5 things we learned from Episodes 5 and 6 of ‘The Last Dance’

Photo credit should read ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images
Photo credit should read ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images /
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The Last Dance
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3. How big the gambling controversy was

Everyone remembers gambling as one of the most controversial things about Michael Jordan’s reign over the ’90s, and it’s even been speculated that his first NBA retirement stemmed from commissioner David Stern making him step away from basketball due to all that gambling. The most interesting part of that whole ordeal in ’93, however, was the underlying context.

Jordan was beloved around the world, seen as an infallible, perfect athlete who never did anything wrong. When a $57,000 check addressed to Slim Bouler, a golf hustler and buddy of Jordan’s, came to light, the public became consumed with investigating whether sports’ golden boy actually had vices to worry about.

Between “The Jordan Rules” book and the gambling news blowing up once again, the 1992-93 season was incredibly taxing for the Bulls, who were already dealing with the expected challenges that come with attempting a three-peat.

“I remember Magic Johnson saying, ‘You guys are gonna drive him outta this game if you keep this up,'” David Aldridge recalled. “‘Cause he’s tired of you guys pickin’ on him.”

In the Eastern Conference Finals that year, the Bulls found themselves trailing the New York Knicks 2-0, but the bigger story was Jordan taking a trip to Atlantic City the night before Game 2 to unwind with his father. Jordan maintains he was back at the hotel at a reasonable hour, but the media blew it up into questions about his commitment to basketball and his possible addiction.

Jordan responded to all the media scrutiny in Game 3, leading the Bulls to four straight wins and eventually a third straight championship. But because of all the off-court controversy, it was a mentally and emotionally draining season, during which he even stopped talking to the media for a time.

“People build you up to tear you down, and it happens in sports all the time,” Ahmad Rashad said. “If a team wins too much, you want ‘em to lose.”