Michael Jordan docuseries ‘The Last Dance’ premiere paints Bulls GM Jerry Krause as villain

Michael Jordan docuseries ‘The Last Dance’ premiere paints Bulls GM Jerry Krause as villain

Amid the biggest dearth of sports in a century, ESPN has swooped in to rescue us with “The Last Dance,” a docuseries about Michael Jordan’s final year with the Chicago Bulls. While the highly anticipated show’s first installment doesn’t offer too much that wasn’t already public knowledge, it’s still a fascinating look into perhaps the greatest sports dynasty in American history.

The hype for this show was enormous. Not just because COVID-19 has knocked us into an athletic purgatory with no end in sight, but also because the documentary itself is 22 years in the making. In 1997, Jordan, Bulls coach Phil Jackson and owner Jerry Reinsdorf agreed to let a film crew follow them during what would be their final season together, but with one exception — Jordan would have full control of the footage, according to ESPN.

The footage then sat untouched in Secaucus, N.J. for more than two decades before ESPN Films finally put it together. The show will consist of 10 episodes, released two at a time for five weeks, chronicling the tense final year of the Bulls’ dynasty as egos and feuds threatened to tear the team apart.

Through the first two episodes, it lives up to the hype. The first hour’s main function is to frame Bulls GM Jerry Krause as the show’s de facto villain. The former baseball scout was a shrewd GM, notably bringing in Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman to surround Jordan with the talent he needed to win six championships. But he also “had a way of alienating people,” owner Jerry Reinsdorf says, which was part of the reason the Bulls’ future was in doubt in 1997.

Krause, who as Mark Vancil (author of “Rare Air: Michael on Michael“) says “grew up as a little fat kid” and “had the little man problem,” wanted more credit than he was getting for the Bulls’ success. As Jordan, Pippen and Jackson were getting all of the praise, he grew resentful.

Jerry Krause
Jerry KrauseGetty Images

“[Krause] was good,” Vancil says. “But he wasn’t good enough to do it without Michael Jordan.”

(Not to mention the fact that Jordan and Pippen often openly mocked him to the rest of the team. Multiple instances show them towering over Krause, ripping on his physical appearance.)

His relationship with Jackson deteriorated when the coach didn’t get the compensation he wanted. To Krause, everyone other than Jordan was replaceable. Krause was grooming Iowa State coach Tim Floyd to be the next head coach, and invited him to his stepdaughter’s wedding. Everyone else on the team was invited, too – except Jackson.

Jordan was adamant that he wouldn’t play for another coach, and Jackson signed a one-year deal to coach for the ’97-’98 season. Krause famously called Jackson into his office and told him, “I don’t care if you go 82 and 0, you’re f–king done.” (Floyd replaced Jackson the next year, and lost almost 80 percent of his games in three-plus seasons before getting fired.)

Which is how Jackson concocted his theme for the season: “The Last Dance.” Everyone knew this would be their final chance to win a sixth championship.

The first hour concludes with the camera following Jordan onto a dark United Center court, fans erupting as the Bulls’ famous intro, “Sirius” by The Alan Parsons Project, plays in the background. Goosebumps.

The second episode focuses on Scottie Pippen, well-known as Jordan’s sidekick, the second Hall of Famer that pushed Chicago over the top. But throughout their run, Pippen was only the sixth-highest paid player on the team – and the 122nd in the league. He signed a seven-year, $18 million deal in 1991, before the Bulls truly turned into a dynasty. So by the time they had five rings under their belt, Pippen became frustrated with the front office when they wouldn’t give him a raise.

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