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The big Michael Jordan Bulls documentary is out
With no actual live sports to talk about, this is the hottest topic among sports fans right now. The Last Dance — the highly anticipated 10-part documentary on Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls teams of the 1980s and (moreso) ’90s — was released today in Canada. The first two episodes are available now to everyone on Netflix, and two more will come out every Monday for the next month.
I’ve seen the first five, so (without spoiling too much) here’s an idea of what to expect and some things that stood out:
1. A lot of people are calling it “The Michael Jordan documentary” but it’s not really that.
“The Jordan Bulls documentary” would be more accurate. Basically, the series tells the story of the rise and fall of one of the greatest sports dynasties of all time — from Jordan’s arrival as an NBA rookie in 1984 through the team’s disintegration during the tumultuous 1997-98 season, when the Bulls nevertheless won their sixth championship in eight years.
Obviously, Jordan is the main character, and the first five episodes are all largely about his personal rise. But the series also takes detours into someone or something else in his orbit. In episode two, it’s aggrieved right-hand man Scottie Pippen. In three, it’s rebounding/partying machine Dennis Rodman. In four, it’s coach Phil Jackson. Episode five covers the ’92 Olympics (including the legendary Dream Team scrimmage in Monte Carlo) and Jordan’s “other” career as an endorsement giant (including his infamous “Republicans buy sneakers too” comment). Each of these chapters could be its own documentary, so at times they feel a bit rushed. But you still get a pretty good survey of the forces that drove the Bulls dynasty.
2. That final ’97-98 season anchors the story.
Each episode flips back and forth in time between those detours and the fateful last season (with the late Chicago GM Jerry Krause immediately cast as the villain). Obviously, we know how it will end, but one of the striking things is that everyone at the time seemed to know it too. The title of the documentary is actually what Jackson named the season before it started. He even printed it on the little handbooks he gave to players on the first day of training camp. So it’s clear to everyone involved that the dynasty is crumbling, brick by brick, in slow motion. And no one seems able — or willing — to do much about it.
3. The behind-the-scenes footage is good.
This was one of the big “gets” for director Jason Hehir and his filmmakers — a trove of never-released tape from an NBA film crew that was granted generous access to the Bulls for the entire Last Dance season. So we get to see stuff like Jordan and his teammates having heated talks on the bench, and talking and joking (and swearing) in the dressing room or on the bus.
It’s interesting seeing them in their natural habitat. Today’s NBA players give us the illusion of access with the idealized snapshots of their “real” lives they post on social media (actually, this is how everyone uses social media). But most of the behind-the-scenes footage in the doc feels truly unfiltered, even though at times the Bulls seem aware of the camera.
4. The other big get was Jordan himself.
No one was sure how this would go. Like a lot of rich and famous people, he’s always been pretty careful about what he says in public. But whether the timing was right, or the subjects (himself, basketball), or the questions, Jordan is pretty revealing and engaging over the first five episodes. Sitting in his waterfront home in Florida, in his puffy middleagedness, with a whiskey and a cigar at his side, there are times when it feels like Jordan is just telling stories to an old friend. He says funny things. He rehashes old grievances. He tells us how he feels about former teammates and rivals (loved Rodman, hated Isiah Thomas). He drops f-bombs.
It’ll be interesting to see whether Jordan remains this open when we get to the tough stuff — particularly his father’s murder, which led to his retiring from basketball for a year and a half to try baseball. But so far it’s working.
5. It’s great to just watch Jordan play basketball again.
His persona was so heavily — and carefully — marketed back in the day that it’s fair for younger basketball fans to wonder what percentage of his greatness is actually real. But the old game footage in the doc is a great reminder that Jordan’s celebrity was built on a solid foundation: he was an electrifying basketball player. In an era when low-post big men still roamed the earth, Jordan was knifing through them, soaring above the rim, throwing down huge dunks… his game was ahead of its time, so it still holds up.
The highlights from his first few seasons are especially fun to watch — like the time he led his overmatched Bulls into Boston Garden for a playoff matchup with the famed ’86 Celtics and dropped 49 and 63 (!) points in back-to-back losses. Or when he torched Cleveland and nailed “The Shot” to win another famous series in ’89.
6. Bottom line: the doc is worth watching.
Because of its length, its iconic main subject and the hype surrounding it, the natural comparison for The Last Dance is 2016’s O.J.: Made in America. But it’s not on that level. Ezra Edelman’s O.J. brilliantly answers the questions “Who is O.J. Simpson and how did he become O.J. Simpson?” by turning over every rock in his life and his environment. By the end, you’re left with a rich portrait of not only the man himself but also the many things that shaped him — weighty stuff like the legacy of racism and police brutality in Los Angeles. Whatever your assumptions about Simpson going into the doc, it challenges them. The Last Dance does not do that (at least not in the first five episodes). It mostly accepts the Jordan mythology and presents it in fresh, attractive packaging. It leans pretty heavily on nostalgia. But it’s a fun watch, and an entertaining reminder of a simpler, better time in sports and in the world. Maybe that’s the documentary we need right now.
Someone just paid $216,000 US for an autographed jersey Michael Jordan wore at the 1992 Olympics. Even more staggeringly, that’s not a record for a Jordan jersey. Reportedly, one from the ’84 L.A. Olympics — right after he got drafted by the Bulls — once fetched $274K. The bidding for the ’92 jersey started at $25K, according to the auction house that sold it. Surely, the release of the documentary didn’t hurt the sale price.
Novak Djokovic would prefer not to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The world’s No. 1 tennis player was asked what he would do if vaccination (once available) was made mandatory for travelling and/or playing on tour. He said: “Personally I am opposed to vaccination and I wouldn’t want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel,” before adding that he might change his mind down the road. That might be awhile. All pro tennis tournaments have been suspended until at least mid-July, but most experts say a vaccine likely won’t be ready until at least 2021. So if tennis is able to return this year, it will (like other sports) probably have to take other measures. Read more about Djokovic’s comments here.
Alphonso Davies got a contract extension. The rising Canadian soccer star added two more years to his deal with top German club Bayern Munich, which now controls him through June 2025. Davies, 19, has played in 31 games for Bayern this season, and he impressed a lot of people with a strong performance in a Champions League match vs. Chelsea back in February. Davies will also be a key part of the Canadian national team’s campaign to qualify for the 2026 World Cup, which Canada is co-hosting with the U.S. and Mexico. Read more about Davies’ new deal here.
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Bruins win Presidents' Trophy for 2019-20 season – NHL.com
The Boston Bruins won the Presidents’ Trophy, awarded to the team with the best record in the regular season.
The Bruins were 44-14-12 and led the NHL with 100 points when the 2019-20 season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
The NHL in its Return to Play Plan announcement May 26 said there would be no more regular-season games, instead restarting with eight teams in each conference playing a Qualifying Round for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, with a Seeding Round Robin featuring the top four teams in each conference.
The Bruins had five winning streaks of at least four games, including three of at least six games. They had a 13-game point streak (9-0-4) from Nov. 10-Dec. 5 and ended the season with at least one point in 30 of their final 37 games (24-7-6).
It’s the third time the Bruins have won the Presidents’ Trophy since it was first awarded in 1985-86. They did so in 2013-14, when they lost to the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Second Round, and in 1989-90, when they lost to the Edmonton Oilers in the Stanley Cup Final.
Boston was led by forward David Pastrnak, who tied Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals for the NHL lead with 48 goals and was tied with Artemi Panarin of the New York Rangers for third in the League with 95 points.
Goalies Tuukka Rask (26-8-6, 2.12 goals-against average, .929 save percentage) and Jaroslav Halak (18-6-6, 2.39 GAA, .919 save percentage) combined for eight shutouts and helped the Bruins allow the fewest goals in the NHL (167, 2.39 per game), earning Boston goalies the William M. Jennings Trophy for the third time (Andy Moog and Rejean Lemelin, 1989-90; Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez, 2008-09).
Ovechkin of Capitals, Pastrnak of Bruins win Richard Trophy – NHL.com
Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals and David Pastrnak of the Boston Bruins won the Rocket Richard Trophy, awarded to the top goal scorer in the NHL, for the 2019-20 season.
Each forward scored 48 goals (Ovechkin in 68 games, Pastrnak in 70) before the season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
The League, in its Return to Play Plan announcement Tuesday, said there would be no more regular-season games, and instead would restart with eight teams in each conference playing a Qualifying Round for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and a Seeding Round Robin featuring the top four teams in each conference.
It’s the ninth time Ovechkin has led the League in goals, including each of the past three seasons; he scored 51 goals in 2018-19 and 49 in 2017-18. Ovechkin also led the League in 2007-08 (65), 2008-09 (56), 2012-13 (32), 2013-14 (51), 2014-15 (53) and 2015-16 (50).
The No. 1 pick in the 2004 NHL Draft, Ovechkin (34 years and 178 days old at time of season pause) is the third-oldest player to lead the NHL in goals, behind Gordie Howe of the Detroit Red Wings in 1962-63 (34 years, 358 days) and Bill Cook of the New York Rangers in 1932-33 (36 years, 165 days).
Ovechkin, who became the eighth player in NHL history to reach 700 goals when he scored against the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 22, began the season in 13th place on the NHL all-time goals list with 658 and finished it eighth with 706, passing Luc Robitaille (668 goals), Teemu Selanne (684), Mario Lemieux (690), Steve Yzerman (692) and Mark Messier (694). Ovechkin is two goals behind Mike Gartner (708) for seventh.
Ovechkin has 11 seasons of at least 45 goals and was two from reaching 50 for the ninth time in his 15-season NHL career.
Named one of the 100 Greatest NHL Players presented by Molson Canadian in 2017, Ovechkin has won the Hart Trophy (NHL MVP) three times, the Art Ross Trophy (NHL scoring champion) once, and was the Calder Trophy winner as NHL rookie of the year in 2005-06. He is the only player in NHL history to win the Stanley Cup, Conn Smythe Trophy (playoff MVP), Calder Trophy, Art Ross Trophy, Hart Trophy, the Ted Lindsay Award (voted best player) and the Rocket Richard Trophy.
It is the first time Pastrnak, who turned 24 on May 25, has won the Rocket Richard Trophy. He set an NHL career high in goals this season and has increased his total in each of his past five seasons. He has scored at least 34 goals in each of the past four seasons, and his 155 since 2016-17 are third in the NHL behind Ovechkin (181) and Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (158).
Pastrnak led the League with 20 power-play goals and tied for third in points (95) for the Bruins, who won the Presidents’ Trophy with the best record in the regular season.
Agent Scott Boras to clients in memo: Don’t bail out baseball owners – Sportsnet.ca
NEW YORK — Agent Scott Boras recommends his clients refuse Major League Baseball’s attempt to cut salaries during negotiations with the players’ association, claiming team financial issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic have their origin in management debt financing.
In an email obtained by The Associated Press, Boras wrote that players should not alter terms of the March 26 agreement between MLB and the union that called for players to reduce their salaries to a prorated rate based on a shortened season. MLB on Tuesday proposed a series of tiered reductions that would cause top stars to receive the biggest cuts.
“Remember, games cannot be played without you,” Boras wrote. “Players should not agree to further pay cuts to bail out the owners. Let owners take some of their record revenues and profits from the past several years and pay you the prorated salaries you agreed to accept or let them borrow against the asset values they created from the use of those profits players generated.”
Boras is baseball’s best-known agent and represented 71 players on active rosters and injured lists as of Aug. 31, the most among player representative firms. His Newport Beach, California-based company negotiated more than $1.2 billion in contracts during the off-season.
Salaries were set to range from $563,500 for players at the major league minimum to $36 million for Mike Trout and Gerrit Cole, the latter a Boras client. Under the March agreement, the range would be cut to roughly $285,000 to $18 million for the 82-game regular season MLB has proposed. Under the economic proposal made by MLB this week, the range would be reduced to about $262,000 to $8 million, including shares of a bonus all players would receive if the post-season is played.
“Owners are asking for more salary cuts to bail them out of the investment decisions they have made,” Boras said. “If this was just about baseball, playing games would give the owners enough money to pay the players their full prorated salaries and run the baseball organization. The owners’ current problem is a result of the money they borrowed when they purchased their franchises, renovated their stadiums or developed land around their ballparks. This type of financing is allowed and encouraged by MLB because it has resulted in significant franchise valuations.”
“Owners now want players to take additional pay cuts to help them pay these loans. They want a bailout,” he added. “They are not offering players a share of the stadiums, ballpark villages or the club itself, even though salary reductions would help owners pay for these valuable franchise assets. These billionaires want the money for free. No bank would do that. Banks demand loans be repaid with interest. Players should be entitled to the same respect.”
Commissioner Rob Manfred has said 40% of MLB’s revenue is related to the gate. Teams told the union on May 12 that MLB would lose $640,000 for each game played in empty ballparks without fans. MLB claimed that playing with prorated salaries in empty ballparks would cause a $4 billion loss and give major league players 89% of revenue.
Washington pitcher Max Scherzer, among three Boras clients on the union’s eight-man executive subcommittee, issued a statement late Wednesday night saying “there’s no need to engage with MLB in any further compensation reductions.”
Boras cited the purchase of the Chicago Cubs by the Ricketts family and the redevelopment of Wrigley Field. Debt financing was key to both, he said.
“Throughout this process, they will be able to claim that they never had any profits because those profits went to pay off their loans,” he wrote. “However, the end result is that the Ricketts will own improved assets that significantly increases the value of the Cubs — value that is not shared with the players.”
Boras asked clients to “please share this concept with your teammates and fellow players when MLB request further concessions or deferral of salaries.”
“Make no mistake, owners have chosen to take on these loans because, in normal times, it is a smart financial decision,” Boras wrote. “But, these unnecessary choices have now put them in a challenging spot. Players should stand strong because players are not the ones who advised owners to borrow money to purchase their franchises and players are not the ones who have benefited from the recent record revenues and profits.”
He added salaries have been flat for several years. The opening day average has been in the $4.4 million rang e since 2016.
Cincinnati pitcher Trevor Bauer addressed Boras on Wednesday on Twitter.
“Hearing a LOT of rumours about a certain player agent meddling in MLBPA affairs,” Bauer tweeted. “If true — and at this point, these are only rumours — I have one thing to say … Scott Boras, rep your clients however you want to, but keep your damn personal agenda out of union business.”
Boras declined to comment on Bauer’s remarks.
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Bruins win Presidents' Trophy for 2019-20 season – NHL.com
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