Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle responded to his brief, not-so-glamorous appearance in the opening episode of ESPN's "The Last Dance" with a wry bit of self-deprecating humor.
"There must have been an exhaustive search to find footage of me actually PLAYING in an NBA playoff game," Carlisle wrote in a text reply to an inquiry about his thoughts on the clip that showed him as a Boston Celtics reserve guard being torched by Michael Jordan for a dunk after a baseline spin.
The documentary, showing footage from Jordan's 49-point performance in the 1986 playoff opener at Boston Garden, quickly cut to a clip of Carlisle awkwardly scratching the back of his neck while lining up for a Jordan free throw. (That was after a foul by Carlisle that was actually committed the next possession.)
"I mean, Carlisle just wants his mommy," the color commentator said.
Carlisle's cameo instantly went viral, in large part due to his status as one of the NBA's most respected coaches with 791 wins, a Coach of the Year award and the 2010-11 NBA championship on his résumé. A tweet from Mavericks reserve point guard Jalen Brunson summed up the general reaction.
"Lol come on coach," Brunson wrote along with an accompanying face-palm emoji.
Lol come on coach 🤦🏽♂️— Jalen Brunson (@jalenbrunson1) April 20, 2020
Carlisle didn't care to delve into the details of a game played 36 years ago, but he actually should be pretty proud of his performance that night.
Sure, Jordan scorched Carlisle, blowing by him for a layup, spinning for the dunk seen by 6.1 million viewers Sunday night and drawing a couple of fouls on him. But Jordan scorched all the Celtics who tried to guard him, including point guard Dennis Johnson, a nine-time All-Defensive Team selection who picked up his third foul with 10:38 remaining in the second quarter, prompting Boston coach K.C. Jones to summon Carlisle from the bench.
Chicago led by 10 when Carlisle checked into the game. The Celtics outscored the Bulls by seven during Carlisle's seven-minute stint, a stretch of which Carlisle spent guarding George Gervin while Jordan rested. Gervin, the Hall of Famer known as the "Iceman" who was in his final NBA season, missed the only shot he attempted over Carlisle, whose only statistics recorded in the game other than his two fouls were a pair of assists and one missed field goal.
The Celtics dominated the rest of the game to cruise to a 123-104 win for the first victory of their series sweep to start a championship run in which Carlisle, then a 26-year-old in his second NBA season, played a total of 54 postseason minutes.
Carlisle could claim that he got a measure of revenge against Jordan in the next game. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Jordan scored against every Boston player who matched up defensively against him in that game except for Carlisle. Jordan was 0-for-1 from the floor against Carlisle in that game and 22-of-40 otherwise while scoring a playoff-record 63 points.