On Sunday, April 19th, in the midst of the COVID-19 quarantine, ESPN premiered the first two episodes of its highly anticipated docuseries The Last Dance. The series follows the 1997-1998 Chicago Bulls and their journey to complete their second three-peat and win their sixth NBA Finals. The much looked forward to docuseries was advertised by the premise of showing Michael Jordan in a way we had never seen him before. In addition to using footage from the season that has been stored in a vault since the recordings wrapped. With no new sporting events on for the foreseeable future, sports fans nationwide were itching to get at this new show, and it definitely delivered.
It opened with a montage of Jordan clips, news headlines, talk show appearances, and Finals victories. An easy way to introduce the viewer to who MJ is, if you weren’t yet familiar. Following this introduction and the opening titles, Jerry Krause comes into the picture. Krause, the former GM of the Bulls, is quickly made out to be the villain and it’s not hard to see why. After winning back to back titles, and five championships in total, Krause wanted to blow up the star-studded Bulls team and rebuild.
Everyone watching the show was astonished. The object as a GM is to make a team that can win championships. But Krause’s plan seemed like he wanted to do the opposite. Krause was apparently unhappy that Jordan, the best player in the league, was receiving all of the credit for the Finals they won. He decided he wanted to prove to everyone that he, in fact, could do it on his own by building another Finals team, and planned on starting off by firing head coach Phil Jackson.
Jackson’s contract ended after their 1997 finals win, so it was assumed that he would renegotiate and continue to stick with this extremely successful team. Krause had other plans. He decided he wanted a new coach, going as far as to start going on fishing trips with him and grooming him to be the new coach of the Bulls. Luckily, Jackson was able to sign on for one more year. But Krause said PUBLICLY after 97-98 Jackson was done. The Bulls dynasty had an expiration date.
The show flashes back to Jordan’s UNC days, contrasting where he was in 1997. Back at UNC, Jordan was just a college kid playing basketball and writing home to his mom for some spending money. Flashing forward to 1997 in Paris, he was mobbed in a way reminiscent of The Beatles. He was maybe the most famous person on the planet, you didn’t have to know basketball to know Michael Jordan. Coming off of a back to back finals win, playing basketball in Paris, and making TV appearances; 1997 should’ve been a great year for MJ. But there was a problem lurking behind those front office windows, a problem named Jerry Krause.