It seemed like the entire NBA family tuned in to watch “The Last Dance” Sunday night, a documentary film telling the story of the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls. What most people probably didn’t expect was an appearance by the 1997-98 Los Angeles Clippers.
And yet, a pivotal moment in the second episode takes place at the Sports Arena in Los Angeles, where Chicago was looking for its first road win of the season in five tries. The team was without Scottie Pippen, whose choice to delay ankle surgery provides a central source of conflict for the early part of the series. As a result, Michael Jordan and the Bulls were desperate to win, and the film shows Jordan in the pregame huddle delivering an typically motivational speech:
Let’s go out and get our first [road] win. I ain’t gonna say this s**t again.
The Clippers, as might be expected for this era, were not a good team. They were 1-10 to start the year, would finish with 17 wins, and as David Aldridge noted in the documentary, they were “a joke”.
Against all odds, the Clippers came out firing against Chicago. They led by 18 in the second quarter, and though they had swindled that lead by halftime, still kept pace with the Bulls for the rest of the contest. Lamond Murray had 24 points and Brent Barry added 17, including two free throws with 10 seconds left to take the game into overtime. Unfortunately, Darrick Martin missed a jumper that would have won the game at the end of the first extra session, and the Clippers went scoreless in the second overtime. It was the seventh time in the shot clock era that a team failed to score in an overtime period.
Instead, the Bulls won, and Jordan’s 49-point output was the story. The documentary does the great service of sharing part of Ralph Lawler’s call during the game. A couple snippets:
And the answer to the question ‘is Michael Jordan tired?’ No.
No question, we saw greatness here tonight.
The Clippers played the Bulls even closer when the teams met in Chicago later that year, losing by five, one the rare highlights in a miserable year. At least instead of utter irrelevance, their season is remembered as a footnote in the story of “The Last Dance”.
On to the links...
- The NBA community reacted to the premiere of “The Last Dance”. Here are some major takeaways (beyond the Clippers curing the Bulls’ early woes) from the first two episodes.
- This is a good time to remember that the Bulls once considered trading Jordan to the Clippers for the no. 1 and no. 6 pick in the 1988 NBA Draft.
- The league’s Board of Governors met this weekend, and though the NBA “remains committed to resuming the season” in some way or another, commissioner Adam Silver still has no idea how or when.
- The playoffs would have started this weekend, and Ryan Snellings of Clipperholics argues that the Clippers would have swept through the first round.
- Jovan Buha of The Athletic goes through how each Clipper performed this season on a key stat he targeted at the start of the year.
- And finally, a Patrick Beverley vs. LeBron James reenactment. This one’s Pat Bev approved.