In episodes 9 and 10 of “The Last Dance,” the Michael Jordan docuseries wraps up in triumphant fashion for the Chicago Bulls.
After five weeks of providing the sports world with appointment viewing on a weekly basis, The Last Dance came to an end Sunday night. Covering Michael Jordan‘s final two seasons with the Chicago Bulls, Episodes 9 and 10 wrapped up the riveting series in triumphant fashion.
From the Flu Game and an epic seven-game series with the Indiana Pacers that pushed the Bulls to their limits in 1998 to The Shot Part 2 and the unraveling of one of the NBA‘s greatest dynasties, this week’s final episodes included some of the hallmark moments of the GOAT’s career.
We’ve already covered the best quotes from this week, as well as five new things we learned, but in case you missed any of this must-see TV event that helped get us through quarantine, or in case you just feel like reliving the finale, here’s the recap and reactions for Episodes 9 and 10 of The Last Dance.
“Most people feared Michael Jordan and rightfully so,” Reggie Miller begins in Episode 9. “But I didn’t fear him like the rest of the league did, and we had to lock horns quite a bit.”
While Miller learned “don’t ever talk trash to Black Jesus” early on in his career, the Pacers under Larry Bird were confident they would dethrone the Bulls in the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals. Even Jordan agreed that outside of the Bad Boys Detroit Pistons, those Pacers were his greatest challenge in the East.
Despite the Bulls going up 2-0 in the series, Miller led the Pacers to a Game 3 win. In a tight Game 4, Scottie Pippen missed two free throws that would’ve extended Chicago’s lead to three. With 2.9 seconds left and the Pacers trailing by one, Bird drew up the play for Miller, who pushed off on Jordan to free himself up for the game-winner that tied up the series.
Flashing back to June 1997, the Bulls were matched up with the Utah Jazz, who were making their first ever Finals appearance behind league MVP Karl Malone. So, of course, MJ had his motivation right in front of him.
In Game 1 of the series, Jordan hit a game-winner over Bryon Russell, who was “on his list” after talking trash to him just before his baseball sabbatical. That moment that would prove to be familiar just a year later, but it’s remarkable Jordan kept him on poor Russell list for three years before being able to exact his revenge.
The Jazz were able to tie the series with wins at home in Games 3 and 4, and heading into a make-or-break Game 5, the Bulls star couldn’t stop throwing up after ordering some bad pizza. Although the “Flu Game” was really more of the “Food Poisoning Game,” Jordan persevered, carrying the Bulls to a win with 38 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three steals, as well as the go-ahead 3.
The documentary then shifts to Steve Kerr‘s importance to the Bulls, how he watched John Paxson‘s role and decided that’s what he needed to be in Chicago, and the tragic death of his father. This provides the segue back to Game 6, when Kerr’s clutch jumper helped the Bulls finish off Utah in the Finals and complete championship No. 5.
Flashing forward to the 1998 conference finals, the Bulls and Pacers are tied at 3-3, forcing a decisive Game 7 — just the second time Chicago faced a Game 7 during its championship runs.
The doc veers off for a bit to highlight Jordan’s relationship with Gus Lett, one of his security guards who became like a second father to MJ and was the man he wanted to win Game 7 for. The Pacers got off to a 12-point lead early, but the Bulls clawed their way back.
It felt like Indiana might be able to pull off the upset, but a jump ball won by the Bulls in the fourth quarter wound up turning into a Steve Kerr 3-pointer to tie it up. From there, the Bulls were able to pull away and advance to the Finals.
After the Jazz took Game 1 in overtime, the Bulls were able to even the series in Game 2 in Salt Lake City. In Game 3 in Chicago, the Bulls absolutely destroyed Utah, holding them to a mere 54 points in a 42-point rout.
In the middle of the series, Dennis Rodman skipped practice and showed up wrestling with Hulk Hogan at WCW. However, “Rodzilla” didn’t let it be a distraction for his team, knocking down two late free throws and providing his usual rebounding and defensive prowess in a Game 4 win to put the Bulls up 3-1 in the series.
Karl Malone and the Jazz narrowly avoided elimination in Game 5 to shift the series back to Utah, surviving after Jordan’s desperation heave at the buzzer fell short. To that point, the Bulls hadn’t won in Utah all season.
On the first play of Game 6, Scottie Pippen tweaked his back on a dunk and left the bench for the locker room not long after that. He returned to the game and fought through the pain, operating as a decoy more than anything else.
With 41 seconds left, the Jazz held a three-point lead. Despite being fatigued, Jordan submitted one of the greatest sequences in NBA history. First, he drove past Bryon Russell for a layup to pull Chicago within one. Then, he came over from the weakside to strip Karl Malone and steal the ball. After that, he crossed Russell for the game-winner, one of the most iconic shots of all time:
And no, Jordan says it wasn’t a pushoff.
It was the perfect way to cap off title No. 6, but the question soon became what was next for the Bulls, especially after general manager Jerry Krause had said it would be Phil Jackson‘s last season, to which Jordan responded he wouldn’t play for any other coach.
Fans turned up to the championship parade with signs telling management to bring the team back, but it wasn’t meant to be. That night, owner Jerry Reinsdorf called Jackson and offered him the opportunity to come back. Reinsdorf said it would’ve been suicidal to bring everyone back at that point in their careers, especially with their increased price tags, but Jackson didn’t want to undergo a rebuild and decided to step away.
Jordan said he would’ve signed another one-year deal if the Bulls had wanted to run it back, and that it was maddening to walk away when they could’ve won another title.
Jordan believes that his return would’ve convinced Pippen and the role players to re-sign, along with Jackson, but instead, one of the greatest NBA dynasties was done.