The best night of Last Dance (so far)

We're deep into the title run and things are getting good

Good morning, frents!

Do I imagine that Bobby Hansen sat down in front of the television with his family last night, all excited for them to see his big moment in Game 6 of the 1992 NBA Finals?

Do I also imagine he switched off the TV in disgust while simultaneously trying to convince everyone he played the first five minutes of the fourth quarter while the star of The Last Dance sat on the bench?


Yes, I do.

Let’s have ourselves a week, shall we?

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The Last Dance is heating up

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBA Photos

Your Last Dance: Night 3 recap to read while you’re stuck on the Edens in the rain …

Three thoughts

1. The show is hitting its stride

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed the first two nights of documentary very much. But I will admit to thinking there were some tedious moments as director Jason Hehir recounted MJ’s well-trod origin story with what were some clumsy transitions between the final season and Jordan’s early career and introducing Scottie Pippen Dennis Rodman and Phil Jackson.

I didn’t feel that way at all last night as I think “The Last Dance” truly took off. The “lost footage” from 1998 delivered, the flashbacks made sense and there was plenty of narrative tension built as the taxing 1993 championship perfectly mirrored the mood around the 1998 team. With all of the introductions out of the way, the entirety of the ingredients worked together in a way on Night 3 that I don’t think was totally there the first two Sundays.

2. Episode 5 was the best edition so far.

Within the span of an hour, we got:

  • “Can’t believe I’m a fly on this wall” footage of Michael, Larry and Magic at the ‘98 All-Star Game combined with old Michael talking about young Kobe.
  • James and Deloris Jordan pushing their Adidas-obsessed son to just listen to Nike’s pitch. (A story I either didn’t know or had forgotten.)
  • An honest examination of Jordan’s infamous “Republicans buy sneakers too” line.
  • MJ rolling out some more Isiah hate (yes, he actually used that word) in discussing Isiah being left off the Dream Team.
  • A Dream Team segment centered around Michael and Scottie gunning against a poor sap from Croatia (future Bulls teammate Toni Kukoc) just because Jerry Krause had been so effusive in his praise of Kukoc after drafting him.
  • Seinfeld telling a joke to Bill Wennington!

Episode 6 delivered as well. (An expanded two-hour 30-for-30 on the Bulls-Knicks rivalry is the spinoff we deserve after all is said and done.)

3. Take that, Ken Burns!

The famed documentarian was correct when contending you can’t make a true documentary when your subject is so heavily involved with the production. Any criticism of “The Last Dance” should start and end with the point that this project is as slickly packaged as all the shoes and sports drinks that Jordan hawked during his career. We’re only going to see the warts he wants us to see.

That said, “The Last Dance” won’t end without Jordan getting dragged at least once. His refusal to endorse Harvey Gantt over Jesse Helms in the 1990 North Carolina Senate race drew on-camera criticism from a trio of interviewees including one President Barack Obama (billed as such last night instead of ‘former Chicago resident’).

I was surprised to see the criticism included. I also appreciated Jordan’s response and thought it was one of the more illuminating quotes he’s given so far in this documentary.

“The way I go about my life is that I set examples and if it inspires you, I will continue to do that,” Jordan said. “And if it doesn’t? Then maybe I’m not the person you should be following.”

Star of the night (non-MJ division)

Dealing with the global pandemic the last two months has been so all consuming that the Kobe Bryant tragedy has faded into the background of 2020. But seeing Episode 5 dedicated to Kobe and his subsequent interview — shot shortly before his death — really reopened the freshness of that wound. The retelling of Kobe’s first All-Star Game in 1998 was top-notch as were Kobe’s reflections on MJ’s influence. (“I wouldn’t have won five championships if it weren’t for him.”) The only complaint was that we didn’t hear from him the rest of the night past those first few minutes. Here’s hoping there’s more Kobe in the last four episodes.

Top quote

Whenever the Criterion Collection DVDs come out for this, I’m going straight for the unedited footage from the 1998 All-Star locker room.

Best clip

Just two ‘90s legends talking without any idea that one day an entire generation will only know them as the crying guy from Twitter and the coffee guy from Netflix.

Best old NBA player sighting (non-Toni Kukoc division)

Let’s just go with both teams from the 1998 All-Star Game.

This week’s bullying of Scott Burrell

Good news for Scott and his family. He was spared this week.

Three other things to read

Inside MJ’s sunglasses interview with Ahmad Rashad. (LA Times)

A collection of Michael Jordan gambling stories. (Action Network)

Jack Silverstein spent 14 months convincing Richard Esquinas to talk with him about the book he wrote on MJ. He finally agreed. (A Shot On Ehlo)($)

The Last Dance playlist on Spotify

Share this post with someone who’s watching The Last Dance!

BUY: “The Shrug” from Midway Minute partner BreakingT

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As you might have heard,  the Bears are declining Mitch Trubisky’s fifth-year option for 2021. The teams has yet to officially announce the move, but ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted it into existence on Saturday afternoon. The Tribune’s Dan Wiederer has a great explainer piece on exactly what the decision means while The Athletic’s Kevin Fishbain goes through six scenarios on what could happen from here.

• Sad Bears news: Former TE Ryan Wetnight died Friday of cancer. He was only 49. Wetnight played for the Bears from 1993 to 1999, catching 172 passes for nine touchdowns and 1,522 yards.

Have a link to share on Midway Minute? Email me!

Why the 49ers might also end up regretting the draft-day trade with the Bears in 2017. (NBC Sports Bay Area)

When Michael Jordan met Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull. (NBC Sports Chicago)

Ricky O’Donnell’s quest to pilot Western Illinois to a title in NCAA 2K8 might be the  most entertaining fake sports thing going right now. He’s transferred his journey to a Substack newsletter while on furlough from SB Nation; now’s a good time to join the fun if you haven’t already. (Tremendous Upside Potential)

• I think WGN’s Sarah Jindra is one of the most entertaining people on Chicago television. She told her origin story on becoming a traffic reporter to Laurence Holmes and the resulting podcast was pretty good. (House of L)

• Thank you to everyone who tweeted and emailed me pictures of their favorite Jordan ticket stubs after Friday’s piece on Andrew Goldberg’s quest for all 1,264 Jordan stubs.

I think this one was my favorite submission. Four dollars!

That’s it for today. Have a great Monday and, as always, thank you for being a #frentofthenewsletter.

Midway Minute grows through good word of mouth! Share this issue with someone you know has been digging “The Last Dance.”