The 23 Most Fascinating Takeaways from Episodes 1 and 2 of ESPN’s Michael Jordan Series

© Getty Phil Jackson of the Chicago Bulls is seen with Michael Jordan before the game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Nov. 21, 1997.

“Sirius” is a synth-driven instrumental from the Alan Parsons Project, but for me and untold numbers of other kids obsessed with the Chicago Bulls, it was our personal anthem.

At the end of the first episode of ESPN’s “The Last Dance,” the epic 10-part Bulls documentary series that launched Sunday night, I’m right back in 1996, a teenager glued to my parents’ pre-HD TV as the first notes of “Sirius” sound and Michael Jordan gets set to run into the techno-lighted madness of Chicago’s United Center.

I was a Michael Jordan fanatic — posters on the wall, T-shirts and jerseys in the drawers, books on the shelves. I had Jordan cologne, a Jordan watch, cereal boxes with his face on them. My fanciest tie? It had Jordan shooting a jumper on it.

I cried in despair when he retired. I cried with joy when he came back.

And I thought, in my obsession, that I knew everything there was to know about him.

I didn’t. Not even close.

The first two parts of “The Last Dance” offer so many new details, and reminders of details forgotten, about Jordan, Scottie Pippen (the episodes’ other focus) and the Bulls dynasty (and pre-dynasty) that even the most learned Granville Waiters scholar comes away freshly enlightened. Here are 23 things this die-hard Chicagoan found most fascinating in Episodes 1 and 2.

1. It’s jarring to see Jordan as something other than an abstract icon. But there you are, in his house. It’s the most human lens through which we’ve ever seen him. The sweetest moment comes when his mother, Deloris, reads a letter he wrote her while he was at North Carolina.

2. In the letter, Jordan includes his bank account number and asks for cash. “I have only 20 dollars in there. . . . P.S. Sorry for the phone bill. Please also send me some stamps.”

3. Before Jordan got to the Bulls, TV anchors called them a “dying franchise.” They were getting outdrawn in their arena by an indoor soccer team, the Chicago Sting.

4. In his first preseason, Jordan tells a story about walking into a teammate’s hotel room in Peoria, Ill., and seeing cocaine, weed and a buffet of other vices. When the filmmakers tell Jordan that the team was referred to as a “traveling cocaine circus,” Jordan unleashes a huge knee-slapping laugh.

5. After missing most of his second season with a broken foot, Jordan went off on the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs. Even though the Bulls were swept, he scored 49 points in the opener and 63 in Game 2 at Boston Garden. “That wasn’t Michael Jordan out there,” Larry Bird said. “That was God disguised as Michael Jordan.”

6. Immediately after the Bulls’ fifth championship, Jordan was asked about a rebuild. “No one is guaranteed rebuilding in two, three or four years,” he said. “The Cubs have been rebuilding for 42 years.”

7. Jordan can be a smartass. He cracks jokes at the expense of players who haven’t won before. We see him give Phil Jackson a mock exaggerated fist pump after a pregame speech.

8. We think of Pippen as a defensive whiz and skilled “point forward,” but you can poster a small room with the dunk footage from the two episodes.

9. “I don’t care if you win 82 games in a row, this is going to be your last year,” Bulls general manager Jerry Krause tells Jackson before the 1997-98 season.

10. Jackson put the title “The Last Dance” on the cover of the Bulls’ team handbook and gave it to players on the first day of training camp.

11. Imagine LeBron James being asked about the Lakers’ biggest challenges during the upcoming season and James responding by looking up in the direction of Rob Pelinka’s office. Yup, Jordan did that to Krause.

12. Krause’s fixation and flirtation with Tim Floyd as Jackson’s replacement was so bungled that Krause invited only one of the two coaches to a family wedding — and that coach wasn’t the one who worked for him.

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SOURCE: Los Angeles Times, Dan Woike

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