The Whiteboard is The Step Back’s daily basketball newsletter, covering the NBA, WNBA and more. Subscribe here to get it delivered to you via email each morning.
Last night, the basketball world turned a singular focus to the first two episodes of The Last Dance, ESPN’s 10-part docuseries on Michael Jordan and his Bulls. The series travels backward and forward in time but is primarily built around the arc of Jordan’s final season (and title) with the Chicago Bulls.
However, as a stickler for details, I have to point out that this was not actually Jordan’s last dance. After three years of retirement, he returned to play two seasons and 142 games for the Washington Wizards, of which he was a part-owner. The rest of the basketball world may be focused on the Jordan Bulls this morning but here are a few of my favorite moments from the actual Last Dance.
When Michael Jordan dropped 51 on the Hornets
There are so many things to love about this game. He dropped 51 without making a single 3-pointer. He started next to Hubert Davis, who somehow also dropped 21 points. The other Wizards starters in this game were Popeye Jones, Jahidi White and someone named Chris Whitney. The primary defender Jordan roasted on his way 50 — the legendary Lee Nailon. This was definitely the “Corey Brewer drops 51” of Jordan 50-point games.
When Michael Jordan played point guard
On Feb. 12, 2003, Jordan dropped 12 assists in a four-point win over the Clippers. It was one of the 20 highest assist totals of his career but this one seems a little more special in hindsight because of the players he was assisting — former nemesis Byron Russell (2), Ty Lue (2), Christian Laettner (3), Larry Hughes, Juan Dixon, Brendan Haywood (2) and Charles Oakley (?!?). It’s like a Mad Lib filled in with the random page generator at Basketball-Reference.
When Michael Jordan said goodbye to the Garden
Jordan’s final game at Madison Square Garden was a one-point loss, but he went out with a bang — dropping 39 points and pretty much having his way with Allan Houston and Latrell Sprewell. Like his 50-point game against the Hornets and he did it without a single 3-pointer.
Jordan wasn’t just a subtlely effective veteran at this point in his career, breaking people down with savvy and skill. He was somehow still a one-man highlight reel. Remember when he pinned Ron Mercer’s layup to the backboard … with two hands? Or the game-winners he hit against the Suns? Cavs? Knicks? The man still had it.
If you missed the first two episodes of The Last Dance, don’t worry, it’s all anyone’s going to be talking about. Here’s a summary of what you missed, along with the biggest revelations and a list of the best quotes.
Watching Michael Jordan play basketball was always a transformational experience. We could all use some of that transformation, now more than ever.
Even if after a surprisingly effective rookie season I have no idea what Kevin Porter Jr. is going to be. He could be a dynamic three-level scorer. Or he could be Jordan Clarkson. (Or…gulp…Jordan Crawford).
Friday morning, Cuban appeared on FanSided’s Da Windy City Podcast with Mark Carman. Cuban touched on a number of subjects including his role on Trump’s advisory council, his prediction for when the NBA will return to action and even his new favorite social media platform. Catch the full episode here.