It was with a mixture of anticipation and dread that I watched the final two episodes “The Last Dance” this weekend. While the ESPN/Netflix documentary has helped filled time normally reserved for sports that are paused, it has also brought some painful childhood memories to the forefront.
Parts nine and ten detailed the Bulls triumph over the Utah Jazz in back to back NBA Finals in 1997 and 1998.
Thus, the teenage Utah Jazz fan that still lives somewhere inside me, was understandably not keen on reliving the infamy of the “Flu Game” and Michael Jordan’s last shot over Bryon Russell to end the 1998 Finals.
As I may have said before, my dad, Ruben, and I regularly watched the NBA playoffs when I was younger.
I still have memories of weekend afternoons watching playoff games on TNT or NBC.
I guess I’m finally able to be nostalgic and appreciate “how things used to be.”
Something about the NBA on NBC’s theme song, “Roundball Rock” gets me fired up.
Basketball always held a special place for us. As the oldest of three siblings, I was the most likely to join my dad in watching sports.
I used to think that my dad liked watching basketball so much because he grew up in Brooklyn during the height of the New York Knicks championship teams of the early 70s.
However, the older I get the more I think the idea of spending time with me or any of us kids was the most important thing.
Our family moved to the Salt Lake City area in the early eighties ahead of the arrival of Karl Malone and John Stockton, Utah’s future NBA Hall of Famers.
My dad was a noncommissioned officer (NCO) back stationed at Hill Air Force Base back then.
Over the years, I became used to spending May and June watching the Jazz make deep runs into the playoffs.
Even after we moved to Oklahoma in 1992, my dad and still watched Jazz battle in the Western Conference playoffs. This included battles with the Portland Trailblazers, the Phoenix Suns, the Houston Rockets and Seattle Supersonics.
The last team on that list became the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2008. Within a few years, there seemed to be a sense of déjà vu around that team as they too battle a gruesome Western Conference for a spot in the NBA Finals.
It’s probably no surprise to the casual observer that I probably hated Michael Jordan growing up.
It took the passage of time and watching LeBron James chase titles for me to change my tune.
A short scene in the 2011 movie, “Bad Teacher” also helped me appreciate the greatness of Jordan. In the scene, a teacher and student debate who’s better, MJ or LeBron. The teacher played by Jason Segel seemingly wins the argument by saying, “call me when LeBron has six championships.”
The series finale picked at the scab of old wounds as it opened with an image of Salt Lake City with the silhouette of the Wasatch Mountain looming large in the background.
Sportscaster David Aldridge said the Jazz came back better in 1998 after their 1997 NBA Finals loss. While that may have been the case, history was written by winners.
In this case, that was Michael Jordan and the Bulls. I’ll be the first to admit that they made for fascinating documentary subject.
Many documentaries offer a behind the scenes look at their respective subjects. However, “The Last Dance” sticks out due to the time it allows to let the story be told. The pacing worked even when there were flashbacks to times before the 1997-1998 season.
At the end of the day, it gave one nineties kid one more chance to go down memory lane.