The first two episodes of "The Last Dance," the 10-part documentary chronicling Michael Jordan's sixth and final championship run with the Chicago Bulls, premiered Sunday on ESPN, leaving much of the sports world buzzing over the NBA icon's ride to the apex of basketball. Despite being the most famous basketball player of all-time, viewers learned a lot about Jordan and the people around him in the highly-anticipated series amid the coronavirus pandemic that forced people indoors and without sports.
The first episode focused on the summer heading into the Bulls' 1997-1998 season after winning their fifth ring. A fissure between then Bulls general manager Jerry Krause and coach Phil Jackson practically assured the team as assembled would sing its swan song. This episode also features Jordan's journey from college to the pros, taking over a Bulls team that didn't have much respect around the NBA.
The second episode centered around Jordan's most talented and underpaid Bulls teammate, Scottie Pippen, and his humble origins. The documentary advances to the start of the 1997-1998 season, which began without Pippen, who was rehabbing an injured foot and later demanded a trade.
Here are four notable takeaways from the first two episodes.
1. Jordan refused to party with "traveling cocaine circus" as a rookie
The interviewer brings up an article that referred to the team as the "Bulls traveling cocaine circus." When asked if it was accurate, Jordan recalled a 1984 preseason trip as a rookie and found his teammates partying with drugs and women in a hotel room.
"I walk in and practically the whole team was in there. And it was like, things I've never seen in my life, you know, as a young kid... So the first thing I said, 'look man, I'm out.' Because all I can think about is if they come and raid this place, right about now, I am just as guilty as everyone else that's in this room. And from that point on, I was more or less on my own."
2. Jordan's mother read a letter from him asking for money during freshman year of college
Jordan is now an owner of an NBA franchise, a successful businessman and reportedly worth over $2 billion. However, during his freshman year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he needed some financial help and turned to his mother Deloris Jordan. After being down to his last $20, he wrote a letter to his mother, which she read for viewers in the docuseries.
"I am sending you my account number so that you can deposit some money in my account, I have only $20 left," Deloris Jordan said. "Tell everyone I said hello and smiled. God and I love you, Love Michael. P.S. Sorry about the phone bill. Please also send me some stamps"
Jordan was shown the touching clip of his mother and laughed at himself.
3. Jordan's motivation behind legendary 63-point game against the Celtics
Current Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge told the story about beating Jordan in golf a day before Game 2 of the Bulls' 1986 first-round playoff series against the Celtics.
"I took a few bucks off of Michael that day, and we're talking trash to each other," Ainge said. "That might have been a mistake."
Jordan vowed for revenge and took it out on the Celtics. He scored a still-standing playoff-record 63 points in an overtime loss. Celtics legend Larry Bird described his performance as "God disguised as Michael Jordan."
4. Scottie Pippen's contract
The Hall of Fame forward is considered to be one of the best players in NBA history, yet his contract during his prime years during the Bulls did not necessarily reflect that. Pippen, who had 11 siblings, sought out financial security after growing up poor in a small Arkansas town. He signed a 7-year, $18-million contract in 1991 and in Chicago's final championship season, Pippen was the sixth-highest paid Bull and the 122nd highest-paid NBA player.
CBS Sports basketball writer Sam Quinn examined why Pippen's contract was more of the norm during the 90s.
"The cap was more than 10 times smaller than it is today, and the rules governing it were virtually nonexistent. It was the Wild West in terms of salaries, and while a number of players benefitted, Pippen famously did not," Quinn writes.