”

I was surprised to see how some of Jordan’s teammates felt he was a bully at times, but I could also see that was his way to motivate them to be better. His passion for the game is incredible. I wish we all could approach what we do with that type of zeal.

Scottie Pippen was the perfect No. 2 guy. He was steady and dependable. I could never see him as the top guy in an organization, but he was exactly what Jordan needed to compliment his game. Pippen was unselfish, for the most part, and he was also driven to succeed.

Dennis Rodman is another player that I connected with at that time, and I still connect with “Rodzilla,” because he is such a weirdo. While many people couldn’t have put up with some of his antics off the floor, Coach Phil Jackson and MJ understood to let Dennis be Dennis and he would show up in a big way every night when it was game time. Rodman is the best rebounder ever, and he is probably in the Top 3, if he isn’t the best, defensive player of all time.

Steve Kerr was a role player on the team who is now coach of the Golden State Warriors. Hearing his back story was something I had never heard before this series. His story was quite emotional, and you see why he fit in so well, even with Jordan pushing him all the time.

Phil Jackson also fit the mold as the only coach who could have pulled this group together. While the Bulls had the greatest player ever, they weren’t always the most talented team. Jackson’s attitude and philosophy helped to blend all of them into champions. 

“The Last Dance” was such a nostalgic trip back in time for me. I found myself getting just as emotional now as I did in the ‘90s when the film touched on big plays from big games. I remember running around my living room and screaming when Jordan his that big shot over Craig Ehlo in the 1989 playoffs.

It was difficult for me not to jump up and scream again. While we’ve been living in a difficult time over the last couple of months, it is the little things sometimes that bring us some joy when we need it. I smiled a lot while watching those 10 episodes over the last five weeks.

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James Phillips is editor and publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle. He may be reached at 205-221-2840 or james.phillips@mountaineagle.com.