Credit Craig Larson
Sunday night the world will receive their first glimpse into "The Last Dance" and the behind the scenes footage of the Chicago Bulls sixth and final NBA Championship, chronicling the 9 season. Born and raised on the southside of Chicago, it was hard to even conceive of anything trumping the Chicago Bears in the Chicagoland public consciousness and popularity. Even now, the 85' Bears, hold a special place in Chicago's heart and NFL lore. Michael Jordan is Chicago's adopted son, someone who was relatable with a strong work ethic, competitive drive, who evolved his game and learned how to trust his teammates along the way in crucial moments.
In 1990, I was in the locker room of The Palace of Auburn Hills after the Bulls lost to the Pistons (yet again) in a playoff series, scoring a meager 74 points in a 19 point loss to Detroit. Michael commented that he was going to come back "even stronger" the following year as he fought back tears. I remember driving back home thinking, "Jordan will never get over the hump, the Pistons are just too deep" The following Summer, Jordan would claim the first of his six NBA Titles and he never looked back.
In 1993, I can recall Phil Jackson blowing off practice, us in the media getting word, for favor of taking a ferry ride to see the Statue of Liberty prior to Game 5 of a playoff series against the Knicks. On that ferry ride, Bulls power forward Horace Grant asked aloud "is that a man or a woman" as he traveled past Lady Liberty. MJ just shook his head in the distance.
September 1994, I covered Michael returning to the Old Chicago Stadium in Scottie Pippen's charity game. At conclusion, in front of 18,676 he knelt center court, kissing the center Bulls logo. Many of us felt that would be the last time we'd see Michael in a live basketball setting.
Several years later, we met up again in Lake Tahoe for a celeb golf tournament. At 6am the entire week, Michael was the first on the tee box hitting drives with his signature Nike attire. Three hours earlier, he was seen at the craps table, yet never missed a beat. I think the most remarkable trait of what I witnessed was his non-stop energy, he would pack an entire week into 1 day.
My hope is that everyone will get to see in this upcoming documentary the humbling moments, the challenges, the humility along the way, and how Michael evolved as a basketball player, but more importantly, evolved into a leader who was accepting of his coaches and teammates.