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‘The Last Dance’ Episodes 5 and 6: NBA players share their reactions

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ESPN’s “The Last Dance” documentary series on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls’ final championship run during the 1997-98 season continued Sunday with Episodes 5 and 6.

The 10-part series, which features never-before-seen video footage of Jordan’s tenure with the Bulls amid one of the greatest dynasties in sports history, continues the next two Sundays.

Episode 5 starts with Michael Jordan walking past Kobe Bryant in Madison Square Garden ahead of the 1998 NBA All-Star game. Talking with players on the Eastern Conference squad, Jordan referred to Bryant as “that little Laker boy.” He went on to poke fun of Bryant’s habit of taking a lot of shots.

The documentary then went into how Jordan’s relationship with Nike developed. Jordan initially wanted to sign an endorsement deal with Adidas, but after some prodding from his parents and his agent, Jordan signed with Nike, in part, because Adidas could not give him a signature shoe. From there, the commercial and cultural icon that was “Air Jordan” was born.

“My game did all my talking,” Jordan said about how “Air Jordan” became synonymous with greatness.

Speaking about the selection of the “Dream Team” for the 1992 Olympics, Jordan said he didn’t block Isiah Thomas from making the squad.

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“I respect Isiah Thomas’ talent,” Jordan said. “To me, the best point guard of all-time is Magic Johnson and right behind him is Isiah Thomas. No matter how much I hate him, I respect his game.”

Jordan said he loved the camaraderie of the “Dream Team” practices. He also established himself as a star among stars.

Bulls general manager Jerry Krause’s belief Toni Kukoc was the future of the organization made him a target for Jordan and Scottie Pippen when Team USA played Croatia in the Olympics.

“It wasn’t anything personally with Toni, but we were going to do everything we could to make Jerry look bad,” Pippen said.

In the second meeting between the two teams, Kukoc had a much better game and showed he was no pushover.

Episode 6 begins with the hardships Jordan faced in being hounded by the media and fans everywhere he went.

“This is not one of those lifestyles you envy,” Jordan said. “I’m ready for getting out of this life. You know when you get to that point. I’m there. No reservations at all. I’m there.”

Jordan’s affinity for gambling — and competitiveness — was on display when cameras captured him playing a game of quarters with United Center security personnel. Jordan ended up losing.

The documentary went into more aspects of Jordan’s gambling habits. While Jordan admitted he did gamble, he didn’t see an issue with it. At the time, Jordan said he thought he had a “competition problem,” not a gambling problem.

After the Bulls’ loss to the Suns in Game 5 of the 1993 NBA Finals, Jordan made it clear to his teammates he only wanted to fly to Phoenix to clinch the title in Game 6. “I don’t know about you guys, I’m only packing one suit,” he said. “We’re going back there to win one game, I’m not going there to play two games.”

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The Bulls defeated the Suns in Game 6 following John Paxson’s title-clinching three-pointer. Upon winning his third consecutive title, Jordan said he felt exhausted physically and mentally.


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