All good things must come to an end, but that doesn't mean the nostalgia goes away instantly. The Last Dance documentary came to an end the only way Michael Jordan was accustomed to: in championship fashion. The 10 part documentary brought us through the 1997 - 1998 season for the Chicago Bulls, but the franchise's road to getting to ring number six is what made the last five Sunday nights unforgettable.
The shot over Byron Russell we knew was a guaranteed bucket in game six against the Utah Jazz. The documentary made everyone a Jordan fan for those five weeks, so the suspense to see him complete his last dance didn't feel promised until the clock hit triple zeros.
Growing up, whether it be with a trash can as your hoop or a sock as your ball, we all prepared for the dream-like moment of hitting the game-winning shot with the clock ticking down in the finals. While Jordan's famous game-winner capped off the episode/series, these two episodes brought us through the grueling matchup the Bulls had with the Indiana Pacers and the first battle between the Bulls and the Jazz in 1997 before reaching Jordan's last shot as a Bull.
The Pacers were knocking on the door to take over the Eastern Conference from the six-time champion Bulls. However, Jordan and crew were reluctant to give up their reign during their last dance. Reggie Miller, the Pacers' go-to player, understood Jordan's greatness, but as he said in his sit-down interview in the documentary, he "didn't fear him like the rest of the league." Despite the valiant effort and taking the Bulls to a game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals, Jordan sat atop of the throne as they beat the Pacers and went onto their sixth finals appearance in just eight years.
Miller did all he could in that series and even talked some trash to whom he then called Michael Jordan. However, as Quentin Richardson reminded us, Jordan told Miller who he was dealing with.
That was the last time Miller called number 23 Michael Jordan. Jordan and the Bulls moved on to the finals in 1998 for a rematch with the Jazz. Perfect timing since they had beaten them the year before in the finals. This series was different due to bad pizza and game-winning shots, but it ended in the same result the league had grown accustomed to in the 1990s: a championship for Jordan and the Bulls.
Before game five of the finals, Jordan had ordered a pizza to his hotel in Utah, and yes, he ate it all by himself. Hours later, the then five-time champion was sick with what appeared to be food poisoning or famously called "the flu." With his ability to play in game 5 with the series tied, the Bulls were showing their first real sign of potential defeat in the finals: but this is Michael Jordan we're talking about - he wasn't going to sit out.
Jordan played that game five through flu-like symptoms, and rather than being a decoy which he could've easily done, he dropped 38 points to help carry the Bulls to a 3-2 series lead. Jordan's ability to play when faced with unprecedented challenges is what made him so fearful to his opponent, and on that night in Utah, he proved that even bad pizza couldn't deny him a chance at ring number six.
However, Trae Young used that game five as a lesson for his career off the court.
While Jordan finished his career playing for the Washington Wizards, his last shot as a Bull was a Hollywood finish. He won his sixth and final ring with a game-winning shot in game six. Jordan had even more responsibility to carry the Bulls across the finish line with Scottie Pippen suffering from back pain in what ended up being the last game of the finals.
Down one, Jordan went to his patented mid-range jump shot and buried the jumper over Bryon Russell. Now, while the game was physical and different in the 1990s, there is talk about whether Jordan illegally pushed off Russell before hitting the game-winner. While nothing can change the outcome today, Kevin Love had his own thought on what Jordan did to create enough separation to finish off his legendary Bulls career.
Whether he was serving food to a table or hitting clutch shots in the finals, Jordan found a way to do everything to his full potential, as he never wanted someone or something to prevent him from completing a challenge he had in his way.
The Last Dance gave us a chance to see how hard it is to come out on top in the league. However, despite untimely trips to Vegas, endless media attention, broken bones, and food poisoning, Jordan and the Bulls found a way to do it six times in eight years: now that is something worth dancing about.