After a couple years of anticipation, ESPN’s 10 part series on the 1997-1998 Chicago Bulls has arrived. It was moved up to April after being originally set to air during the NBA Finals. All I have to say is: thank you. There has been no new sports content in weeks and what better way to end the drought than with the greatest NBA dynasty. Am I biased? Of course. Like Obama, I was also a resident of Chicago during this run. I remember watching MJ’s fadeaways, Pippen’s dunks, Phil whistling from the bench and of course, Rodman’s color changing cups from McDonalds. I had high hopes when this documentary series was announced. Did it deliver?
Let me get Michael to help me answer this:
As an avid fan of documentary series (shout out to Netflix), I knew the first episode would set the tone of how the story was going to be told. Also, as I previously mentioned, I am a huge fan of the 90s Bulls and Jordan. So his backstory and many details would not be new to me but I was still interested in how they were going to present it to the viewers.
In order to tell the story of the ’98 Bulls, you have to see how they (players/management) got to this point. That was going to mean flashbacks but they handled them really well. They only used them to better explain the present such as Pippen taking a long contract due to his family situation. Mixing in new footage with great interviews to enhance the stories you might know ie Jordan getting “cut” from his High School basketball team. As for the content in the first 2 episodes…
It was great.
Episode 1 did a good job explaining Jordan’s obsession with competition, his beginnings and the state of the Bulls before he arrived. Many things that long time fans already knew but something the producers had to show. It also set the stage for who will likely play the “villain” of the series: Jerry Krause. This was even more evident as he was boo-ed during the ring ceremony at the start of the season.
Episode 2 was the “Scottie Pippen” episode and it provided information on his upbringing and college career. Most of this stuff was new to me and gave the viewers some background that would explain his reasoning on signing that long term (bad) contract. Again, the flashbacks gave us what we needed to know about Pippen’s state of mind in the ’98 season. In other words, he had his reasons for wanting out of Chicago, most notably Krause and his constant dangling of Pip in trade scenarios.
Current Bulls fans will find Paxson’s appearance in episode 2 quite ironic as he would essentially play the role of Krause in 2010. He went after Vinny Del Negro over playing time of a star player just as Krause kept Jordan on a 14 minute restriction after his broken foot. Except…. Krause did not choke his coach like Paxson did. This situation where Bulls management were essentially not doing everything they could to win planted the seed in Jordan about doubting their intentions. Luckily, the Bulls snagged the 8th seed and we were able to see Michael go for 63 against an all time great Celtics team.
As we get deeper into the series, I think Phil will come out looking the best in all of this. He has a GM who hates him and who is petty enough to invite everyone in the Bulls organization to his step-daughter’s wedding, including TIM FUCKING FLOYD aka the coach who Krause wants to replace him. He also has his second best player publicly asking for a trade every chance he gets. The team’s expectations are championship or bust. And this is even before we get into having to manage Dennis Rodman and his antics. Which brings me to the teaser for Episode 3…
My body is ready for the Rodman episode.