Let’s not kid ourselves here.
The Last Dance was a game-changer (pun intended), and we all gained a lot of insight about arguably the greatest basketball player of all time. Watching Michael Jordan’s 13.5 year career span over a ten-episode documentary was a thing of captivating beauty during this worldwide pandemic that has all of us locked up at the house.
But while I believe that 95% of what Jordan echoed during the documentary was true, there seemed to be some desultory moments in it that have been challenged by respected journalists that either had great knowledge of Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, or covered them during that time in the 90’s.
Sam Smith, author of The Jordan Rules, and a prominent guest in the documentary, wrote that the real reason Jordan retired after the 1998 NBA finals, was that he was exhausted. This was corroborated by teammate B.J. Armstrong and even Jordan himself during his 1999 retirement speech. But Smith ventured further:
“He couldn’t stand playing with Scottie Pippen anymore. He was furious at Pippen for again missing a final game of the playoffs, as with the migrane episode of 1990. He was sick of all the injuries, still upset Pippen elected to have surgery just as training camp was to begin and wouldn’t rejoin the team until midseason, sticking Jordan with Dennis Rodman. He was sick of Luc Longley and all the dropped passes.
He was also sick of babying Rodman. Jordan ran into Rodman recently and they talked at length. Later, Jordan confided to a friend he was amazed you could talk to Rodman. Back then, Jordan never did. I remember him saying when he had to talk to Rodman he’d grab him by the temples, plead for Rodman to look him in the eye and then tell Rodman what to do. Jordan said it was how he talked to his eight year old.”
Due to a back injury, Scottie Pippen only played 25:43 in the pivotal close out game six against the Utah Jazz in the 1998 NBA Playoffs, so it totally makes sense why Jordan would have been perplexed by that. Even more perplexing is that Pippen only averaged 15.7 points that particular series, but I mean c’mon…. really Mike?
Rodman’s unpredictability would piss anyone off; I mean the dude wrestled Hulk Hogan during the NBA playoffs for Christ sake. But Pip was as reliable as anyone could ask, and a tremendous second offensive option to Jordan, whose defensive skills rivaled only Jordan’s.
Anyway, I suppose Jordan is the only one who sincerely knows why he left the game. And despite Jordan’s legendarily, raw personality and authenticity, I just don’t think we got that answer from him during The Last Dance.