Skip Bayless X Michael Jordan: Untold Stories From "The Last Dance"
Nine thousand nine hundred ninety eight was the best year my career in nineteen ninety eight. I was the columnist for the Chicago. Tribune. And I had the honor and the privilege of getting to know Michael Jordan in writing about the Games through what Phil Jackson was calling. The last dance for Jordan's bulls. I got to see the last dance from the inside out. So with this documentary airing. I thought I would tell you. Some of my favorite inside Michael Jordan. One Thousand Nine Hundred. Ninety eight stories number one took place on March tenth that year at the United Center. I went to cover a game between the Bulls and the visiting Miami Heat would one nine of ten. They were chasing the Bulls for the top spot in the eastern conference. The heat were known for their physicality. Their motto was brutality without regret and they had been brutal on the Bulls in their previous meeting in Miami in January. It was ninety nine to seventy two Miami. And I don't know what the Sean Leonard Heat Guard had said to Michael Jordan that night in Miami but he either said or did something or maybe Michael invented because sometimes Michael imagined slights imagined trash-talk. That wasn't actually uttered so that night in the rematch at the United Center. I witnessed something I'd never ever seen before and haven't seen since when the heat would shoot free throws you would think Michael Jordan at six six should take a spot along the lane to rebound nip. The Sean littered always went back for the heat to the far free. Throw line just to stand back on defense. Michael would go with the Sean Leonard Every time. Stand right next to him. Shawn was six four and lean down into his ear Inn. Just trash talking through the entire free throw sequence. He did it every time. It was brutality. Almost unfair he destroyed poor vashon. Psychologically and then he destroyed him physically. The Great Craig Saver Sager. Excuse me later reported that Michael had said something like and I'm sure this is the cleaned up version. You can't guard me. Why are you even trying? That's what he was saying to Sean. I don't know what it was but Michael went for thirty seven points that lie that night and it was just destruction. I never see things like it. It's like he had to take it all out from the ninety nine to seventy two game on the Sean Leonard in. That was my first big taste of Michael. Jeffrey Jordan story number two took place not too long. After April Twenty nine was at New Jersey. During the playoffs the Bulls had won the first two games at the United Center. Close Games hard-fought Games in that night in Jersey that arena was on fire because those folks thought that maybe they could muster something up and win a couple of games and force. This was a five game series. Maybe four game five back at the United Center. Enduring the game Michael Jordan began to score that night. He went for thirty eight in nearly every time he made a shot. He ran up court pointing at the coach of the nets. John Calipari now. The Kentucky Coach was in coaching. The Nets that year pointing in. That's for you for you. Astin you and I'm thinking sitting. Courtside what are you doing? Was there history between the two so afterward in in it was it was a tour De Force. Sixteen at twenty two shots just wiped out the poor nets I asked Jordan in the locker room. What's going on between you and Calipari tap me and said nothing. I said you don't have any personal his now. I don't even know him. What why were you pointing at it? Just don't like the way looks. I don't like the way struts back and forth in front of their bench that's it that was it Michael Jeffrey Jordan. So let's go to story number three. This took place on. May the twenty fourth. This was in the Eastern Conference. Finals between the Indiana Pacers in the Bulls in. It turned out to be all time. Great until Jordan took over game. Seven back at the United Center enclosed that deal against Reggie Miller and company but this happened on the off day between Games. Three and four at Indiana the Bulls won the first two at home. Indiana one game three at home and was about to win game four. But this was the off-day at markets where arena in. The media was allowed in near the end of the Bulls practice session and I happen to walk in upstairs on the second deck because some of the print reporters were allowed in. I think I because we got a glimpse at the very end of the practice of some sort of competition that was going on down on the floor between Jordan and several of the other bulls in the entire team had gathered to watch the end of it. And I got to see Michael Jordan with a makeshift blindfold on small towel that they had wrapped around and tied behind his head blindfolding him and he was at the free throw line shooting a left handed. Free Throw for God knows how many thousands of dollars in it had come down to this shot blindfolded left-handed free throw and I witnessed swish and I witness four five bulls who were standing falling on the floor and rolling around. I could hear people yelling. He again he did it. He was known to gamble for many thousands of dollars. I don't know how many he shot once again I'm thinking he swished it. Blindfolded left handed the free. Throw Michael Jeffrey Jordan. Who which leads me to June fourteenth game six that year. Nba Finals at Utah. In by the way in game five I had witnessed something did I rarely saw from Jordan. His entire career the Bulls had lost to the UTAH. Jazz Malone Stockton Company at the United Center in the previous dame game five in at the end of that. Game Jordan did have a lot of last shot that he missed. It was a tough one and Brian. Russell who's a tough defender New Jordan? Got Up into him and was not afraid of him was all over Michael as he fell away. Almost at the sideline out of bounce in took A. I don't know nearly a thirty foot. Three point shot at the Buzzer to win the game again. They lost eighty three eighty one. Low score defense brutality. But he missed it in after the game when I asked him about it. He said that was cute. Cute never heard Jordan's acute about anything. It was just cute. I thought wasn't cute to me. Missed and I thought maybe he'd bring down the house in the NBA by making that shot. Nope I guess he was. Maybe saving something force in Game. Six AT UTAH. Saving something for the jazz fans because ahead of GAME SIX AT UTAH. I was told that Scottie Pippen. Obviously the second desk Chicago Bull had fallen ill that he was really sick. He was so sick he was a game time decision and more so that the Bulls traveling party was worried that Scottie Pippen would try to suck it up and go that night but then there was a quick turnaround to a game seven at Utah. It was the two three to four matinee in so six and seven eight Utah and the Bulls traveling party. Feared that even if if Scotty can give you a little bit in game six he was going to give you nothing in game seven so it felt like do or die all or nothing in game six and early on in that Game Scottie. Pippen had a wide open dunk and wrenched his back on top of his illness. So Scottie Pippen was hobbled and sick and he managed to tough it out and go twenty six minutes in that game. Took seven shots made four. He had a grand total of eight points. And guess who said I got this. Yup That Guy. Twenty three said I got this watch this Michael Jordan Knight scored forty five points in forty four minutes. The rest of the team scored forty to forty five points to forty two points. Scottie contributed next to nothing and Michael said I got this all the way down to the last sequence of the game in which Michael went into the corner and stole the ball from Carl Malone and dribble the ball up the floors. The clock is ticking. Down Brian Russell was in perfect position to stop him. And this is the only piece of Sports Memorabilia I ever purchased in that I own in that hangs on my wall to this day here in Los Angeles hung on my walls in Chicago San Francisco New York and now in Los Angeles. I savored every time I walk by it. It's a picture from the far baseline of Michael Jordan. Having just slightly pushed off on Brian Russell different era different hand-checking different kind of physicality it was okay. Then little little push off subtle but effective to gain a little bit of space go straight up from maybe eighteen feet three or so beyond the free throw line in my picture is from the far baseline of Michael. Holding the pose and you can see the looks on the faces of all the jazz fans in the far end zone beyond the far baseline the horrified looks of because the ball is going through the net in my still photo and they now he did it to them again. He held the pose on his final shot with the Chicago Bulls and he had done it to them again. And here's my favorite part of the photo. Scottie Pippen you can see in the frame over on the right side on the wing standing at the three point. Line like this. I'm open I'm open. Michael didn't even give him a glance. Scotty taken no threes. In the game and Scottie Pippen was not going to take the final shot eight. Utah really the final shot of the prime of Michael Jordan's career. His Bulls run his six championships with six. Mvp's that finalized with that shot that night in that picture. Note Scottie. Sorry you're still taught to the lone ranger in the lone ranger said I got this any swished it game over Michael Jeffrey Jordan. So then a couple of weeks passed and Michael was scheduled to play in a pro-am golf tournament in Chicago. And I still couldn't get it through my mind. He's pledged allegiance for life to Phil Jackson. And just so you know Phil Jackson and Jerry. Krause the GM had fallen completely apart. I also got to know Jerry. Krause that year along with Phil Jerry. Krause was Chubby. Little Guy with an EGO. Even bigger than Jordan's Jerry. Krause had started after playing a little bit of high school baseball as a catcher. I believe didn't come across as real athletic to me about five feet. Four inches tall each started out as a scout for the white sox owned by Jerry Krause who also owned the Chicago Bulls and Jerry. Krause had taken a liking to little jerry. Reinsdorf had taken a liking to little jerry krause because they were sort of birds of a feather partners in quote unquote crime. If you will in Jerry REINSDORF needed a bad cop. To general manage his Bulls. He needed somebody who would do his bidding but who would ride herd on those Chicago Bulls and it was Jerry Krause Jerry. Krause did not draft Michael Jordan. He came a year after Jordan was drafted by Rob. Thorne and Jerry was hard to handle hard to get along with an. I did not get along with my clashed constantly with him to the point that after one playoff game at Charlotte I saw him as I was coming out of the public restroom near the arena ran into him and he was furious over something. I've written about him which was just the God's truth he said. How can you do this to my family? And my response was. How can you do this to your family here with the Bulls? You're going to break this team up. Because you don't like Phil Jackson. Phil Jackson Despised Jerry. Because he had no respect for Jerry Krause and at every opportunity in front of other staffers. He would humiliate him by ridiculing him. Because the truth was he deserved to be ridiculed and because of that he dug in before the year and made it clear to fill. I don't care if you go eighty two now. You're not willing to coach after this year with this team. And he had made it clear that he had fallen head over heels in love with Tim. Floyd coach at Iowa State. Tim Was a fine college basketball coach with the prospect of Tim. Floyd replacing still Jackson and Michael Jordan with the Bulls was mind blowing to me and I still couldn't get it through my head that Michael would actually follow through with his vow that if you fire Phil I'm gone but Michael Stubborn to a fault proud to fall seriously proud said no. I'M OUT FILLS OUT. I'm out got so bad that Jerry. Krause in wedding that he threw for his daughter the summer before. Nineteen Ninety eight invited. Tim Floyd to the wedding and didn't even invite Phil Jackson. That's how far they'd fallen out so last shot hold. The pose game over fills gone Michael. I'm gone a big announcement. Media Conference the United Center. I'm gone so here. We are a couple weeks later. I went out to make sure at this pro. Am Golf Tournament. That Michael was gonNA stick by guns on this. There's no way he was coming back for the Bulls or anybody else so he saw me after a while. I don't know is on the fourteenth or fifteenth hole and he waved me inside the ropes so I could walk with him. Maybe the fifteen poll Sapar Five long-haul Foale and Michael unfortunately had sent his tee shot into a fairway bunker any asked his caddy for his three would will golf three would out of the sand non easy golf shot on a par five and I said to Michael. That's tough and he turned to me and said I'm just going to imagine the golf ball is Jerry Krause's face Jerry Krause's face that's how much Michael Jordan had come to hate this little man who held the fate of the dynastic balls in his little hands and he crushed that three would almost made it into to the green fell. Just maybe five yards short. We an easy chip up for his birdie. And that's when it hit me. He is really gone. Michael Jeffrey Jordan is really gone. So I didn't see Michael for a while. Nearly a year passed now. We're going all the way into the following basketball. Too Basketball Seasons in this story involves one of Jerry. Krause's next draft picks his actual bottom of the first round pick in ninety nine. He had named Corey Benjamin from Oregon State. The next Michael Jordan at six feet six inches tall krause loved him and Corey loved himself so much that he made the mistake on draft night of saying publicly. I'm sorry Mike Retired because I was looking forward to taking in as in beating him one on one kid. No so Michael Remembered. Michael waited awhile now. It's Tim Floyd's second go. Round was the Bulls. They're horrible. They've got ron or test and they got Elton brand. They still head coach but they were horrible. In one day in November early in the year at the inner practice guests who walks in door unannounced? Yeah twenty-three walked in sweat clothes. And he didn't know Tim Floyd but Tim was in all of them. I knew tim very well in him. Very respectfully coach. Would you mind if if I played him? One on one in pointed to Corey Benjamin. Poor Corey Benjamin. Tim said sure if these games sure. And what was Corey Benjamin going to say no? So Jordan took off his top but he kept his bottoms on his sweatpants on. Let's go and Michael Jordan destroyed. Poor Corey Benjamin. He just scored and scored and scored on him in every way shape and form imaginable. I got to see that killer will on display one last great time against poor Corey Benjamin. He stole the ball from an intimidating with his defense. And by the way those bulls teams greatest defensive teams. I've ever seen Michael Jordan. Made First Team all defense. His final year ninety eight while winning the scoring title and Poor Corey. Benjamin was so psychologically shot by what Jordan did to him that Corey. Benjamin never amounted to anything. Young on for about three years with the Bulls any bounced around the League. A little bit then. He bounced around overseas a little bit and he was out of sight. Outta mind and Jordan came over and told us in the media afterward. That was the lesson. It wasn't just a lesson for Corey. Benjamin lesson for Jerry Krause. You took that guy and you thought he could replace me well. I just did that to him. I'm getting goosebumps. Just telling you the story so thank you for sharing this with me in Michael. Thank you for the memories in Nineteen Ninety Eight.