16 Jun 1997: Guard Michael Jordan, forward Scottie Pippen and forward Dennis Rodman of the Chicago Bulls look at their trophies during the Chicago Bulls Victory Parade in Chicago, Illinois. The BUlls defeated the Utah Jazz in 6 games to win the 1998 NBA Championship Finals.
Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Marcus Musings: Getting psyched for ‘The Last Dance’

I realize some of you will probably have already watched the first episode of the new documentary about the Michael Jordan Bulls, but I still needed to get these thoughts out before starting it myself. Plus after doing pretty much all news for the last month, I needed to stretch my sportswriter muscles a little bit… 

  • Before watching “The Last Dance” documentary on the end of the 1990s Chicago Bulls dynasty, I am trying to put together what I think my thoughts are on those Bulls. 
  • Yes, I was a Michael Jordan/bandwagon Bulls fan. As someone who grew up on the Reds, Bengals and Buckeyes because they were my local teams, it goes against my nature otherwise to be such a thing, but hey, the 90s were wild. Maybe you had to be there. 
  • (For what it’s worth, I tried to adopt the Cavaliers when they drafted LeBron, but it just didn’t feel right. It wasn’t them, it was me. I just felt like I hadn’t suffered through the lean years, so I didn’t think I deserved the good years. Fortunately I wasn’t this practical when I was 11 of 12 and decided to tag along with MJ and his boys for that ride. RELATED: I also adopted the Blackhawks when I first got into hockey around 1993 — just in time to see their rival become the best team in the league — but that paid off later.) 
  • I only half paid attention to the first Bulls three-peat. I pretty much got really into it just in time for Jordan to step away, so that was a bummer, but I was all-in when he returned. I vividly remember the excitement when he came back, and I won’t forget watching his return game against the Pacers on a Sunday afternoon in 1995. 
  • Those Bulls were just such a force of nature beginning the next season. If there was anything close to them as a phenomenon since, it would probably be the original iteration of the Steph-Klay-Draymond Warriors before LeBron pierced their aura of invincibility and then Kevin Durant hijacked their ride to immortality. The Warriors transcended the league with a new brand of basketball that was not only breathtaking but fun. Jordan did this as well, but his brand was worldwide — and since he was the first person to have a worldwide brand, he basically staked out territory no one else can ever quite conquer. Everyone else is coming after him. Even if they were to get to his level, it wouldn’t feel the same because they weren’t first. 
  • Even just in a basketball sense, Jordan felt like a culmination of the first 50 years of the NBA if not the first 100 years of the game itself. There were great players before him. Great defenders. Great scorers. Great winners. Great showmen. He borrowed from all of them, took his lumps then emerged as the ultimate winner. 
  • I mean this is a guy who not only went 6-for-6 in the NBA Finals but also was the dominant force in all those series. He won both as the guy who made the final shot and the one who set it up. In his last act, he made a shot to bring the Bulls within a point of the Jazz, stole the ball from their best player then went back to the other end and made the game-winner. How is that for a final act? 
  • I’m excited to relive those days with the added perspective of more than a decade as sportswriter, and I’m interested to see how others react who did not live through it. 
  • I don’t know what everyone else’s expectations are, but I am guessing we see the glory of Jordan and those Bulls — warts and all. I think that will overall be a good thing, but there is a possibility it is not. It was known then he was a gruff competitor who would do anything to win, including trying to destroy his teammates in order to get the best of them. He’s gone on to be a somewhat enigmatic figure since, still a very successful businessman but not able to build a basketball winner. He also seems to maintain a more old-school outlook on the world, and that is not always welcome in today’s media climate. 
  • Obviously, my experience following those Bulls was shaped by my lack of perspective then. I loved it more because I didn’t have to overthink it by comparing it to anything else. I get frustrated with a lot of sports talk these days (and probably even more so news) because of a lack of perspective (too many people seem unable to take into consideration anything that happened more than five minutes ago), so I’m curious to see if this fills in some gaps for some of the younger crowd and creates more appreciation for Jordan. But it might provide ammunition for his detractors, too. 
  • Here’s the bottom line: Myth-making has always been a major part of sports. Watching people compete is cool, but pretending they are practically gods makes it even better. It also attracts more attention, and that enhances the collective experience. You can’t have one without the other. Nowadays we know more about our athletes than ever, and that is both a good thing and a bad thing. Sometimes we know too much, and sometimes all those personalities blend together whereas we used to get to know just so many players, and only so well. 
  • Jordan was different, and so was his era. Now how will they look? 

“Marcus Musings” is a semi-regular feature here at the blog. While most of our other coverage is concentrated on news and analysis, this is a place to share opinions on various stories permeating the sports world and (hopefully) have some fun. Have your own thoughts? Send them along to marcus.hartman@coxin.com or find us on Twitter or Facebook.  

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About the Author

Marcus Hartman
Marcus Hartman
Marcus Hartman has been a digital sports columnist and reporter at Cox Media Group Ohio since 2016. 
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