While the world is locked away during the COVID-19 pandemic, ESPN bumped up the release of their highly anticipated Chicago Bulls docuseries “The Last Dance” from June to April to help fill the void of the lack of live sports. Here's what you should know about the historic team and its players the series is highlighting.
Michael Jordan the UNC Star
Michael Jordan became not only the best basketball player in his high school, he was the best player in the state.
He was recruited and played for UNC. There, Jordan said he “went from Mike to Michael Jordan,” and the country soon knew his name.
Tar Heels Star
Jordan graced the cover of "The Sporting News" in 1983, when he was named their "Player of the Year."
Jordan Goes Big
Opting out of his senior year of college, Jordan entered NBA draft in 1984 and was taken third in the first round by the failing Chicago Bulls.
Jordan the Bull
When Jordan arrived in Chicago, the team was hardly a talking point to fans and were fledgling in the standings. Soon, Jordan turned things around by becoming the star and the most talked about athlete in the Windy City.
Attendance rose in Chicago as soon as word got out about Jordan's playing style. During his rookie year he was selected to play in the All-Star game.
Jordan's gravity defying moves would earn him the nickname "Sir Airness."
Magic and Michael
Early in his career, Jordan got to play against his hero, Magic Johnson numerous times. In 1992, they would become teammates on Team USA's Olympic basketball team in Barcelona, Spain.
“I would never be able to find a tandem, another support system, another partner in the game of basketball like Scottie Pippen,” Jordan says in episode two of 'The Last Dance.' “Whenever they speak Michael Jordan, they should speak Scottie Pippen.”
Scottie Pippen joined the Bulls in 1987, three years after the team signed Jordan. Pippen would soon become the missing link Jordan and the Bulls would need to go deep into the playoffs and push to bring Chicago a championship.
The Zen Master
Former NBA champ Phil Jackson had a strange way about him. The son of preachers, he would find himself in the hippie lifestyle that marked the 1960s.
Jackson joined the Chicago Bulls as an assistant coach in the late 1980s after he was hired by Krauss. By 1989, he was promoted to the head coach position and brought a philosophy that would change the sport forever. Introducing philosophical methods and meditation to his approach to the game, he was given the nickname the “zen master.”
Jordan Speaks to Inside Edition
In 1991, Inside Edition spoke to Jordan as his fame was beginning to skyrocket. Jordan spoke to special correspondent Marla Maples and gave her an all-access look into his life.
In 1991, the Chicago Bulls beat the Lakers and won their first NBA Championship thanks to Jordan, Pippen and Jackson.
After they received the trophy, Magic Johnson congratulated the team in their locker room.
Two Time Champs
The Bulls became back-to-back NBA champs following the 1991-1992 season.
The Dream Team
Following the 1991-1992 season, Jordan and Pippen were named to the "Dream Team" to represent Team USA at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain.
The team, which featured an array of NBA heroes like Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley and John Stockton, would win the gold medal and became the hottest ticket in the city.
Croatia's Toni Kukoc was signed to the team following the 1992 Olympics. He was one of the first players from the Eastern Bloc to play in the NBA.
The Chicago Bulls were able to pull off a miraculous "three-peat" and become NBA champs three years in a row following the 1992-1993 season.
In July 1993, just weeks after toppling the Phoenix Suns and his friend Charles Barkley in the NBA finals, Michael Jordan’s father, James, was murdered.
“It’s been a very tough time for me to deal with it, and I don’t really have any feelings against them yet. I guess because it hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Michael Jordan to Oprah Winfrey about the killers three months after his father’s death in 1993.
From the Court to the Diamond
Fifty two days after his father’s murder, Michael Jordan shocked the sporting world when he announced his first retirement from basketball. The game that had given so much had lost its most prolific star. Jordan took a brief sabbatical and opted to try his talents at baseball, his father’s favorite sport.
In February 1994, he signed with the Birmingham Barons, becoming a member of the Chicago White Sox minor league baseball team.
Everywhere he went as a baseball player, he was mobbed by the press and fans.
Jordan the Golfer
Michael Jordan has always been an avid golfer. Jordan has been known to hit the links before major NBA matches and while he was playing basketball for Team USA as well as when he was not playing baseball.
Following one season playing minor league baseball, Michael Jordan returned to the NBA in March 1995. When he returned, he dropped his famous No. 23 jersey number and took on No. 45, confusing many fans.
After his return season, he returned to his infamous number.
During the 1995 offseason, the Chicago Bulls signed NBA outcast Dennis Rodman to the team.
Rodman trained hard and partied even harder. With the spotlight on him at all times, Rodman admits in “The Last Dance” that “I created this monster,” explaining that whatever perception people have of him is his own doing.
Nicknamed "The Worm" early in his career because of his size, Rodman always was the talk of whatever team he played on due to his passion and later his personality.
In addition to the body ink, piercings and hair color, Rodman would wear flamboyant outfits and paint his fingernails different shades. The wild player was a fan favorite who would stop to sign autographs for fans and was the constant talk of the league, but all of that came with a price.
Four Time Champs
Thanks to the addition of Dennis Rodman, the Chicago Bulls became four-time NBA champs in the 1995-1996 season. That particular squad has been hailed as one of the best in history.
Bad As I Want to Be
During a publicity stunt in 1997 to help sell copies of his autobiography, "Bad as I Want to Be," Dennis Rodman dressed as a bride and "married" himself inside a Manhattan Barnes and Noble bookstore.
Five Time Champions
The Chicago Bulls would become five time NBA Champions following the 1996-1997 season.
The Last Dance?
Phil Jackson, who documented everything, would draw up playbooks as if they were battle plans as he outlined each season and his expectations. For the 1997-1998 season, Jackson called it “The Last Dance?” due to threats from his boss Jerry Krauss and management that he would no longer coach the team.
The controversy had been brewing for years, as Jackson, like Scottie Pippen, wanted more money, while the front office felt otherwise. After winning their fifth championship, the Bulls management seemed to be courting others to take Jackson’s spot, but once star player Michael Jordan got wind of this, threatened to leave basketball if Jackson was not his coach. Jackson then signed a one-year contract with the team and hoped that if he won a sixth championship, he could stay on as coach. Management felt otherwise.
Calling his final season with Bulls “The Last Dance?” foreshadowed the events to come and would later become the title of the docuseries.
Six Time Champs
The Chicago Bulls would win their sixth and final NBA championship following the 1997-1998 season. It would also mark the last time Jordan and Pippen would play for the team and Jackson would coach.
Passing the Torch
In 1996, Kobe Bryant entered the NBA and was drafted by the Lakers. His idol growing up was Michael Jordan and the two played against each other early in Kobe's career.
Kobe would later be coached by his idol's former coach, Phil Jackson, after he was not signed by the Bulls following the 1998 season.
Kobe and Jackson and would win five rings for the Lakers.
A statue of Michael Jordan sits in front of the Chicago Bulls' home. Since his departure from the team in 1998, they have not won a championship nor have reached the NBA finals.