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Tuesday, June 2, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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A Grip on Sports: It’s not that long ago that everyone wanted to ‘be like Mike.’ Now everyone wants to watch how Mike became the best of the best

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Craig Ehlo, right, drives past Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls during an Eastern Conference championship game May 25, 1992, in Richfield, Ohio. (Mark Duncan / AP)
Cleveland Cavaliers guard Craig Ehlo, right, drives past Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls during an Eastern Conference championship game May 25, 1992, in Richfield, Ohio. (Mark Duncan / AP)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Where were we? Oh ya, worrying about what comes next. How about this morning, for a change, we don’t do that? We focus on what’s happening today instead.

•••••••

• Yes, there are a couple things happening today. A golf exhibition. Guys carrying their bags and playing, just like some of us do. It’s on this morning, features Rory McIlroy and Gozzer Ranch fixture Dustin Johnson, and fills a void in live sports. Say thanks to NBC for this one.

Then tonight there is the final two installment’s of Michael Jordan’s documentary. And, yes, I wrote that the way I meant it.

There are many ways to describe “The Last Dance.” Anticipated. Exciting. Interesting. Much-needed. Oh, and puff piece. This isn’t serious documentary journalism, though it sure seems to be trying to come off as such. It’s not what Ken Burns would have produced, that’s for sure.

Don’t believe me. Take Burns’ word for it. And examine one small element of the 10-hour show. The shot. The one over Craig Ehlo. One of Jordan’s signature moments – among many, many others.

The producers of this tale decided to tell the story of the shot through Jordan’s eyes. As anyone would, considering this show is the first time much of the world has heard Jordan’s views about a lot of subjects. But to enlist Ron Harper, and Ron Harper as the only voice of the other side, that’s an indictment of any sense of balance and depth. He’s Jordan’s former teammate – he played for the Bulls during the second trio of consecutive titles – and friend. Sure, he was a Cleveland Cavalier then, and was on the court. But when he dropped the heretofore unheard of nugget that he asked coach Lenny Wilkins to let him guard Jordan on the last possession, well that piece of info deserved more investigation. Or the cutting-room floor.

Neither happened. Nor did he ask Wilkins for the assignment. Am I sure? Nope. But since the episode aired, no other Cavalier player has corroborated Harper. And Wilkins told a radio show he doesn’t recall any conversation like that either. Seems like, if you are trying to present the most-complete visual history of Jordan’s Bulls – with 10 hours of ESPN’s highly coveted airtime, you must be – than including such information would have been crucial for educating the public.

If your aim is somewhere else, say in trying to sand off Jordan’s rougher edges for the benefit of future fans and historians, than such holes can be overlooked. Just don’t look at “The Last Dance” as a truth-telling of Jordan’s history and legacy.

Funny thing, his legacy is such it really didn’t need any polishing – for basketball fans. The guy could do everything on the court. And do it as well or better than anyone who ever played. He would do everything on or off the court to help his team win. And do it as well or better than anyone who ever played. Nothing wrong with any of that.

Sure, he wasn’t always the nicest guy. Who cares? Apparently Jordan, whose production company helped make the show. The 10 hours have his stamp of approval. They never would have aired without it.

Is it still worth watching? Oh sure, especially now. Michael Jordan was special. Our memories of him, with the Bulls, are special. It’s great to relive them (see below). It’s wonderful to remember what he meant to the NBA and to sports in general. “The Last Dance” does that. But it doesn't present the whole story. Actually, it doesn't even try.  

• Who wanted to “be like Mike?” Just about everyone associated with basketball when he was the game’s biggest star, that’s for sure. Our Ryan Collingwood found folks in Spokane who have a special connection to Michael Jordan, either as players or as fans – or both.

Ryan’s story this morning is a fun telling of a handful of folks’ interactions with Jordan, from Hoopfest director Matt Santangelo to Eastern Washington coach Shantay Legans and beyond. Add in Jim Meehan’s story about Adam Morrison’s connections to Jordan along with Dan Pelle’s photos of some of the local connections and you have more than enough to get you ready for tonight’s two-hour finale.

•••

Gonzaga: Around the WCC, there is no more efficient offensive team in America than the Zags. BYU is trying to match them in that regard.

WSU: Around the Pac-12, Washington has reeled in another transfer, this one from Michigan. … Speaking of transfers, the most highly sought one from the women’s side has decided on Oregon. … A former Duck player is dealing with the loss of her left leg. … In football news, how does a regional football league in 2020 sound? … Here are eight simple questions to answer for a football season in the fall. … It looks as if UCLA has settled on an athletic director. … Finally, Utah is expecting a lot of spring sports athletes to return.

Preps: Dave Nichols’ story concerning the WIAA and state basketball tournaments ran Saturday morning on the web. The organization is eliciting responses to a survey. The changes being outlined could lead to the State B Tournament leaving Spokane. The reason? As with most everything in life, money. … Dave was also Larry Weir's guest for the most-recent Press Box pod. … Chiawana guard Talia Von Oelhoffen has committed to Oregon State.

Chiefs: The Los Angeles Times retells the story of Jaret Anderson-Dolan’s often-told family life.

Seahawks: The Quinton Dunbar saga continues this weekend, with the Hawks’ defensive back out of jail on bond after turning himself in to police. Dunbar’s attorney continues to proclaim his client’s innocence.

Mariners: Blake Snell’s poorly received comments about his financial “woes” shouldn’t whitewash the fact baseball owners want to change an agreement they made with the players early in the pandemic.

•••       

• Thanks for the day off. Made Kim and myself breakfast, worked around the house, spent time just talking with some folks. All in all, a good day. Other than late in the afternoon seeing that Fred Willard and Phyllis George had died. Willard’s role as the sidekick on “Fernwood 2 Night” was a TV highlight of my college years. And George was part of the greatest pregame show in NFL history. Until later …

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