Being Michael Jordan's teammate meant there was a good chance that his season would end with a championship parade. It also meant that you could become the man's personal punching bag without warning.
Sunday's episodes of "The Last Dance" investigated Jordan's leading brand, which was put in simple terms by former Bulls teammate Will Perdue.
"Let's not get it wrong. He was an idiot. He was an idiot," said Perdue. "He crossed the line several times. But as time goes on, and you think about what he was trying to accomplish, yes, he was a teammate."
Jordan scolded Scott Burrell. He punched Steve Kerr in the eye. He felt fear in the hearts of his teammates when he entered the gym like a great white shark that smelled of blood in the water.
The footage from the training session in episode 7 showed Jordan firing the following phrases:
- "Rubbish. Don't bring these bulls …"
- "Shoot a tray, you idiot!"
- "Go sit down! Gametime!"
- "There are nine, b-!"
- "Make that free throw, ho."
More than 20 years away from his last season at the Bulls, Jordan was asked about his leadership style and how he can never be seen as a "nice guy". His response gave the ESPN documentary series, without a doubt, its most powerful moment in eight episodes.
"Winning comes at a price. And leadership comes at a price. So, I attract people when they don't want to be attracted. I challenge people when they don't want to be challenged. And I won it because my teammates came after them. They couldn't stand it. all the things that I suffered. After you join the team, you live in a certain pattern that I play in, and I wouldn't accept anything less. Now, if that means I have to go there and get in your ass one little bit, so I did that. You ask all my teammates, the only thing about Michael Jordan was that he never asked me to do something he didn't do. look at this, they'll say, "Well, he wasn't really a nice guy. He may have been a tyrant. "Well, it's you, because you never won anything. I wanted to win, but I wanted them to win and be part of it too. I don't have to do that. I just do it because that's who I am. That's how I was. I played the game. That was my mindset. If you don't want to play, don't play that way.
After showing episodes 7 and 8, ESPN's Scott Van Pelt asked ex-guard Bulls B.J. Armstrong about that particular moment. Armstrong had a unique perspective on Jordan after playing with and against him, providing extra motivation for Jordan as a Hornets member during the 1998 NBA playoffs semifinal.
"I was always a little nervous about it, because for those who knew him – and we can all say that he is competitive, and he was tough and all that stuff – the truth is, the core of if we really step back, you saw a You saw a person who really loved the game, "said Armstrong. "It wasn't about fame. It wasn't about all the little things that came with him. Yes, he was that Air Jordan character and figure, but honestly, he loved it.
"I can see how you could say: 'Yes, maybe he was tough to play with.' When you peek inside and see that someone cares so much about the basketball game, he always stayed first. place in your life. And that's what I knew about him, that's what I know about him now. "
"The Last Dance" showed us sides of Jordan that we've never seen before, but it also leaves some questions on the table.
Jordan "pulled people when they didn't want to be pulled", but how many times was it really necessary? Could he have learned anything from Scottie Pippen, who was there to look for teammates much more often than Jordan? Do the ends always justify the means? In the final sequence, was Jordan trying to convince viewers, his teammates or himself that his mindset was the only way to achieve his goals?
The call for a break left that topic behind, but it was a fascinating look at the mind of the final competitor. For better or for worse, that's how Jordan played the game.