Chicago Bulls

Pippen’s role in Bulls glory era getting full credit

The Last Dance has been the most eagerly awaited sports documentary to hit our screens in a long time.

The ten-part EPSN series was much-vaunted and quite rightly was billed as being a couple of things – first, the story of Michael Jordan’s time with the Chicago Bulls and second, as the title suggests, the tale of the final season of the great Bulls dynasty in 1997-98 as they sought a sixth NBA Championship.

Michael Jordan & Scottie Pippen Bulls 8 by ryaycyir48, on Flickr

As half-time approaches in what is already proving a massive hit, one thing is clear, the makers of this excellent documentary haven’t overlooked the roles played by Jordan’s teammates in his success.

There’s no doubting that MJ can be classed as the greatest of all time. There are contenders with him for that crown, but he’s firmly in the argument.

His Chicago Bulls – and make no mistake it was the Jordan era – are one of the strongest teams to have graced the NBA, but Jordan didn’t act alone.

Focusing in on Episode IV of The Last Dance, it’s clear that when Phil Jackson got the job as head coach, he was aware of the need to change their dynamic.

Predecessor Doug Collins was very much focused on utilizing Jordan as the centerpiece in the jigsaw, but Jackson immediately set about convincing one of the most talented players ever to shoot hoops that he needed to rely more on his teammates.

b1f701d1-0a0e-41bd-87d1-9a3b9438b7cc by Show Luo, on Flickr


b1f701d1-0a0e-41bd-87d1-9a3b9438b7cc” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Show Luo

In fact, Jackson set about challenging Jordan to make his teammates better players and then to use his own ability to create the opportunities before trusting those around him in the locker room to execute their parts in the production. The rest is, as they say, history.

If Jordan was the Bulls yin then Scottie Pippen was to become the yang that helped facilitate some of their greatest moments together.

As MJ admits in Episode IV, Pippen needed someone to stand with him and Jordan, too, came to know he could rely on the guy in the No.33 shirt to be there when required.

The furor over Pippen’s pay that was laid bare in Episode II did not bring down the house, and Pippen’s attempted strike relented in early 1998, paving the way for the conclusion of the Bulls fairytale.

The Jordan and Pippen era in Chicago saw the Bulls go from also-rans to become serial winners. A franchise that had never tasted NBA Championship glory went on to dominate the sport. While they’ve struggled in recent years, falling from the top of the leaderboard to be middling entries with oddsmakers, being at long odds with NBA betting on bet365 and other such platforms, there has certainly been a recent effort to reclaim their former glory.

The re-org that general manager Jerry Krause desired came along after 1998 and, to this day, the Chicago Bulls have not managed to win another NBA title.

This documentary series isn’t restricted to fans of basketball, the NBA, or that era-defining Chicago Bulls team. It’s a proper gem for any sports fan and the reviews and recommendations should have any self-respecting fan reaching for the remote to take it all in.

Jordan re-defined his sport, despite some ups and downs along the way. His legacy is strong and unquestionable; his greatness illustrated over and over in this look backwards series. But along with his unquenchable thirst for victory, it was Jordan’s willingness to accept that he would never fulfil his dreams alone or as a maverick that stands out.

He knew that help was his friend and he never had a better friend on court than Scottie Pippen.

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