SportsPulse: Mackenzie Salmon met with B.J. Armstrong, a former teammate of Michael Jordan, to discuss the next 10-game streak that will highlight the 1997-98 NBA Chicago Bulls season.
The question seemed too difficult to answer. It had nothing to do with the subject. It had everything to do with the volume of material.
After winning three NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls (1996-98), what is Stever Kerr’s favorite story playing with Michael Jordan?
“Oh man,” Kerr said before sighing. He then told a story that happened as if it were yesterday. This happened when a handful of Bulls players ended the shootout by holding a shooting competition from the hash mark on the sidelines.
“Michael saw him and he just had to be involved,” the Golden State Warriors coac said on a conference call on Monday. “So he went downstairs and started to participate in the contest every day. Before I knew it, it was for money. He generally won. “
“The Last Dance”, a 10-part documentary series about the Bulls, will tell this story of Jordan and more. The first two two-hour episodes will air on ESPN at 9 p.m. Sunday. AND, followed by two new episodes for the next four weeks. Although the documentary will share many details about the six NBA championships in Jordan, much of the series will focus on the 1997-98 season of the Bulls, when they won the sixth and third titles in a row before moving on. dissolve.
During this season, Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf, trainer Phil Jackson and Jordan have authorized a film crew from NBA Entertainment to go behind the scenes. In the past two years, director Jason Hehir has interviewed Jordan three times for eight hours combined. Hehir added that Jordan “never censored us once, never once controlled us and never said that a subject was prohibited”.
Therefore, the documentary should offer a revealing window into Jordan’s memorable performances and the demanding leadership style.
“There was pressure accompanying him when you were his teammate, I had never felt anyone,” said Kerr. “It was a great test. We had to step up and compete and perform every day. “
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Kerr learned this in a variety of ways. Jordan sadly punched Kerr in the face during training, which prompted Kerr to retaliate. Jordan also passed the ball to Kerr for a winning shot in Game 6 of the 1997 NBA Finals.
Kerr was not interviewed about these incidents during the conference call. Nevertheless, these different experiences have captured Jordan’s level of respect for Kerr. Jordan apologized to Kerr after their training fight and liked that Kerr did not back down. During the timeout before the game takes place in Game 6, Jordan told Kerr to be ready in case he passed him. A confident Kerr assured Jordan that he would.
“I always thought it was part of Michael’s genius to have raised this bar, the level of competition and performance of our team every day just because of who he was,” said Kerr. “No one wanted to be left behind. He constantly pushed everyone forward. “
The documentary draws on various interviews with Jordan’s teammates, including Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Kerr and others. But Kerr became the only member of the Bulls during Monday’s conference call, which originally planned to include Pippen and Rodman. This left Kerr as the only voice to answer questions about the 1997-98 team.
Among the more quirky developments the Bulls have dealt with this season: Rodman skipped training between Games 3 and 4 of the Final to be able to attend a WCW wrestling match in Auburn Hills, Mich.
Generally speaking, Kerr admitted that this type of incident “puts the coach in a terribly difficult position.” But not Jackson, whom Kerr praised for “how to maintain authority and keep the team going in the face of adversity.” As a result, Jackson did little for the episode.
“I don’t think anything was really that surprising at this point,” said Kerr. “The beauty of Dennis joining the Bulls was that we had a very mature team and there were a lot of veteran players on this team with an incredible coach who understood how to motivate teams and communicate with individuals. “
“Phil had a great connection with Dennis. Just like his teammates. I thought there was a real connection that gave Dennis the freedom and space he needed. It wasn’t a thing where we all complained that Dennis was not doing it at a practice. We sort of understood that he was his own man and he did so much for our team that we allowed him to have that freedom. ”
The Bulls have faced a lot more this season than tolerating Rodman’s antics because of his rebound and reliable defense.
Even before the season started, then general manager Jerry Krause announced that Jackson would not be returning. Jackson expressed the same feelings. Jordan and Pippen said they had no desire to stay if Jackson left and openly shared their annoyance with Krause.
After dominating in 1995-96 (72-10) and 1996-97 (69-13), the Bulls started their season three laps with a record of 8-7. Pippen missed the first 35 games due to out-of-season foot surgery. The Bulls ended the season with a 16-3 streak and won seven of their first eight playoff games. But the Bulls barely survived a seven-game streak in the Eastern Conference finals against the Indiana Pacers. Even in the Bulls’ decisive victory in game six against Utah Jazz in the finals, they faced various double-digit deficits.
Therefore, Kerr considered the last season of the Bulls’ championship “the most difficult of the three” because “we were running with smoke”.
“One of the things that really motivated us that year was mindfulness that was going to be our last dance,” said Kerr. “There was just a lifetime in this team that would not have allowed us to go further even if the players were still under contract. We all felt like that. We were lucky to win this last championship. There were many difficult moments along the way. It was definitely the end. ”
These times will no longer just become distant memories. In less than a week, NBA fans will relive those moments and learn more about things that only Kerr and his teammates may know.
“I’m excited for this film,” said Kerr. “There is a whole generation of young basketball players and fans who have only heard of Michael but have not really experienced his dominance. So to see it up close and see the impact it has had on the game, to see not only the physical but the mental dominance he has brought with him on the field in every game, I think it will be really interesting and informative for a whole generation of young fans. ”
These young fans will also see one of Kerr’s favorite memories in Jordan. During the conference call, Hehir informed Kerr that the documentary contained footage of one of these shooting competitions after the morning shooting on match day 1 of the 1998 NBA Finals.
“Did he win? I bet he did it, “Kerr snapped. Hehir laughed and replied, “We will leave him as a cliffhanger, but I think your description was quite specific. “
“It was sort of a typical Michael story,” said Kerr. “He was thirsty for competition. I think he liked interaction when there were issues. He liked the idea of competing in any form. That’s what made him what he was. “
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