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ESPN's Michael Jordan documentary: Big takeaways from Episodes 5 and 6 of 'The Last Dance'

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Wilbon: MJ had enormous respect for Kobe (2:10)

Michael Wilbon shares a story that displays Michael Jordan's competitive spirit and how close he and Kobe Bryant really were. (2:10)

ESPN's 10-part documentary series "The Last Dance," which chronicles Michael Jordan and the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls, continued Sunday with Episodes 5 and 6.

Jordan and the Bulls allowed NBA Entertainment to follow them throughout the season and document their final championship. The series features never-before-seen footage, as well as interviews with more than 100 people close to the team.

Here's what you need to know from the fifth and sixth episodes, which covered Jordan's rise to "Air Jordan," the 1992 Dream Team and Jordan's first retirement.

MORE: How to replay Episodes 5 and 6


ESPN's NBA experts on 'The Last Dance'

Our team weighs in with their biggest takeaways from the fifth and sixth episodes of the series. This will be updated throughout the night.

  • Tim Bontemps: Even knowing that Kobe Bryant was going to be part of the fifth part of "The Last Dance," seeing the beginning of the episode -- and hearing Bryant both speak and be spoken about by other stars heading into the 1998 NBA All-Star Game -- brought back a mixture of emotions.

    It was funny to hear the grizzled veterans in the Eastern Conference locker room -- a group that included Tim Hardaway, Reggie Miller, Penny Hardaway and, obviously, Jordan himself -- talk about the brash, young kid who wanted to make everything a one-on-one contest. At the same time, it was poignant to hear Bryant speak about Jordan in such reverent tones and clearly show emotion for the person whom Bryant did everything he could to emulate.

    "I truly hate having discussions about who would win one-on-one," Bryant said. "You heard fans saying, 'Hey, Kobe, you'd beat Michael one-on-one.' And I feel like, yo, what you get from me is from him. I don't get five championships here without him because he guided me so much and gave me so much great advice."

    It also was an interesting choice to not have Jordan speak about Bryant in the doc. Then again, he undoubtedly said all he would've wanted to in his moving speech at Bryant's memorial service earlier this year.

  • Ohm Youngmisuk: At 19, Kobe Bryant walked into Madison Square Garden as the youngest All-Star ever. The 1998 All-Star Game also happened to be my first ASG for the New York Daily News. I couldn't wait to watch Michael Jordan play against the best in his favorite arena.

    What I ended up seeing was Jordan fending off Bryant in a historic generational moment. Sure, Kobe famously waved off Karl Malone and might've hogged the ball. But it was special.

    Not long ago, I asked former New Jersey Nets power forward Jayson Williams, who played in that All-Star Game, about MJ passing the torch that night.

    "I don't think MJ would pass anything to Kobe," Williams said with a laugh. "Might pass him a stick of dynamite!"

  • Jackie MacMullan: Danny Ainge played for the Portland Trail Blazers in the 1992 NBA Finals and was really concerned because people were saying Clyde Drexler might actually be on par with Jordan. "I knew we were in trouble because Clyde was getting all this hype, and Michael was being very deferential, saying all the right things,'' Ainge told me. "I knew he wouldn't stop until he made it clear that no one -- not Clyde or anyone else -- was on his level.'' Jordan outscored Drexler 39-16 in Game 1 and never looked back. Weeks later, he and Drexler were Olympic teammates, and Jordan rode Drexler so hard that some of the players finally asked him to back off.

  • Dave McMenamin: Seeing Jordan lean into the nostalgia surrounding his last trip to Madison Square Garden as a Bull by breaking out his original Air Jordans made me think of the conspiracy theory Kobe Bryant told me about that game.

    It was Jan. 21, 2011. We were in Denver, hanging on the baseline following Lakers shootaround at the Pepsi Center. I wanted to know, with the five-year anniversary of his 81-point game coming the next day, if he would be tempted to dust off his Nike Zoom Kobe 1s -- the kicks he wore against the Toronto Raptors when he went for 81 -- the way Jordan went retro at MSG. Kobe gave me the "Did this man really say what I think he said?" glare he would shoot me from time to time when my questions came out of left field before bowling me over with his response.

    No, he wouldn't be wearing those sneakers, he told me. And no, Jordan wasn't wearing the AJ1s to celebrate coming full circle at the World's Most Famous Arena, either. At least, not according to Kobe. It was purely a business move by Michael, Kobe told me. Nike was planning to re-release Jordan's signature sneakers, and what better way to make people want to buy shoes from the '80s than to see Jordan rock them in the late '90s?

  • Nick DePaula: It's wild to consider that Michael's parents each changed the course of sneaker history -- not once but twice.

    "I was Adidas," Jordan revealed in the documentary. Deloris Jordan, who convinced her son to take the Swoosh meeting, remembers Michael saying, "I am not going to Nike, Momma."

    Jordan almost tried to leave Nike in 1987, after Peter Moore, the Air Jordan 1 and 2 designer, was hired by Adidas. At the height of his dissent, Jordan was four hours late to his Air Jordan 3 meeting because he was out golfing. This time, it was his father, James, who pushed him to make the meeting, honor his Nike contract and stay put.

    Michael's brand now earns more than $3 billion annually. Who knows what the sneaker industry might have become had the Air Jordan series never truly taken off.

  • Jesse Rogers: Even before it went national, it was an open secret in Chicago that MJ loved to gamble. I once ran into him on a casino boat where they had a table roped off for him but, other than that, no other security that I remember. He was playing thousands per hand, and he actually waved me under the rope for a moment. I literally played a $5 chip next to his thousand and then quickly retreated after he laughed at me for it.

    The point is, until that Atlantic City trip, no one cared. Then it all blew up.

  • Andrew Lopez: Just how wild was Michael Jordan hitting six 3-pointers in a half? That season, Jordan was 27-for-100 from long range in the regular season. In the first 16 playoff games that season, he was 5-of-16. So just to prove a point that he shouldn't be in the same conversation as Clyde Drexler, Jordan goes out and drops what is still an NBA-record 35 points in the first half. The shrug toward Magic Johnson, whom Jordan played cards with, still stands as one of the most iconic Jordan moments.

  • Ramona Shelburne: Whatever you think of Michael Jordan's explanation for his "Republicans buy sneakers, too" quote or disinterest in endorsing Harvey Gantt in his race against Jesse Helms, it was impressive to me that he allowed former President Barack Obama to express disappointment with him right after his explanation. Remember, Michael Jordan controlled this footage for more than two decades. He could have shaped or rewritten that narrative any way he wanted. In the end, he stepped back and let the former president say his piece.

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MJ blames Horace Grant for information leak

Michael Jordan places blame on Horace Grant for leaking team information to the media.

  • Tim Bontemps: Ever since the 1992 Olympics with the Dream Team, one of the holy grails in basketball circles has been to see footage of the practices that went on among that collection of some of the greatest players who have ever lived. The one film that everyone talks about -- the day they played against a team full of prominent college players, including Bobby Hurley and Chris Webber -- wasn't shown in "The Last Dance."

    What was shown was a game in Monte Carlo between a team led by Charles Barkley and Magic Johnson and a team led by Jordan. After Johnson's team took an early lead, Jordan dragged his team back single-handedly and won, establishing himself as the dominant presence on the team.

    Hearing Jordan say "This is the '90s" to Johnson as he was on his way to winning the scrimmage was a signal to everyone in the room: My time is now. That everyone in a room full of alpha male players agreed made it all the more impressive.

    Given how basketball starved we are right now, it would be nice if some more of that footage could surface -- even if the quality isn't quite up to the standards of today.

  • Nick Friedell: Tim Hallam has worked for the Bulls for more than 40 years. As the longtime public relations director for the organization, Hallam had a unique window into just how much attention Michael Jordan dealt with from the beginning of his tenure in Chicago until the end. At the beginning of Episode 6 of "The Last Dance," Hallam describes the fact that the only place Jordan could stay under the radar on the road was his hotel room. Once he left, the attention was always on him anywhere he went.

    "I wouldn't want to be like Mike," Hallam says at the end of his commentary. "It's an impossible task."

    In the next clip, a camera crew walks into Jordan's hotel room prior to a road game during the '97-98 season, and he sounds like a man who has grown tired of the spotlight, like a player who is ready to leave the game.

    "This is not one of those lifestyles that you envy, where you're confined to this room," Jordan says while lying on a couch with a cigar in his hand. "I'm ready for getting out of this life. You know when you getting to that point."

    Jordan nods his head to accentuate his point.

    "I'm there," he says. "There will be no reservations at all. I'm there."

  • Eric Woodyard: Honestly, is anyone surprised? Michael Jordan doesn't like Isiah Thomas even after all these years. Today's segment proved that yet again. After all these years, MJ also finally addressed the reason behind Thomas' not making the Dream Team -- and although he wasn't directly behind it, he certainly didn't vouch for Thomas to play on the team, either. The "No Isiah Thomas questions" comment from him was actually funny. This was the first time I've heard MJ praise Thomas as the second-greatest floor general behind Magic Johnson. I actually was more surprised by that. These are real-deal competitors even to this day.

  • Kevin Pelton: Michael Jordan had a right to be aggrieved about losing the 1992-93 MVP to Charles Barkley. Jordan finished third in the voting behind Barkley and Hakeem Olajuwon, getting 13 of 98 first-place votes. Jordan led the league by a wide margin in Basketball-Reference.com's value over replacement player metric, with Barkley fourth, trailing Karl Malone. Although my wins above replacement player stat favored Olajuwon over Jordan, it too had Barkley fourth (with David Robinson third). From this perspective, Barkley got too much credit from voters for Phoenix's nine-win improvement after the team added him in a trade.

  • Royce Young: Jordan always had the drive to be great. That's what his first title was all about -- validation. He wanted to be a true titan of the league, alongside Larry and Magic. But after that, what happens? What happens when you are great? When you've accomplished the goal? The journey to getting there is often better than the destination. Reading a good book is better than finishing it. You can shift perspective, but to go from great to greatest you have to find more.

    For Jordan, that came in the form of minor motivations. Needling Jerry Krause by dominating Toni Kukoc in the 1992 Olympics. Attacking Dan Majerle because he was regarded as a good defender. Setting out to prove a point against Barkley because he won the MVP. That list of manifested motivations is a long one for Jordan -- his Hall of Fame speech clued us in to most of the items on it -- because winning titles wasn't enough for him to maintain greatness, to keep the edge sharp. There had to be another hurdle, another someone to prove wrong, another reason to compete. That's why when the very best players try to tell you they don't read or listen to anybody, they're almost always lying.

    There's a fine line between motivation and distraction, and Jordan's ability to take the latter and channel it into the former became one of his greatest weapons.

  • Mike Schmitz: I would have loved to see Toni Kukoc in today's NBA, as his game was perfectly suited for modern basketball. A 6-foot-10, fluid point forward loaded with creativity, Kukoc would be a triple-double machine with Luka Doncic-level freedom, constant high ball screens and never-ending space to operate, likely leaving him with a much different legacy. On top of that, his transition would have been far easier, given the international flavor in the NBA now compared to back then. But it was Kukoc, one of the most accomplished European prospects of all time, who helped pave the way for prospects such as Doncic. A three-time Euroleague Final Four MVP and two-time FIBA Eurobasket MVP, Kukoc remains a hero for young European prospects and the gold standard for longtime international scouts.

  • Eric Woodyard: This episode really increased my respect for veteran journalist Sam Smith. It takes a lot of guts to expose some of the things that he reported in his book "The Jordan Rules." Honestly, I don't know if many reporters would've been strong enough to share those things concerning a megastar such as Michael Jordan during an era when everyone wanted to "Be like Mike."

    In fact, it's amazing that Smith is still relevant to this day and has even written an autobiography for Derrick Rose while contributing to the Bulls' team website. I can't imagine that happening today. He has my ultimate respect. I need those sources, Sam.


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From the archives: Michael Jordan has not left the building

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'The Last Dance' trailer: How 'Like Mike' became a worldwide phenomenon

On Sunday, relive the sensation that was "I want to be like Mike." Episodes 5 and 6 of "The Last Dance" debut at 9:00 p.m. ET on ESPN.

'The scariest game we ever faced': The Bulls talk about their toughest Game 7

Chicago's "Last Dance" almost ended in May 1998. The Pacers and the Bulls recount a Game 7 each team thought it should win.

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Breaking down Michael Jordan's shrug

Take a look at Michael Jordan's iconic shrug from Game 1 of the 1992 NBA Finals and how it has been mimicked by many athletes since.

Seven ways the NBA has changed since MJ's Bulls

The NBA is completely different now than it was two decades ago.


Full schedule

Sunday, May 10

  • 7 p.m. ET | Re-air of "The Last Dance" Episode 5

  • 8 p.m. ET | Re-air of "The Last Dance" Episode 6

  • 9 p.m. ET | Premiere of "The Last Dance" Episode 7

  • 10 p.m. ET | Premiere of "The Last Dance" Episode 8

Sunday, May 17

  • 7 p.m. ET | Re-air of "The Last Dance" Episode 7

  • 8 p.m. ET | Re-air of "The Last Dance" Episode 8

  • 9 p.m. ET | Premiere of "The Last Dance" Episode 9

  • 10 p.m. ET | Premiere of "The Last Dance" Episode 10

Netflix (outside of the U.S.)

  • Monday, May 4 | 12:01 a.m. PT | "The Last Dance" Episodes 5 and 6

  • Monday, May 11 | 12:01 a.m. PT | "The Last Dance" Episodes 7 and 8

  • Monday, May 18 | 12:01 a.m. PT | "The Last Dance" Episodes 9 and 10

MORE: How to replay Episodes 5 and 6