Horning: Jordan's rise more fun than his titles

Chicago Bulls' Michael Jordan (23) puts up a shot past Toronto Raptors' Doug Christie during the first quarter on Monday, April 14, 1997, at the United Center in Chicago. (AP Photo/Todd Rosenberg)

“The Last Dance,” ESPN’s multi-part documentary offers terrific questions and interesting takeaways.

Designed to be the story of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls’ drive to their sixth and final NBA crown, thanks to a narrative that moves forward and back, it’s really story of the Jordan Bulls, start to finish.

Among queries and takes:

Who remembers Stan Albeck coached the Bulls?

How was it Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf turned to Jerry Krause to be general manager? It meant taking a baseball scout and making him basketball GM?

Is any player in the history of sports as authentically odd as Dennis Rodman?

And, yeah, there’s never, ever, ever, ever been a rebounder like him.

Boxing out was beneath him, a waste of time, because nobody understood where the ball would be like Rodman. Why box out when you can just go get it?

If you’re watching it, too, perhaps you’ll agree that the most compelling thing about Jordan’s NBA life wasn’t the championships or the chase for them.

The most entertaining version of Jordan, and the doc captures it beautifully, was when he was brand new.

It was a time he shocked the team that drafted him, which had no idea how good he’d be.

It was a time what wound up happening was only being teased.

It was a time, eventually, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson understood the best basketball player on earth was Michael Jordan even as most NBA fans mistakenly thought it was Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.

What’s most compelling, the ultimate victory greatness provides, or the phenomenon of that greatness first being displayed?

I’ll take the phenomenon.

Do you remember the Reds beating the Yankees in the 1976 World Series or Mark “The Bird” Fydrich’s out-of-nowhere mound mastery in Detroit.

I remember The Bird.

Do you remember the Edmonton Oilers dethroning the New York Islanders of Lord Stanley Cup or years previous, when the Great One and his team changed the game?

The Dodgers won the 1981 World Series, but that wasn’t nearly as fun watching Fernandomania take over the season’s opening weeks, when the Los Angeles' phenom — 20-year-old lefty screwballer Fernando Valenzuela — began the season 8-0 with a five shutouts and and earned run average of 0.50.

It's when you can see it coming before it arrives.

Jordan averaged 28.2 points as a rookie, scored 49 and 63 points his first two playoff games, both at Boston Garden, averaged 37.1 points his second full season in the league.

Before he started winning championships, he came back from a broken foot faster than management wanted. His passion and drive were unequalled. By the way, it never went away. His final, final season, 2002-03 in Washington, he played all 82 games.

It’s the jolt.

The turning point.

The line of demarcation.

Jordan gave us all of it before he had the team around him that could go all the way.

Those teams were terrific.

Watching Jordan before they were ever put together was even better.

Clay Horning

405 366-3526

Follow me @clayhorning


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