On Sunday, ESPN aired the first two episodes of The Last Dance.
The Last Dance details the Chicago Bulls‘ 1997-98 Championship season and chronicles the Bulls’ last season of their epic dynasty that headlined the NBA throughout the 1990s.
Guided by head coach, Phil Jackson, the Bulls finished the 1997-98 season, 62-20 and had a roster that was headlined by Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen an Dennis Rodman. The Bulls’ supporting cast on their roster included Toni Kukoc, Ron Harper, Steve Kerr, Scott Burrell, Rany Brown, Jud Buechler, Ron Harper, Bill Wennington, Dickey Simpkins, Joe Kleine, Luc Longley and Jason Caffey.
In episode one of The Last Dance, we learned that Bulls general manager Jerry Krause wanted to dismantle the Bulls’ roster with the blessing of Chicago owner Jerry Reinsdorf. “Interesting to say the least,” Chicago Bulls big man, Jason Caffey told me via text message when I asked him what he thought of the documentary so far.
“A lot was going on between front office and players, which could have collapsed the second three-peat. However it just shows you that no one can defeat the heart of a true champion.”
Also in episode one, we learned the makings of the man of Michael Jordan. In that episode, viewers witnessed the story of Jordan’s rise as a member of the Dean Smith, James Worthy, Sam Perkins-led University of North Carolina Tar Heels team and the early portions of being the Bulls’ top pick in the 1984 NBA Draft. “I was one of the first to know Michael and see his talent in the raw,” James Worthy told Spectrum Sports Los Angeles’ Timothy Parker.
“By bringing the documentary,it really, really helps people to heal.”
In episode two of The Last Dance, viewers learn about the ascension of Hamburg, Arkansas’ own, Scottie Pippen.
Pippen, part of all of the Bulls championship runs from 1991 to 1998, retired with career averages of 16.1 points, 6.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists per contest.
Worth noting: Pippen entered Central Arkansas University as a 6’1 guard. By the time he left, the forward grew to a 6’8 frame.
Sticking with the topic of Pippen, episode two also highlighted the tumultuous relationship that Pippen had with Krause.
To be very specific: In 1991, Pippen agreed to a seven-year, $18 million contract in 1991. Pippen cited that he did it out of wanting financial security because he grew up poor.
Pippen was grossly underpaid in comparison to his Bulls counterparts.
Taking a cursory look at the Bulls payroll numbers during the 1997-98 NBA season, Pippen made less money than seven other Bulls teammates.
Below are the pay scales of the top earners on the Bulls roster:
Michael Jordan – $33,140,000
Ron Harper – $4,560,000
Toni Kukoc – $4,560,000
Dennis Rodman – $4,500,000
Luc Longley – $3,184,900
Scottie Pippen – $2,775,000
That’s kind of crazy when you factor in that Pippen led the Bulls in assists and steals.
For those keeping score at home: Pip was also second on the Bulls in scoring, rebounding and minutes.
In 44 regular season games, he averaged 19.1 points, 5.8 assists and 5.2 rebounds per game.
In today’s NBA, however, no modern player would find himself in Pippen’s current predicament because the collective bargaining agreement has a mandate on shorter contracts.
Worth noting: The following season was a lockout shortened season and the Bulls disbanded after winning their last championship in 1998.
Jordan retired for the second time, Dennis Rodman briefly played for the Los Angeles Lakers and Pippen was shipped to the Houston Rockets in a sign-and-trade deal. He signed a five-year $67.2 million deal and was shipped to Houston in exchange for Roy Rogers and a 2nd round pick in the 2000 NBA Draft.
That move was significant because Pippen’s Rockets salary was $11 million per year.
That rate is almost four times as much as his salary the previous season with the Chicago Bulls at $2.775 million.
This coming Sunday, episode three of The Last Dance will feature Dennis Rodman. “He was so dedicated to being a great player,” Scott Burrell, a member of that Bulls team told me last week on the Scoop B Radio Podcast.
“To watch him go to work, and not even look to score, but STILL dominate a game defensively and rebounding, it was AMAZING that someone could do that without trying to score. His knowledge of the game – his IQ was unbelievable.”