The Last Dance’ winners and losers: Michael Jordan, Gary Payton win big; Scottie Pippen takes biggest loss

The Last Dance” — ESPN’s 10-part documentary chronicling the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls — hit a high point on Sunday for a series that, as promised by director Jason Hehir, just keeps getting better. To be fair, every episode has been a home run. Ratings are through the roof. But Sunday’s episodes hit from every angle on a range of topics that, in their own way, encapsulate everything Jordan and the Bulls represented.

Some good. Some bad.

Let’s look at the winners and losers:

Jordan: Winning 6th NBA title with Bulls was a 'trying year' | WBFF

Winner: Michael Jordan

Episode 7 is, in my opinion, Jordan’s finest hour of the series so far. He provides us with the most human moment we’re likely to see as he’s moved to tears talking about his take on leadership and the embers that stoked his maniacal motivation.

There’s an old rule in writing that says “show, don’t tell,” and the “show” part of that rule is what we get in these episodes. For years we’ve been told stories about Jordan mentally, and sometimes physically, bludgeoning his teammates as he dragged them into his sphere of obsession, but here is the man behind the madness.

Why he was the way he was. What this all meant to him. As the seventh episode draws to a dramatic close, Jordan — at the end of a leadership riff — actually has to tell the director to “break” as he composes himself, and it does not feel like a product of fancy editing. It’s amazing how much this all meant, and still means, to him.

I keep thinking about the scene of Jordan face down in the locker room after winning the 1996 title, cupping the ball tight, almost like a kid with his teddy bear, sobbing. I suppose it speaks to the difference between mortal people like me and the one percent of high-achievers in the world, but I never could understand how something like sports, winning some game or trophy, could mean that much to anyone. But it’s not the victory, I’ve come realize, that taps into the deepest emotions. It’s the loss that preceded it.

Dennis G. Lipson

Dennis G. Lipson

Dennis G. Lipson

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