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The Last Dance: Three thoughts on the first night + handing out some awards

ESPN's much-anticipated Michael Jordan documentary delivered during its debut

Kevin Kaduk
Kevin Kaduk

Good morning, frents!

So … anyone watch anything good on TV last night?

Let the games begin

(Andy Hayt/NBA Photos)

Barack Obama went viral for being described as a "former Chicago resident.” Scottie Pippen dropped the doc’s first f-bomb. We got even more young Michael Jordan dunks than our locked-down, no-sports-watching selves were asking for, plus a few cringeworthy insults of Jerry Krause that maybe we didn’t request.

Yes, “The Last Dance” got off to a great start on Sunday night with the first two episodes being aired. If my social feeds were any indication, it’s going to be a ratings hit and people can’t wait for next week. (We haven’t even met Dennis Rodman yet!)

The best part: For two hours, I didn’t think about the worldwide pandemic, the economy being in shambles or the Bears going on 35 years without a Super Bowl title. It was exactly what we wanted when we started pestering ESPN to release the documentary a couple of months early.

A few more thoughts about The Last Dance, followed by some awards …

1. Fair or not, Jerry Krause is the villain

The Tiger King had Carole Baskin. The Last Dance has the former Bulls GM. A few people decried the fact that Krause isn’t around to defend himself (he died in 2017), but I didn’t see anything untoward done by the producers. In my mind, Krause wasn’t as bad as Jordan and Pippen made him out to be, nor was he anywhere near close to the legend in his own mind. I saw both sides represented, though the doc certainly took a lot of time presenting the players’ side before getting to Krause’s draft-day trade for Pippen or the Charles Oakley-Bill Cartwright swap.

As Steve Kerr wisely said near the end of the night, Krause was a guy who could “never get out of his own way” and that was evident any time Krause appeared on camera in an old clip. Hopefully the rest of The Last Dance seeks the balance he deserves.

2. Scottie Pippen’s origin story > MJ’s origin story

Maybe it’s because most members of my generation can recite Jordan’s upbringing by heart, but I was much more compelled by hearing Pippen tell his story at the start of Episode 2. I don’t think I’d ever seen any of his college highlights and hearing him tell the story of growing up poor in a family of 12 brothers and sisters should give basketball fans a newfound sense of appreciation for his story. It was a reminder that The Last Dance is bigger than just Jordan and I hope they dive deeper into other players and coaches in the episodes ahead.

3. There’s definitely room for some criticism

I’ll say it. The two hours were a little disjointed and I think a narrator may have helped navigate between the final season and all the backstory we’ll be visiting. Also, the never-before-seen footage from NBA Entertainment seems like it’s more window dressing that narrative engine. Sometimes it’s entertaining (think Jordan yelling at Toni Kukoc and Ron Harper in practice, Jordan needling Krause), other times it’s just a lot of shots of Jordan walking through crowded corridors and lobbies on his way to the bus. I’m hopeful they might still be holding some things back, but my expectations for the footage are definitely tempered a bit more after the first night.

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Star of the night (non-MJ division)

Give me all of the young Scottie Pippen content.


Top quote

“Michael Jordan is the only player that could ever turn it on and off … and he never frickin’ turned it off.”

— UNC assistant coach Roy Williams


Best clip


Super screencap

And Michael Jordan is a former White Sox outfielder …


Most random old NBA player sighting (non-Joe Kleine division)

Way to make @FreezingColdTakes, Mark Eaton!


Three other things to read about The Last Dance

Dan Wetzel on the plan to convince MJ to participate in the film.

Kelly Dwyer with all of the back stories of the 1997-98 season that the doc might not hit, but will help your understanding of the year immensely.

An old Woj column on the other side of Jerry Krause.


What did you think of the first night of The Last Dance?  Tell me your favorite moment and what you hope to see in the weeks ahead.

View comments


Star of the night (non-MJ division)

The Bears signed another offensive lineman project over the weekend, inking OT Jason Spriggs to a one-year deal. The Packers selected Spriggs 48th overall in the 2016 draft, but he’s been on the IR for two entire seasons including 2019. Like the previous signing of Germain Ifedi from Seattle, it’s a buy-low scenario the team is hoping can fix its offensive line problems.

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Is it fate if Jalen Hurts is around for the Bears in Round Two? (Bear Goggles On)

Can I interest you in 36 uninterrupted minutes of glorious Walter Payton highlights? Of course I can. (YouTube)

I regret to inform you that Brian Dennehy knew about Dennehy and that he didn’t think much of it. (Watch Jake Johnson and Hannibal Burress hilariously talk about bringing it up to the late, great actor starting at the 2:15 mark. Thanks to #frentofthenewsletter Darrell for sending this in!) (YouTube)

• Not sure I knew this.

That’s it for today. As always, thank you for being a #frentofthenewsletter.

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