Remembering the Late Wrestling Superstar ‘Kamala’

Another great has left us. The Ugandan Giant Kamala, whose real name was James Harris, died this weekend at age 70. Despite being from Mississippi, he had many fans convinced that he was just an uncivilized savage. A lot of people who got to know him had nice things to say. It seems that most considered him a gentle giant.

Kamala feuded with the biggest (literally and figuratively) stars in wrestling. His first WWF stint featured matches against Andre The Giant. In 1986, Kamala returned to the World Wrestling Federation. Again, a string of three bouts against a rival at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens culminated with a steel cage match. This time, the opponent was Hulk Hogan. These two wrestled twice at Madison Square Garden. Both cards were sold out. A match between Hogan and Kamala at Boston Garden also brought a sold-out crowd. There were even bouts between Kamala and King Kong Bundy. It was very odd for two major stars who were both bad guys to battle at that time, but this only added to the intrigue.

I can remember being on vacation in 1987 and watching wrestling from a store television as Paul Roma and Jim Powers were on the receiving end of top rope splashes from Kamala. My eyes were glued to the action. Kamala’s team was counted out, but it didn’t matter. The message was sent. This man needed to be feared. Hulk Hogan had a title defense on NBC against Sika less than two months later. It seemed like an odd and random match.

Years later, I found out that Sika was a substitute for Kamala. This would have been an awesome match with incredible hype. That was the night when Hulk Hogan became friends with Randy Savage after Elizabeth ran back for help. She was brutally shoved down by the Honky Tonk Man. Hogan came out and was triple-teamed before gaining the advantage. I remember a comment about how Hogan could possibly lose his title after he already had been worn down. You couldn’t really buy in. However, if Kamala was his opponent, you could believe!

In September of 1987, Kamala left the WWF over frustrations with his pay. He claimed that they would tell him none or only a small amount of his action figures sold. Between the crowds he drew with Hogan and his action figures, Kamala should have been well compensated. I wish he had stuck around longer for selfish reasons. His third WWF stint was much different. Kamala became a good guy, but lost most of his matches. The character became a joke. It made no sense. The character didn’t know how to roll over opponents and pin them. He had been doing it for years. Pretty ridiculous. Even for wrestling. There was one other major feud before his face turn. Kamala battled the Undertaker. Their match at Survivor Series was the first-ever televised casket match. They also met a few months earlier at Summerslam. Kamala claimed that he was paid $13,000 for that bout, while Undertaker’s pay was $500,000.

Although his wrestling run as a good guy was awful, there is one funny moment that lives on. Kamala learning to bowl is pretty funny.

There were numerous health battles in Kamala’s life. Each leg was amputated below the knee in recent years. Last week he was diagnosed with COVID-19. Four days later, he was gone. His death apparently took place in Brooklyn. I had no idea that he was there. If his health was better and we were in different times, it would have been very cool to see him. Definitely one of my favorite characters ever. Rest in peace, big man.

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10 Players To Watch During the NBA’s Restart Inside the Orlando Bubble

It’s been 138 days since the NBA was shut down on March 11 following the unforgettable scene in Oklahoma City which saw Rudy Gobert test positive for COVID-19 as a harsh reality for the pandemic began to set in.

That horrifying number will (hopefully) be no more on Thursday when the Pelicans and Jazz tip-off serving as the official restart of the NBA regular season inside the Orlando bubble, which just might bring a tear to my eye.

Instead of doing an official playoff preview just yet (I’ll save that for August), I wanted to highlight 10 under-the-radar players who just might win their team a playoff game and could be someone you may have forgotten about during the layoff.

If you’re looking for star players like ‘Bron or Kawhi on this list, you’d be better suited just turning on FS1 and listening to Colin Cowherd talk about how Russell Westbrook and James Harden aren’t a top 10 NBA duo.

1. Gary Trent Jr. – Portland Trailblazers

Gary Trent Jr. became one of my favorite hidden gems coming off the bench this season. Ever since his 30-point explosion back in mid-January against the Thunder, the former Blue Devil has been an integral part of the Blazers’ rotation. That trend should only continue for the playoff-hopeful squad, as Trent Jr. put up 12 ppg and shot 41% from behind the arc during the month of February. He’s also a rock-solid defender on the wing.

P.S. My only issue with GT was seeing him on the virtual blackjack machines in the Bahamas. As a millionaire, it’s time to move to the legit high roller tables, my guy! 

2. Ben McLemore – Houston Rockets

When your career needs to be revived, every offensive-minded player should give Mike D’Antoni a call. MDA gave a lifeline to another career that was on its last breaths with Ben McLemore this season, who evolved into a sniper for the three-point happy Rockets this season. Averaging just under 10 ppg on 40% from three, McLemore’s brought his magic to Disney, as he lit up the Grizzlies during Sunday night’s scrimmage for 26 points on 6-7 from downtown.

3. Bol Bol – Denver Nuggets

Bol Bol is one of the early winners from the NBA restart. After not playing a game this season in Denver, Bol exploded onto the NBA Twitter scene with highlight-worthy plays on both ends of the floor, which flooded IG timelines in the first couple of scrimmages while starting in the BACKCOURT!! with Nikola Jokic. Seeing that untapped potential on display could vault Bol into a secret weapon type of role for Mike Malone’s deep Denver Nuggets.

4. Seth Curry – Dallas Mavericks

For quite possibly the first time in his entire life, the stage will now entirely be set for Seth to shine without overshadowing from older brother Steph anywhere in sight. With Luka and Porzingis occupying the defense’s focus, three-point assassins like Seth Curry become indispensable. Seth was 2nd in the entire NBA while shooting 45% from downtown and the Mavs are going to need him to be lights out in Orlando to spread the floor.

5. J.R. Smith – Los Angeles Lakers

J.R. Spliff is back!!! After going unsigned the entire 2019 season, the Lakers finally decided to listen to me and roll the dice on Earl and reunite him with LeBron inside the bubble. For that reason alone, we need a documentary on the Lakers’ Orlando playoff run. With Avery Bradley opting out and Rondo injured, L.A. will be heavily relying on the likes of J.R., Alex Caruso, KCP, and Dion Waiters to supplement A.D. and Lebron with outside shooting late in games. Smith’s microwave scoring ability came to life on Monday with 14 points in the first half of their scrimmage against the Wizards.

6. Matisse Thybulle – Philadelphia 76ers

One of the most unique young players in the NBA. Matisse not only shines on the court as a lockdown defender, but he’s also become a YouTube sensation off the floor with his Welcome to the Bubble VLOG series, which he shoots and edits himself. The rookie’s versatility on the defensive end and streaky shooting will be needed to help power the Sixers, as coach Brett Brown has his hands full regarding how to best deploy his talented arsenal of weapons.

7. Duncan Robinson – Miami Heat

From Division III standout, to Michigan 6th man, and now a top 100 NBA player, according to Bleacher Report‘s latest rankings. Stories like Duncan’s are to be celebrated, as he landed in the perfect spot to flourish under the tutelage of Eric Spoelstra, Pat Riley, and co. in breezy South Beach. Another 45% shooter from three makes the list, and a bright future is definitely ahead for the Michigan man. Admittedly, I didn’t think there was a chance DR would be an NBA player during his time as a Wolverine.

8. Luguentz Dort – Oklahoma City Thunder

Lu Dort is a name you might not be familiar with if you haven’t caught many Thunder games this year, as I had no clue who he was coming into the season and only found out about him through my brother after watching him pop off the screen one night. Dort has a knack for making good things happen on the floor, as OKC went 16-5 once Billy Donovan inserted him into the starting lineup and management rewarded the Canada native with a four-year extension for his efforts.

9. Jonathan Isaac – Orlando Magic

With the potential to be transcendingly special on the defensive end, Jonathan Isaac’s breakout campaign was forced to take a detour following a devastating knee sprain on New Year’s Day. After the shutdown’s extended layoff, the Florida State product has been cleared for action to participate in the bubble scrimmages, which should bring a smile to Magic fans’ faces if there’s any still out there. During his return to the hardwood Monday night, JI managed 13 points and grabbed 7 boards in just 7 MINUTES on the floor.

10. Norman Powell – Toronto Raptors

Another underrated cog in COTY candidate Nick Nurse’s army that somehow has Toronto back in the mix for an Eastern Conference run even without Kawhi Leonard. Powell would have a case for 6th Man of the Year but ended up starting 21 games. When returning from an injury in late February, Powell posted five straight box scores with at least 22 points to give the starting five unit a jolt before the shutdown.

This Is Long Overdue

I have never once felt in danger because of who I am. I have never once felt unsafe or that I did not have the right or ability to be anywhere I wanted to be. I have never once looked at a cop behind me and feared for my life. I cannot begin to understand, but the best I can do is to understand that I will never understand. No, we have failed. Not just over the last 9 days, not over the last few years, but over the past 400 years. The question is not, “Where did we go wrong?”, it’s “What have we even done right?”.

First, I want to talk about the first line of defense: our education system. Coming from Long Island, I can sum up everything that I have learned about the black community in all of my history classes in about two sentences. The slave trade was bad (but we did it for 200 years!), the Civil War was fought over slavery (after which we freed the slaves and then proceeded to remove every single right that “free” people should have), the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the first time black people have been shown an iota of respect by this nation’s leadership (and that’s where it starts and ends, as nothing more than an iota), and in 1968 Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. That’s it. As it turns out, 18 years in the American education system gets you the bare minimum when it comes to black people and their history – as if this entire country wasn’t founded off of the backs of slaves – and you get maybe 2 weeks total worth of education. That needs to change. I’ve learned more about the history of African-Americans over the last 9 days than I did in 18 years through a publicly funded education system. Educate the youth, make them see, make them understand.

Our policymakers have failed to adequately protect the rights of black people for far too long. They’ve gotten away with giving small bites of the apple to black people in this country. The way the right has treated people of color is abhorrent, but do not let that excuse the left. Democrats have hid behind the curtain of “being the good guy” for too long. Propping up minorities and using them for votes is violently disgusting behavior. If they really were the party that they claimed to be, any of the past blue controlled White Houses and Congress’ could have passed bills to fix at least some of the problems facing black people in this country. But no, they are used for votes and nothing more. You wonder why people have flocked to Bernie and are rejecting your centrist views? Look no further than the riots that are taking place in our cities. This is on you, too, and don’t pretend that it’s not. Laws have been in place for decades to minimize the rights of black people in this country – go repeal them. March in the streets. Be an ally, then you get our trust back.

Finally, I want to address the way that black people are treated by law enforcement. I won’t say much, because all you have to do is look outside your window and see what they have done. How they have systematically tried, time and time again, to break the will and the spirit of black people in this country. And how every time, it hasn’t worked. It’s only built up, and hibernated, and grown. And now we sit at the crux of what has been – decade after decade, generation after generation – a broken system. You don’t need the statistics from me to paint the picture for you. To say that it needs revamping is the understatement of a generation. This is not a few bad apples, if it were we wouldn’t be doing this again. This is about more than just murder, it is a system that has been specifically designed to put black people at a disadvantage and incarcerates them without a second thought. No, it is not a few bad apples, this is what happens when the root of the apple tree is infected and rotted to the core. Maybe you need to burn the old tree down and plant a new one.

This has been a long time coming. This is not simply a reaction to one or two people’s deaths – this is 400 years of oppression coming to the fore and they know it. That’s what scares them. That’s why they arrested those four officers that murdered George Floyd. To make it stop, because those arrests can be a stopgap to end protests and anger. They’re afraid that this is something larger, because it is. No more. George Floyd is not a stopgap. Breonna Taylor is not a stopgap. Trayvon Martin is not a stopgap. It ends now. Stop saying that they “lost their lives”, because they didn’t. They had their lives ripped away from them by a system that has never once given them a chance. Black people have every right to be angry, and to protest, and to demand that for the first time in the history of this nation to be treated as equals.

If you’re walking home from school, and every single day a kid kicks you and beats you up, only to give you a pack of ice afterwards to treat your broken ribs and shattered teeth, you wouldn’t call that kid your friend just because he treats you with a shred of decency after whooping on you and beating you for days, weeks, years. That’s a bully. And the United States has been bullying black people since before its inception. Every day. Non-stop. It’s time to fight back.

Not so fun when the rabbit has the gun.

Bad Pizza, Ripping Utah’s Hearts Out & Leaving a 7th Ring on the Table Bring ‘The Last Dance’ to a Close

Once again a topic from The Last Dance has actually taken off after the show. Michael Jordan’s “Flu Game” might have actually been the “Food Poisoning Game.” Well, maybe. Apparently this pizza rumor was already out there, but we hear about it in great detail. This story has gone in all different directions. We’re told that five people showed up to deliver Jordan’s pizza. However, a man has since stated that he made the pizza and wanted to personally deliver it. Just two people total. This guy said he is a Bulls fan, and disputes that something was intentionally done to cause Jordan harm when he ate his dinner.

Jason Hehir directed the ESPN documentary, and added that Michael spit on the pizza to prevent anyone else from eating it since they had already eaten without him. This part was another subject that didn’t make the final cut. I’ll get back to what else was left out later. There is also a rumor that Jordan went to Vegas and was hungover. I don’t know what to believe. WFAN’s Joe Benigno talked about how he felt at the time. Joe didn’t think anything was wrong with Michael. Another host chimed in after the latest story came out. Craig Fite is the Chicago fan who spoke about making Jordan’s pizza. Fite said he bet on the Bulls, and obviously would not poison Jordan. WFAN’s Maggie Gray could not understand why somebody would bet on the Bulls. This is probably the dumbest take I have heard in quite some time. Nobody bets favorites. The team that is expected to win. Your favorite team. The one that has won championships before and would do so again. I’m not even getting into series prices and spreads. Sometimes she makes me want to rip out my remaining hair.

SB Nation on Twitter: "The Kings brought up an old food poisoning ...

Hearing about Jordan’s ordeal brought me back to 2002. I took Sacramento in game 2 after they lost to Kobe’s Lakers in the opener. Bryant was suffering from food poisoning. The spread seemed to indicate that he would either be out or most likely ineffective. Bryant played more minutes than any of his teammates. Sacramento covered by hitting late free throws. I searched to find information on the game, and stumbled upon a new conspiracy theory. An article said that a New Jersey mob guy was the one responsible for Kobe’s food poisoning. Supposedly there was a heavy mob bet on the Nets to win it all. Or, you could believe another story in that article. Kobe was too drunk to even find his hotel room.

This weekend’s episodes opened with footage of the feisty Pacers-Bulls rivalry. Reggie Miller and MJ going at it. Mark Jackson gets a ball thrown at him. No mention of how Jackson was on both teams that took Jordan to 7 during his championship seasons. Patrick Ewing used to lose and afterwards say that his Knicks were the better team. Miller said this about his Pacers. At least they went right down to the wire in a game 7 on the road. Speaking of Patrick, there was a trivia question about Jordan eliminating HOF players. It claims that he knocked out Ewing 4 times. It was actually 5 if you count 1989. That wasn’t a title season for Chicago. Throw in the college days if you want one more Ewing loss to MJ.

Since I referenced things being left out a couple times so far, I’ll get into that. The teams split games 5 and 6. That was their way of skipping over Jordan falling down late in game 6 against Indiana. As the documentary rolled on, it seemed like the blatant omissions became even more egregious. MJ hits a winning shot at the buzzer against Utah to begin the 1997 NBA Finals. Nothing about Karl Malone’s missed free throws just before that. Scottie Pippen said, “The Mailman doesn’t deliver on Sundays.” Totally left out. They didn’t even put that Jordan finished up with Washington when listing how players moved on after 1998.

Dan Patrick talked about Jordan’s career on WFAN. He took a shot at the 90s Knicks. I have tried to explain how people thought they were ruining basketball. Ratings dropped. Rules were changed. It’s funny how Detroit didn’t seem to get this criticism. There was a 1994 Sports Illustrated cover saying that the NHL was hot, and by contrast the NBA was not. Obviously MJ went through the Knicks quite often. Basketball really suffered when he wasn’t around. Patrick’s point was about how low NBA scores were. Cleveland limited possessions by draining the shot clock. Final scores were often around 80 points. James Harden might put up impressive offensive numbers when his team scores 120-130 points. Jordan would likely average much more in today’s game with higher final scores.

You knew we would see that MJ was motivated to face different players. Malone won an MVP. Bryon Russell made a comment when Jordan was retired. Good thing these players gave Michael some extra motivation. I’m not sure if he would have been able to take the NBA Finals seriously. MJ somehow had the urgency when he won the MVP award all those years. You can tell that certain things were wearing on me as this documentary was winding down. Jordan also brought back his old security buddy. Gus Lett returned to inspire MJ in game 7 against the Pacers. Lett died in 2000 after a long battle with cancer.

We learned about the murder of Steve Kerr’s father in Beirut 36 years ago. That was clearly the most emotional part of these latest episodes. Kerr said that he never discussed this with Jordan. It was unfortunately something they had in common. Kerr talked about John Paxson taking Steve under his wing. I often thought of Steve as the later version of John on that team. Steve mentioned his early years with Cleveland. I became a fan of his back then. He threw in a long heave against the Nets, and seemed like a Mark Price clone to me.

Dennis Rodman always has to cause trouble. He missed practice during the 1998 NBA Finals so he could attend a wrestling show. Maybe I should rephrase that. He participated in a wrestling show. I liked Phil Jackson’s response about it being a distraction. Players play. They don’t sit around crying about something stupid. Unless you are Bill Cartwright getting upset that Scottie Pippen asked out. Media members will keep asking if something is going to be a distraction. Maybe, if they keep bringing it up. Anyway, Jackson said it might be a distraction for the reporter.

Scottie Pippen had an injured back against Utah in the 1998 series clincher. He was only able to score 8 points. Tough to kill him for it, but with that guy somehow it was always something. Migraine in game 7 against Detroit. Not wanting to ruin his summer and missing regular season games because surgery was put off. The infamous final 1.8 seconds of a virtual must-win contest during the 1994 playoffs. Dealing with Pippen and Rodman only adds to Jordan’s legacy in my opinion.

The Time Michael Jordan Almost JOINED The NEW YORK KNICKS! - YouTube

One ridiculous Jordan story is that he would have missed time in 1999 due to a severed tendon in his finger. He suffered the injury attempting to cut a cigar. People argued that playing only 50 games would have helped Chicago, but I just don’t see how it could have worked. Apparently Phil Jackson was not interested in waiting through a rebuilding stage. That’s what I figured based on his reputation.

Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf said just that Sunday. The relationship with GM Jerry Krause seemed damaged beyond repair. Michael might have thought he could convince Pippen to return for another year, but Scottie was going to get paid. He definitely wanted big money and a long deal. Scottie was starting to break down, and big bucks were finally coming his way. Jordan and Phil were pretty spent. They could have tried to reload, but there were certainly changes coming. I think Reinsdorf had no interest in breaking the bank for potentially one more championship. He had told Jackie MacMullan that they wouldn’t be the 90s Celtics. That team got old and guys were injured. It ended unceremoniously.

Utah coach Jerry Sloan did not come off looking very sharp. He apparently had no idea that Jordan was less than 100 percent, although Michael still played well. Jordan wasn’t just a decoy. The Jazz only scored 54 points in one of their losses. Sloan looks down and asks if that was really the score. I’m not sure if Sloan was kidding either time. Karl Malone has asked people to say prayers for Jerry. The coach has had health issues in recent years. Jerry has battled Parkinson’s disease and dementia since 2016. Speaking on a 90s NBA Zoom call, Malone said that Sloan is not doing well.

Watching highlights from Chicago’s games against Utah and Indiana brought me back to my early days betting NBA games. There were some close calls each way. One of my friends took the Bulls giving 5.5 in one game. He lost on a shot at the buzzer. Scott Van Pelt played it along with Uncle Brent’s radio call for a final vintage Bad Beats segment.

In recent days there has been a video circulating of Bob Costas putting a bow on the Chicago dynasty. He knew that it was at least possibly their last run. I can remember Bob speaking after the 1993 championship. He speculated that perhaps they could come back for a fourth straight title and be known as the “Quad Squad.” It would have been interesting if that really happened. I wonder if Costas trademarked the phrase. Hopefully I can speak with him one day. I have a lot of questions. We can get into his classic 1989 interview with Bobby Heenan.

Finally, there was an interesting exchange between Jordan and Larry Bird after the Pacers-Bulls series. Colorful language. It really was strange to hear the curses flying on ESPN. Getting back to 1993, I vividly remember watching a press conference after Phoenix stayed alive with a win in Chicago. Businesses were boarding up windows in anticipation of a wild celebration. Charles Barkley told people that they could take the “stuff” off their windows. It always stuck with me. I never expected ESPN to air this clip 27 years later. Especially an unedited version. 2020 certainly has been unpredictable.

With that, I thank you for taking the time to read this. Hopefully you enjoyed the documentary and my recaps.

Emotions Run Deep as ‘The Last Dance’ Heads Toward Anticipated Finale

As we entered this past weekend, the world was fascinated with security guard John Michael Wozniak. Unfortunately, the security guard for Michael Jordan passed away before he could become famous after his appearance in ESPN’s documentary. This guy would have done more appearances in these last 10 days than anyone could possibly keep track of.

Sunday night introduced many of us to a new person. LaBradford Smith. He was one of Jordan’s sources for motivation, but this story was pretty ridiculous. Michael made up a story that Smith said something. First of all, I don’t understand how you make up a story to fool yourself. Overlooking that, the offensive comment by Smith was apparently, “Nice game, Mike.”

George Karl avoided speaking to Michael when they both attended the same restaurant. He knew of Jordan’s tendency to twist any comments. Michael then motivated himself over the snub. I didn’t think this was a mistake by Karl. Many thought George should have had Gary Payton guarding Jordan sooner. MJ watches a video of Payton speaking and laughs hysterically. If you want to talk about a mistake, Karl told Scott Van Pelt after the documentary that Seattle flew home following Friday’s game and played a 12:30 Sunday contest. It was 4:30 out there. 7:30 where us normal people live.

They barely acknowledged a Knicks-Bulls series in 1996. Just showed that Chicago had advanced with their series win over New York. Chicago was 14-1 in the postseason and just one win away from wrapping up the title until Seattle won twice at home. Sticking with the motivation topic, Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy once talked about how Jordan was basically a con man. He would be friendly with a player before lighting him up for 45. Naturally this didn’t sit well with Jordan. Michael hit the Knicks up for 51 when they next met. MJ also had some choice words for Van Gundy after the game.

Another Knicks moment that was glossed over and could have been featured would be the Hue Hollins foul call against Scottie Pippen. This might have been the difference between Chicago getting past New York without Jordan and a loss in 7 games. Some speculated that it was left out because maybe Chicago could’ve advanced and possibly won it all when Michael wasn’t there. One caller to WFAN had an interesting take about this. Perhaps the NBA didn’t want to highlight a controversy involving an official. Apparently somebody who was announcing criticized Hollins and was reprimanded. I am not convinced that Chicago would have defeated Indiana, and Houston certainly wouldn’t have been easy.

There were so many major storylines in Sunday’s episodes. Probably none more interesting than Jordan’s decision to retire in 1993. I was watching the ALCS when CBS broke that shocking news. No tweets back then. If everybody was telling lies, they did a good job. It seems like Jordan definitely was suffering from burnout, and reportedly talked about retirement a year earlier. The last few weeks have shown us that people in this country enjoy conspiracy theories. I don’t know the details about his father’s murder. People just assume that it was tied to Jordan’s gambling. If you believe that, I probably will not be able to convince you otherwise. David Stern says there was no secret suspension.

I side with those who feel Stern probably would not willingly sideline his cash cow. Let me put it another way. Has anyone ever assumed something about you that wasn’t true? They just decide that you are guilty of something because it makes sense to them. No shred of evidence. It’s hard to prove a negative, so you’re powerless. Throw in the part about your father being murdered. As you grieve, people decide that this was your fault. Things either happened or didn’t. This isn’t some fun sports debate where we can talk strategy and what would have happened if certain teams met. It might be interesting to hear from the people accused of Mr. Jordan’s murder. Maybe it should be looked into a little deeper. The thing that makes absolutely no sense to me is when people say they wanted Jordan to step away for a year or so and let things cool off. It’s 2020, and people are still talking about it. They were before this documentary. Michael leaving would only increase speculation and conspiracy theories.

A huge topic was Scottie Pippen’s refusal to play the last 1.8 seconds of game 3 against the Knicks in 1994. I remember this leading to a big argument on WFAN between Mike Francesa and Chris Russo. Occasionally I’ll question myself. Maybe I was too hard on someone or didn’t judge fairly. Usually, I’m reminded to trust my judgement. This guy always was an idiot. He says he’d do the same thing today. Thanks for your honesty. You are honest, but can still be considered stupid and a jerk. So, the play was called for Kukoc. Pippen said he at least wanted to be a decoy. You would be. On the floor. Knicks players don’t know that you’re not an option. They do when you are not on the floor. I can’t spend much more time on this. It makes me angry. I hate him so much. However, Bill Cartwright crying over this was a little much. Pippen proved that he didn’t deserve big money. The guy was not a leader, and he should not be mentioned among the greatest ever. Anyway, Kukoc made the shot. Phil Jackson’s choice was a good one.

Jordan’s return was so big. I usually watched games at home, but that day I went to watch with a friend who rooted for Chicago. As you see in the documentary, Bob Costas spoke before the game started. Without knowing it would be in the documentary, that came to mind as I was getting ready to start watching Sunday night’s episodes. I also remember that there was another NBC game on that day. Jordan announced his return the day before his first game back. NBC had no idea that this would happen. Obviously just about everybody saw Michael, but I remember feeling bad for those local markets that couldn’t. It was the highest rated regular season game in 20 years. MJ must have been pretty nervous. His shorts were on backwards. Doug Gottlieb wasn’t the only one who did this. Maybe Doug was just trying to be like Mike.

Bill Wennington speaks throughout the documentary. I kept thinking about his final shot when Jordan scored 55 against the Knicks. We finally saw that. People talk about how the 1993-94 Bulls were very good without Jordan. Chicago was 34-31 the next year when Michael came back. They went from barely having a winning record to 72-10 one season later. Yes, Rodman was added, but I think we know who deserved more credit.

Game 1 in 1998 against the Nets went to overtime. We don’t see that the Nets nearly won it in regulation on a desperation heave. This documentary has been great, but youtube is often a better way to discover exactly how things played out. I didn’t watch all of that game. The Knicks-Heat opener was also scheduled for that night. It started earlier. When they finished, I flipped over to Nets-Bulls.

Steve Kerr and MJ had a feisty exchange in practice. Coach Jackson sent Jordan home. I don’t think Chicago was necessarily great because of incidents like this, but we have definitely seen Michael’s competitive spirit. Even when struggling. It seemed as if Michael willed his teammates to championships. I definitely think that he was capable of elevating others around him. He tried to beat other strong teams instead of joining them.

Episode 7 started with a question from Craig Sager. Jerry Krause was annoyed, and walked away from the gathering. It ended with a surprising moment. An emotional Jordan spoke about how he played the game and his mentality. Jordan then asked for a break to compose himself. We also saw Michael crying on the locker room floor after winning the 1996 championship on Father’s Day. SVP spoke about hearing it. The image was famous. Actually hearing him cry was shocking.

One other note. Jackie McMullan talked about Scottie Pippen in 1994. She said it was more than 15 years ago. This is technically correct, but sounds like a mathematical error. 1994 was 26 years ago. Those of us who remember that era don’t want to admit we’re getting old. It was a long time ago. I graduated high school that year. Just two more episodes remaining!

1992’s Dream Team & Michael Jordan’s Gambling Highlight ‘The Last Dance’ Episodes 5 & 6

Jerry Krause continues to be annoying by emphasizing the organization, and Michael Jordan wants to crush Toni Kukoc and Dan Majerle because Krause has praised them. Jordan isn’t interested in speaking out about politics. A young Kobe Bryant at the 1998 NBA All-Star Game has Michael’s attention. Jordan is making commercials. Those are just some of the topics that I’m NOT diving into, because there is so much to go over. I don’t think people want to spend hours reading these reviews, so not every subject will be covered thoroughly.

One topic that was unintentionally left off from last week’s recap was Isiah Thomas getting snubbed from 1992’s Dream Team. I’m sorry. My notes are quite messy. Fortunately, this came up again. Also, it was discussed during the week in great detail. Bill Laimbeer chimed in. Isiah was interviewed. Stories have been taking off following episodes. It’s almost as if these things are just happening. They are brought back on Sunday night, and given a new life. Shows scramble to interview players featured in the documentary. People have accused Jordan of being the reason why Isiah wasn’t a Dream Team member, but maybe that’s not the case. Thomas was disliked by multiple players. Michael said he asked who would be his teammates. Apparently that decision had already been made.

Since I mentioned last week, one other thing involving Isiah stood out. Detroit won and advanced to the 1990 NBA Finals. CBS throws it to an interview on the court with Jordan. How many times have you seen a losing player interviewed on the floor immediately after his team was eliminated? This didn’t really sink in at first. I was so used to seeing MJ win both back then and in the documentary.

It seems like they could do 20 episodes. I’m not the only one who feels that way. A lot of people on the radio and Twitter have agreed with a number of my takes. One is that the jumping from one year to another is confusing. Especially since 1993 and 1998 were pretty similar. Chicago is looking for the third straight title. It makes sense from a comparison standpoint, but your goal should not be to mix up the audience. Scott Van Pelt’s show has basically become a documentary postgame on Sunday nights. Even his guests were mixed up when he asked a question about one year and their answer was about another.

In other SVP news, they have been doing Bad Beats from the 97-98 Bulls season. These kids don’t understand. Gambling was a lot different back then. You had to find someone who took basketball bets. It wasn’t easy. SVP teased announcer Wayne Larrivee for saying that basically a final basket didn’t mean much. I’m sure he didn’t know the posted total, and I definitely think that Scott was just kidding. Pretend anger. I heard Kevin Harlan calling one of Minnesota’s games against Chicago in another bad beat from that segment.

Social media reacts to Michael Jordan's disrespect of Clyde ...

The Jordan shrug seems to be something that has lasted for many years. He may not have been the first person to do that, but it seemed like he took it to another level. Guys who have done it in recent years may not even realize that they are being influenced by Jordan. Perhaps one player might be taking after somebody else who shrugged, but that guy might have been imitating Michael.

Although the 1992 Knicks-Bulls series is not specifically mentioned, their rivalry comes up in the 1993 rundown. There are times when the documentary doesn’t really lie, but misleads people. Footage is shown of Xavier McDaniel and the 1992 Knicks. Obviously we have to remember that this comes from a Chicago and Jordan point of view. Michael went 3-18 in game 3 after his AC trip became a big deal between games 2 and 3, but there was absolutely no mention of that. It doesn’t fit the narrative.

If Knicks fans were looking for somebody to say that Charles Smith was likely or even possibly fouled in at least one of his many late attempts during game 5, they went to the wrong place. Not that I’m surprised. It wasn’t about Knicks fans. You were not going to hear about their 15 missed free throws. Maybe people are starting to realize that we’re not going to get some Jordan bombshell involving his father’s murder, or even Michael’s hiatus. David Stern has already spoken about his gambling. Anybody who is waiting for a revelation about MJ being secretly suspended is lost. Also, we see NBC reporter Ahmad Rashad being driven to the arena by Jordan. Another person not exactly coming from an unbiased or neutral position.

Michael would use anything to motivate himself. We see that with Clyde Drexler. Earlier, Kukoc and Majerle as I mentioned. Reminds me of when people suddenly started saying that Gerald Wilkins was a Jordan stopper. By this time, Wilkins was with Cleveland. He had played for the Knicks before that. It didn’t end well for Wilkins.

Apparently there has been a lot of nonsense on Twitter (shocking) about Draymond Green being better than Charles Barkley. That seems to be over now after we all saw Barkley doing work in 1993. I think that season was probably where my NBA interest peaked. Recording games. Just having my life revolve around the playoffs. Even though that has been the case for many years, I just had a special passion back then. So much anticipation, and a special enjoyment while watching live. Finally, I have all kinds of memories and still love watching these old games. Not to mention this documentary.

Next week: Phil Jackson’s 1993-94 Bulls. Scottie Pippen has success, but does not get past round two. Should be another great weekend.

Overcoming Detroit’s Bad Boys & Dennis Rodman’s ‘Vacation’ Dominate ‘The Last Dance’

Sunday night gave the quarantined world two more fantastic hours of Chicago Bulls entertainment, and I don’t know where to start. I’m not even sure what the beginning is, as we continue to bounce around. Still my top complaint, but I digress.

It seems like even more topics were buzzing around social media after this weekend’s episodes. Scott Burrell gets embarrassed (destroyed) by Michael Jordan, and his wife tweets about it. Jerry Krause dancing on the plane will not be forgotten anytime soon. However, Carmelo Anthony’s contribution will be. His big addition was remembering that Dennis Rodman one time talked about a regular season game against Washington and how there was no incentive for him to play. This is what he’ll never forget from the Chicago dynasty. It was quite the head-scratcher.

One more complaint before I move on. They chose to skip over some things. There is mention of being on to New York after defeating Cleveland, but no highlights are shown from that series. Joe Benigno actually thanked ESPN for skipping that. As a Knicks fan, Joe wasn’t interested in seeing that series. Somebody apparently didn’t believe it was important, and I am okay with the decision. One can only imagine what was left on the cutting room floor.

I really couldn’t understand why they chose not to show Jordan scoring with seconds remaining in game 3 to force overtime against the Lakers. It was a big moment for MJ and his teammates in their first NBA Finals. Also, we see highlights of Chicago blowing a lead in Utah. There were no highlights of these teams playing in January. That was the marquee game. Super Bowl Sunday on NBC. Bob Costas called the game before flying to California for the football game, but I’m getting off topic. Utah won in Chicago. It was a rematch of the 1997 NBA Finals. Utah was apparently hungrier after losing in June.

We only get a brief comment about the Jazz sweeping both regular season games after they complete that February comeback. Ironically, there is footage on the plane after Jordan wins money on Denver’s win against Green Bay. As I described, the Super Bowl took place just hours after Chicago’s home loss to Utah.

Getting back to Rodman, he was featured in one of the episodes. Saying that he was troubled is an understatement. We see that in the early 90s he drove to the Palace of Auburn Hills parking lot with a gun. You don’t see many athletes kick a cameraman in the groin. Rodman often talks about how he doesn’t care what people think. That’s exactly what someone says when they care a lot. Dennis himself has talked about wanting to be loved. Partying with Carmen Electra in Vegas certainly got plenty of attention. Although I can’t really condone that, it would have been one thing if Dennis was all business other than the 48 hours away. Well, we know it was longer than that. Still, perhaps this could be overlooked if there were no other incidents.

The Last Dance: Carmen Electra Once Hid From Michael Jordan

Rodman claims that he was never a bad teammate and he could be counted on. It’s always something with him. That story Melo mentioned is another example of how Dennis didn’t always have his heart in the right place. I don’t care if he ran fast in practice. This guy was like the total opposite of Allen Iverson. Inconsistent when it came to games, but boy would he give 100 percent during practice. Rodman was a distraction for San Antonio. Chicago could overcome his flaws with Jordan. Yes, he helped at times. I can’t ignore the negative.

When Pippen returned, Dennis didn’t feel important. I think his salary included games when other people were playing. You assume that Rodman knew about Scottie being on the team when his contract was signed. Even if Pippen was out when the season started. Rodman gets away with far too much, and enjoys playing the victim. One of his many flaws is not being able to apologize or take blame. Apparently, asking MJ for an extra cigar was his way of apologizing for getting kicked out. I would think he should be buying cigars to apologize, but Dennis took one instead. Definitely seems like a strange apology. Maybe it’s just me. Pistons coach Chuck Daly was very close to Dennis. I remember him coming out when Rodman was a guest on Oprah Winfrey’s show.

Ron Harper was very upset that Lenny Wilkens wanted Craig Ehlo to guard Jordan before Michael’s famous shot in Cleveland to win the deciding game. He makes this quite clear in the documentary. I remember watching those exciting final 6 seconds live. Seems like yesterday. It was actually more than 30 years ago. Amazingly, that classic Bulls game was not nationally televised. Part of the country saw game 1 between Seattle and the Lakers. Luckily, that game ended first. Dick Stockton welcomes the other audience in time to catch a very dramatic finish. As for Ehlo, he was not interviewed Sunday. Perhaps it was his choice.

I had always heard that Jordan was responsible for Doug Collins getting fired. Apparently that was not the case. I wondered why Jordan would bring Collins to Washington when he was part-owner if they didn’t like each other. Phil Jackson wanted Chicago to play more of a team game, and taking the ball out of Michael’s hand didn’t really appeal to MJ at first. Jackson replaced Collins in 1989 after Detroit defeated the Bulls in 6.

Since we saw Chicago’s championship in 1991, I wonder how much time will be spent on the 1992 Knicks. They defeated Detroit and took Chicago to 7. Only the 92 Knicks and 98 Pacers took the Bulls to a seventh game during their title runs. The Knicks were another group of bad boys. Pat Riley didn’t have his Lakers squad in New York, so he molded a team with physical players that was quite similar to Detroit.

Hearing about the Pistons brought back memories of those Knicks-Bulls games. I can specifically recall one time in particular when Jordan went streaking toward the basket but decided to pull up for a shot. His choice was described as a wise decision. So, it will be interesting to see if any of this comes up. Horace Grant is teased to be part of next week’s lineup. He will be an important character down the road. Should be another great Sunday night.

ESPN’s ‘The Last Dance’ Lives Up to the Hype With Record-Breaking Premiere

The nation has been buzzing about what they watched this weekend…and it has nothing to do with tigers. ESPN was sitting on something big. With the country quarantined, they decided to move up their documentary on the Chicago Bulls.

Parts one and two debuted Sunday. Michael Jordan and his teammates were rock stars in the 90s, and apparently nothing has changed. Millions of people tuned in. ESPN has a history of terrific documentaries, but this one produced record numbers. Often events or programs that are heavily hyped lead to disappointment and negative feedback. Especially with today’s short attention spans and social media. “The Last Dance” seemed to be universally praised. Particularly by those of us who lived through MJ’s brilliance and the Chicago dynasty. It was strange to hear curses allowed. ESPN2 was bleeping the bad words. ESPN decided to go with the salty version. I enjoyed seeing Bob Costas from 40 years ago. He called Bulls games during the 1979-1980 season.

I had one complaint, so I’ll get it out of the way. Too much jumping back and forth. It is primarily about the 97-98 season. Ten hours provides plenty of time to cover other years and various people. It’s just inconsistent. We’re in 1986. One episode focuses on a specific person. Then we are back to their final season together. Oh yeah. That’s where we were. A very minor inconvenience. Honestly, that’s about all I could find that bothered me in the first two episodes.

Obviously, footage has been tremendous. It was expected, but we see all kinds of interesting things. Later interviews with players. Game footage. The team at practice. Jordan’s mother speaking. Everything you could ask for and then some. John Andariese teamed with Skip Caray to call a playoff game on TBS. Did anybody catch the green and blue tie? TBS colors. Several characters other than Jordan were spotlighted. Some really had fans talking (or tweeting). Here is a recap of people that stood out so far:

Our country has a new national enemy. It is Jerry Krause. Although America was shocked to see how players treated the Chicago general manager, most people felt he deserved it. The guy could not wait to take this team apart. He didn’t even want them back for 1998. Telling your coach that was going for a third straight championship and sixth in less than a decade that he was not coming back under any circumstances takes onions. Not even if they went 82-0. It’s interesting that he died before this documentary came out. It was first teased in 2018. Krause passed away back in 2017. I just read that Jordan’s cooperation for the documentary was secured six months after Krause died.

Following his attempt to start rebuilding, the GM’s team barely won a quarter of their games in the next five seasons. Krause resigned in 2003. Chicago has not sniffed another NBA Finals appearance since 1998. Their best chance was when Miami easily disposed of them in 2011. The Bulls fell 4-1 to Miami, and the Heat moved on to face Dallas. Krause wanted more credit for putting the team together. Despite making some good trades, Krause was not responsible for drafting Jordan. He did nothing when given the opportunity to start from scratch. Although he isn’t around to defend himself, I think the actions and results speak for themselves.

Owner Jerry Reinsdorf stuck with Krause. He apparently stepped in and made sure that the team came back intact for 1998, but allowed them to be disbanded after a third straight title. One can only assume that the decision was about money and bringing down payroll. That is the only possible defense for Krause. He might have been taking the fall for Reinsdorf. Choosing to play Jordan after a major injury was also puzzling. Reinsdorf seemed to be logical in explaining his thought process. Not sure how doctors concluded that seven minutes per half would dramatically reduce the chances of Jordan hurting himself again. Also, he was fine to completely let loose in the playoffs. Michael couldn’t go a few extra seconds as Chicago competed for a postseason spot down the stretch. I’m sure Jordan was a total nightmare to deal with, but these things don’t really add up.

Finally, we get to Scottie Pippen. I was not his biggest fan. Pippen always seemed to be a mixed bag, or an enigma. This documentary did nothing to change that for me. We learn about Pippen’s family members. Two of them were in wheelchairs. You start to feel sorry for him. His contract was ridiculously unfair, but Scottie signed it. He wanted security for himself and the family. Having surgery in October and missing games during the season so he could enjoy his summer was not fair to his teammates. Imagine being spiteful and hurting your team because they were only giving you 18 million over 7 years. Remember, this was more than 20 years ago. Contracts had yet to take off when he signed his. It should have been ripped up for a better deal, but that wasn’t going to happen.

MJ felt that the choice Scottie made was selfish. It’s hard to disagree. Reminds me of 1994 when Pippen didn’t take the court for a final shot because the play wasn’t designed for him. God forbid someone else take a key last shot other than the top star. I guess he couldn’t remember John Paxson just one season earlier. Kukoc made a shot to win the playoff game with Pippen on the bench, but Scottie should have been out there as a decoy. For all the talk about him not getting paid fairly, Pippen earned more in his NBA career than Jordan. He was paid a total of more than 109 million.

I’m looking forward to next week’s episodes. Phil Jackson and Dennis Rodman are featured. Should be great!