'The Last Dance' should have seemed familiar for Patriots fans

Rob Bradford
April 19, 2020 - 11:10 pm
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This was not my intention.

I desperately wanted to soak in the first two episodes of "The Last Dance" and use it as a gateway to remember those days of Michael Jordan ending up on the wrong end of some Larry Bird mid-80's beatdowns. And when the first couple of minutes of the 10-part series included a very young Jordan saying the Bulls could "hopefully" someday approach the success of the Celtics, we seemed to be on our way.

Nope.

It was impossible to watch the first night of this much-anticipated docuseries without coming back to one thing: Tom Brady and the Patriots.

The connection was more than just a continued debate regarding the two dynasties. That was the predictable part. Really, the behind-the-scenes retrospective of that 1997-98 Bulls team -- coined "The Last Dance" by its coach Phil Jackson because it marked the end of a run which had included five NBA championships in seven seasons -- reeked of what we just went through with the New England football team.

One sound byte after another, the chaos and intrigue of the two situations seemed to overlap.

"We were the image people wanted to be part of. That’s all you can hope for." - Jackson.

"We felt like we were the greatest team ever." - Scottie Pippen.

"There is no such thing as a one-man team." - Mark Eaton.

"You could argue that Jordan was as good at his job anybody was as their job." - Mark Vancil.

Get it? Tom Brady was Jordan and the Patriots were the Bulls. But especially during that first hour, the story's foundation - all the behind-the-scenes controversy involving Jordan's final year in Chicago - just screamed TB 12 to Tompa Bay. 

There was the image of a French hoop player asking for Jordan's armband in the same manner we saw so many of Brady's opponents plea for is equipment following games last season. And the doc reminded of depths these sorts of fanbases endured before getting their superstars, with the Chicago Sting indoor soccer team outdrawing the Bulls before Jordan's arrival. Heck, Jordan had a guy named Tim Grover to be his Alex Guerrero before Alex Guerrero became Brady's Alex Guerrero.

It wasn't exactly apples to apples. Remember, the Bulls' story was one that began with the excellence of the player. The Patriots' saga was pushed along by that first Super Bowl win which represented the infancy of Brady's legend. The quarterback needed his team to win initially in order to get the magazine covers while Jordan was a one-man brand from Game 3 of his rookie season.

But that parting-of-the-ways controversy that rolled out on ESPN at 9 p.m. ... It sure seemed pretty similar.

Jordan said he wouldn't play without Jackson. General manager Jerry Krause told Jackson 1997-98 would be his absolute final season with the Bulls. Contract issues. The butting heads with management. Krause proclaiming the team was bigger than any one player. Or even that Chicago GM -- the former baseball scout who was described as someone who "couldn’t control that part of him that needed credit" -- thinking is Hall of Fame coach could be replaced by a college guy named Tim Floyd seemed very Stidham-like.

The first two episodes of "The Last Dance" didn't disappoint. This was a great look into one of the most dramatic breakups in sports history. Yet as much we now want to Episode 3 what this truly led us to was a thirst for the chronicling of our most recent sports divorce -- Brady and New England.