#TheLastDance Finale: The Birth of Black Jesus

Just like that, five Sundays later, The Last Dance ended Sunday night in iconic, Michael Jordan-esque fashion. Not only does the audience finally witness Jordan’s sixth title, but also experiences Jordan looking back on his life and legacy in a Chicago Bulls uniform.

Before going in depth with major takeaways, iconic moments, and hilarious memes from the entire docuseries, let’s focus on episodes nine and ten—the finale of The Last Dance.

Part five of The Last Dance had it all; Reggie Miller’s “Black Jesus” anecdote, MJ’s iconic “flu” game, the tragic loss of Steve Kerr’s father, Rodman being Rodman, and unprecedented behind-the-scenes footage of arguably the most dramatic team in the history of the NBA—the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls.

Jordan as Black Jesus

Episode nine places the viewer courtside, directly into the action of the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals. The Indiana Pacers, led by Reggie Miller, were attempting to dethrone the Chicago Bulls. Through personal anecdote, Miller reminisces to earlier in his career, where, after talking smack to MJ, he gets outplayed and is told to “never talk trash to black Jesus”.

More recently, LeBron James recalled the first time he met Jordan, who he described as “literally black Jesus in the flesh.”

Although the idea of Jordan as “Black Jesus” stands as comical, MJ is a larger-than-life being who’s success and legacy could be described as miraculous. This idea comes full circle as MJ speaks to a massive crowd of believers—Chicago Bulls fans—at the legendary Grant Park, days after Chicago’s sixth title in eight years: “My heart, my soul and my love has always gone to the city of Chicago. No matter what happens, my heart, my soul and my love will still be in the city of Chicago.”

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Was It Really The Flu?

Perhaps one of the most shocking revelations of the entire docuseries comes forth in episode nine. Since 1997, it is well-known that Jordan’s famous flu game occurred during the 1997 NBA Finals, as the Chicago legend pulled off one of the gutsiest performance in sports history.

However in part five of The Last Dance, we learn that Jordan actually had food poisoning. A suspicious delivery from a Utah pizza place included five men showing up to deliver Jordan one pizza, as the deliverymen attempted to peer inside his hotel room.  

Throwing up all night, Jordan missed the team shootaround and showed up for a pivotal game five at Salt Lake City’s Delta Center experiencing “flu-like symptoms”. No matter the specific illness, Jordan played through his sickness, visibly in pain.

Not only did Jordan play, he dominated. After a rough start, Jordan flipped a switch, scoring 38 points in 44 minutes. MJ also added seven rebounds, five assists, three steals, and, with 25 seconds remaining, sunk the game-winning three-pointer. Simply built different.

 

Steve Kerr Finds Inspiration Through Tragedy

As a freshman at the University of Arizona, Steve Kerr received a life-altering phone call. His father, Malcolm Kerr—president of the American University in Beirut—was shot to death by gunmen posing as students. In addition to teaching overseas, Malcolm Kerr taught at UCLA, where Steve grew up attending Pauley Pavilion and watching John Wooden’s legendary Bruins win championships.

Instead of dwelling over his father’s death, Kerr used the tragic event as fuel to his fire. Kerr used basketball as an escape, dedicating his basketball career to his late father. While a fifth-year senior at Arizona, Kerr was victim to taunts from Arizona State fans, yelling “PLO” (Palestine Liberation Organization) and “Your father’s history.”

How did Kerr respond? Originally shaken by the hateful chants, Steve regained composure and went 6-6 from three, dropping 22 points in a 101-73 win. After the game, Kerr explained, “There’s no question they made me play my best. There’s no question it got my whole team fired up.”

Decades later, Steve Kerr accomplishments put him in elite company: 5x NBA champion as a player, 3x NBA champion as a coach.

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Rodman Being Rodman

Dennis Rodman undoubtedly added more entertainment than any other Bulls player throughout The Last Dance. The finale proved to be no different.

Tell me this isn’t the most Dennis Rodman thing ever: after game three of the 1998 NBA Finals, Rodman skipped practice the next day, and instead flew out to Michigan to link up with Hulk Hogan and film content for the World Championship Wrestling organization.

Instead of preparing to close out and win the NBA Finals, Rodman appeared backstage with women, smoking a cigar and partying. “The Worm” later explains, “I was just trying to explain basketball, party … f— all the girls. Just be me, Dennis.”

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“The Last Shot”

A rematch of the previous year’s NBA Finals, the 1998 Bulls-Jazz matchup featured a more confident Utah team seeking to avenge last year’s loss. After stealing game one, the Jazz faltered and lost the next three games—including a 42-point blowout in game three.

After failing to win game five and close out the Finals at home, the Chicago Bulls traveled to Salt Lake City and faced the fact they would have to close out the series on the road.

Thankfully, Jordan and his Bulls were known for silencing crowds. As game six came down to the wire, Utah guard John Stockton hit a three to put the Jazz up 86-83 with 41 seconds remaining. After a Phil Jackson timeout, MJ hit a layup, stole the ball from Karl Malone, and proceeded to hit his iconic 17-foot jumper—known today as “The Last Shot”.

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With 6.6 seconds on the clock, Jordan took his last shot in a Chicago Bulls uniform. Splash. Nothing but net. MJ held his follow through for an extra second, his version of an artist’s bow, and final goodbye to his iconic career in Chicago.

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