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The background characters of “The Last Dance,” episodes one and two



The first and second episodes of "The Last Dance" premiered on ESPN last night.


[WATCHEpisode 1|Episode 2]


Though a little bit formulaic --he’s from Wilmington/he went to Chapel Hill/he was drafted by the Bulls-- it was only the tip of the iceberg of the epic, never-before-seen Mike we’ve all heard about for the last 20 years.


(One thing the first two parts were missing -- and what hopefully comes at some point in the next eight parts -- is a simple montage of him playing with some nice violin music, like there was in the O.J. doc.)


Part of what made Mike, Mike, was the orbit with which every peripheral character revolved around him. Only Phil Jackson, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman were able to break that force and command some magnitude of their own.


For everyone else, it was about finding a niche in Mike’s grand production.


Here's a quick background on some of the side characters from episodes one and two:


  • Jerry Krause: If you watched last night, you know his deal already. But have you considered that he looked exactly like the greedy oil guy in a New Yorker cartoon? 

  • Ron Harper: He's the guy who always looks like he’s thinking of a funny joke from a day before; the guy who we see Jordan yell at in episode two (fuckin’ Harp!). Harper was a notable player whose personal achievements were swallowed whole when he joined the Bulls. In ‘93-94, he averaged 20.1 points for the Clippers. Over the next four seasons in Chicago, he averaged 6.9, 7.4, 6.3 and 9.3 points per game, but joined a quartet of terrific defenders consisting of him, Mike, Pippen and Rodman. 

  • Luc Longley: He's the Australian-born big man who was being paid more than Scottie Pippen in 1997, whose head was simply enormous. Despite the dopey looks, Longley was a productive player in 1997-98, averaging 11.4 points and 5.9 rebounds. 

  • Jerry Reinsdorf: The longtime owner of both the Bulls and White Sox, who stood to profit from the MJ era more than anyone else, except MJ. Also, he tried to move the White Sox to Tampa Bay, essentially chose Jerry Krause over Jackson and Mike after the 1998 season, and only just fired #GarPax after a 20-year rebuild. 

  • Bill Wennington: Reserve on the ‘98 Bulls. Not a WWE wrestler.

  • Common: You know Common the rapper, but, last night, we were introduced to Common the ball boy, who Mike once permitted to forge his signature.

  • Roy Williams: Now the famed coach at North Carolina, Williams was a doggone assistant to Dean Smith during the Chapel Hill Jordan years. (He also coached at Kansas from ‘88 to ‘03). He is the quintessential southern gent, and briefly stole the show last night. “Michael Jordan is the only player who could turn it on and off. And he never freakin’ turned it off.”  

  • The french mic guy who solicited an MJ autograph: “Would you mind signing this please?”

  • Toni Kucoč: A solid role player for the late-’90s Bulls, but more interesting is how he got to Chicago. Krause had drafted him in 1990 from Croatia (he joined the Bulls in ‘93) and obsessed over bringing him to America in the early-’90s, which pissed off Mike and Scottie to no end. This led to a tag-team domination of Kucoč in a game between America and Croatia in the ‘92 Olympics. 

  • Steve Kerr: Obviously, Kerr has managed to remain hyper relevant. But what’s given him longevity is his ability to know exactly who he is. He thrived as a reserve in Chicago, and had his White Guy sense of humor down to a science during those years.

  • Barack Obama: A person who lived in Chicago, and also Somerville.


[LISTEN: Reaction to episodes one and two on the Bill Simmons Podcast]



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