The Last Dance: A Utah Jazz Perspective

by Daniel Olsen

Twenty-three years ago Utah Jazz fans were still celebrating The Shot Heard ‘Round the World by John Stockton to beat the Rockets and send the Jazz to their first NBA Finals. The Jazz didn’t really have a rivalry with the Bulls but that matchup was about to get interesting. Jordan was once again in the spotlight and the West would now have to go through him. The Seattle SuperSonics had just lost to the Bulls in the 1996 Finals after beating the Jazz in the Western Conference Finals. Now it was Utah’s turn to have a crack at the 4 time world champions.

Space Jam had just been released in the 1996-1997 season and former BYU Star Shawn Bradley played a role in it. Warner Brothers combined two iconic heroes: Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan. While Utahns liked the hoops movie they made sure to let their children know that when the Tune Squad Star was playing the Jazz it’s time to cheer for the Jazz. Candy bribes were even given in some families for cheering for the right team.

Now, 23 years later, it’s time to take a closer look at the documentary made about the Bulls at the end of their second three-peat: The Last Dance. This time we will look at it from a Jazz fan’s perspective.

1. Fast Forward the heart breaking moments: If you still have the show on DVR you can skip the shots where Jordan killed the hopes and dreams of Jazz Nation. No matter how many times you watch, MJ continues to make the game-winning shot. It’s cool that the Jazz are covered but don’t watch anything that’s too painful. We are specifically talking about the episodes where the Jazz are featured which are the Final Episodes: Episode 9 and Episode 10.

2. Take what you hear with a grain of salt: There are some urban legends that all Jazz fans are classless and some may have even purposefully given Michael Jordan food poisoning in 1997 which later became known as “The Flu Game”. There is not enough evidence to support these claims. While Utah has a passionate fan base you know that a lot of fans make an effort to be classy and not let themselves get carried away to that extreme level. When you see those parts or reactions on social media just smile and take it at face value.

3. Appreciate both teams: It’s easy to hang our heads because we didn’t win a title but we can respect that Jazz team for being the closest of any team in franchise history to win an NBA Finals. It took one of the greatest players in NBA history to keep them from attaining that goal twice. While many Jazz fans wince when they see The Flu Game or the Final Shot, they can realize that they gave the Bulls everything they had but the Bulls just didn’t back down. The Jazz had their best chance in 1998 but MJ had prepared for this moment. He thought about making the type of steal he made on Karl Malone a year before he actually did it. He was playing chess while the NBA was playing checkers.

4. Have sympathy for the Bulls: I know many fans are thinking why have sympathy for a team that beat us twice but let’s take a look at it. MJ’s dad died. Steve Kerr’s dad died. Those are hard things to go through. So while Jazz fans groaned in agony, the dads of MJ and Steve Kerr were smiling when Kerr made the winning shot in 1997 and MJ did it in 1998.

5. Appreciate the Purple Mountain Jerseys: There’s a reason these are one of the most popular jerseys in team history. It was during the most successful era in Jazz history and it was sure a colorful display of the majestic Wasatch Mountains that tower over the Salt Lake Valley. The purple mountain warm up and also the white and purple mountain jerseys became iconic. Wear those throwback clothes with pride!

6. Appreciate the dynamic duos: Pippen and Jordan vs Stockton and Malone. It doesn’t get any better than that. Before these “super teams” in the NBA there were dynamic duos. This was like watching Batman and Robin go to work in Gotham City.

7. Appreciate The Last Dance at face value: This wasn’t the most perfectly organized documentary ever. They jumped around all the times from different moment in different years in Bulls history. It was more of a 90s dance party with hits from 1991-1993 and 1996-1998. While this won’t win any awards for best picture, it was a success because it was one of the only sports related things to watch on a Sunday evening. One day when they do a documentary on the Utah Jazz they will forever remember the Shot that got the Jazz there in the first place. Maybe one day some player will send the Jazz to the Finals once again.

 

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