Tough Break

The five biggest losers of episodes 7 and 8 of "The Last Dance," ranked

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Barry Gossage

As good as the first six episodes of "The Last Dance" were, it's fair to say that the best of the 10-part documentary series had still yet to come. It did in a big way in episodes 7 and 8 on Sunday night, delivering two of the best hours of television ESPN has ever produced.

Prior to the very first episode, Michael Jordan was quoted as saying he thought the series might make him look like a "horrible guy." Over the first six hours, there were certainly moments that confirmed MJ's thinking, but nothing like what we saw on Sunday night. Yet still, Jordan came out looking like a winner, even if the episodes included the story of him punching Steve Kerr in the face and clips of him repeatedly calling teammate Scott Burrell a "ho."

Perhaps the series was designed to mostly shed MJ in a positive light, while sprinkling in a few instances here and there of him looking like a tyrant. As for the supporting characters in this story, "The Last Dance" has spared no one.

Sunday night provided some of the biggest daggers of all, enough for us to rank the five biggest "losers" from episodes 7 and 8. No, we don't mean actual "losers." We just mean these guys got burned by the ol' reminiscing machine in the form of a documentary the entire country happens to be watching due to a pandemic. And yes, we ranked them.

5) LaBradford Smith

Honestly, I was debating putting someone else like Patrick Ewing or B.J. Armstrong in this spot, because as it turns out Jordan made up the whole "nice game, Mike" story to motivate himself. When you think about it that way, Smith shouldn't come out looking bad. He didn't even do anything! He should have come out looking like a guy that dropped 37 on Jordan and then had a (really, really) bad game the next night. But for people who didn't remember or had ever even heard of this story, poor LaBradford had to get dragged all over again on Sunday night over something he never even did. Without this retelling of the story, does anyone even mention his name again, ever? Brutal.

4) Craig Sager

I will repeat, we don't mean "loser" as in actual loser. And I hate, hate, hate including Craig Sager in this list at all. God rest his soul. But man, that opening of episode 7 was crazy. "Way to go Craig," is one of the most unintentionally funny lines I've ever seen:


Now that I'm thinking it over, this was such a legendary journalistic moment from Sager. Clearly the word "backstabbing" struck a nerve with Jerry Krause, so much so that he stormed off in disgust. That means that there had to be some truth in what Sager said, but maybe he didn't have to word it so aggressively that it caused the press conference to end. Screw it, Sager is a winner in our book. The list goes on..

3) George Karl

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Rocky Widner

I highly, highly doubt that if George Karl had gone up to Jordan in that restaurant and said hello that the 1996 NBA Finals would have turned out differently. But, as we learned years ago and continue to learn while watching this documentary, it's the height of stupidity to give MJ any sort of motivational tool for him to use to bury you. The far more egregious error the doc revealed Karl made on Sunday night? Telling the reigning defensive player of the year Gary Payton "I'm not worried about your defense" and not having him guard Jordan until the SuperSonics were down 3-0 in the series. Brilliant move!

2) Gary Payton

Speaking of Gary Payton, this moment is going to be tough to recover from:

The memes. Oh, the memes:

Ouch. The way MJ says "the glooooove" so dismissively. Pray for Gary Payton. He did kind of have a point, as many have pointed out on Twitter with Jordan's statistical decline from Games 1-3 (not guarded by Payton) to games 4-6 (guarded by Payton).

But here's the problem: even if Payton is speaking truth, even if he "locked him up," even if he got to him, Jordan won. Then he won the next two NBA Finals as well. He's the greatest. He gets to laugh off "the gloooove" even if "the gloooove" has a point and no one can tell him different. Talk to the rings glooove, talk to the rings.

1) Scottie Pippen

Among the many things I've taken away from these first eight episodes, one of the biggest things is that Scottie Pippen needs his own documentary, and he should probably narrate it himself. Seriously, he has a better voice than Morgan Freeman. Don't @ me.

From the poor contract situation, to him always being second fiddle, to his incredible origin story, to the year he finally got to be the No. 1 guy, etc. It's all just so fascinating. One of the key moments of his career story was shown in detail Sunday night, when during a tense playoff game against the New York Knicks, Pippen basically said "F--i it, I'm out" after Phil Jackson drew up a play for Toni Kukoc to take the last shot. Here's footage of that game and footage of Pippen talking to the media afterward:


Could you imagine this happening today? Career suicide. Fortunately, it happened in the 90s, before social media, and he dunked Patrick Ewing into another dimension the following game and everyone forgot about it.

But viewers were reminded of the low moment in Pippen's career on Sunday night, and with a chance to say he was wrong and shouldn't have done it (which he did after it first happened), Pippen doubled down, saying if he could do it over he wouldn't change a thing. That looked much worse after multiple teammates basically said he quit on them during their interviews. That said, I do still feel bad for him. Put yourself in his shoes for a second. For seven seasons he was No. 2, Robin to MJ's Batman, and finally, in the biggest moment of the year and maybe his career, Jackson goes to Kukoc, who Pippen and Jordan had a history with. It had to be so painful, but going to the end of the bench and sulking is not an image you can ever live down.

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