If there were ever any doubts before, ‘The Last Dance’ documentary has surely cemented Michael Jordan as one of the greatest sporting figures of all time.
The NBA icon’s unrivalled desire to win saw him propel basketball to unprecedented popularity, putting the sport at the forefront of the world stage.
Having steered the Chicago Bulls to an incredible six championship rings in eight years from 1991-1998, scooping up five MVP awards in the process, Jordan is one of just a handful of superstars who have truly transcended their sports.
Muhammad Ali has done it, Diego Maradona has done it, Tiger Woods has done it, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are doing it now. There can be no doubt that Jordan features on this illustrious list.
His desire to win was perfectly encapsulated by his quote in episode seven of the hit series.
He said: “You ask all my teammates. The one thing about Michael Jordan was he never asked me to do something that he didn’t f****** do.”
Jordan was so determined to win that he didn’t care about sacrificing relationships or being labelled a ‘tyrant’ to do so.
He was a sporting phenomenon – but that’s not to say he didn’t have some incredible talented by his side.
In light of the hit-show which has proved to be the ultimate lockdown gold-dust, we at talkSPORT.com have ranked Jordan’s five best teammates throughout his glittering career…
5. Steve Kerr – 1995-1998
A prime example of Jordan demanding the best of his teammates was clear in his bust-up with Kerr in 1995.
Having been left enraged by the Bulls’ failure to win the NBA finals the previous season, Jordan returned even more determined to put things right and restore his team to the top of the game.
This lead to tempers boiling over at pre-season, where Jordan and Kerr became embroiled in fight and the latter left with a black eye.
Both NBA stars discussed the incident in the documentary, with Kerr interestingly saying he believes he ‘gained the trust’ of Jordan after the fight.
“He called me later that day and apologised,” said Kerr, who is now the head coach of the Golden State Warriors.
“We talked it out, and it was probably, in a weird way, the best thing that I ever did, was stand up for myself with him because he tested everybody he played with, and I stood up to him.
“From that point on, our relationship dramatically improved and our trust in each other, everything, it was like ‘All right, we got that out of the way, we’re going to war together.’”
When you look back at the careers of both, Kerr was certainly one of the most consistent players to have played with Jordan.
His all round game was excellent. He was very efficient with his 3-point shooting and passing and also made the championship-winning shot against the Jazz in Game 6 in 1997 NBA Finals, as well as the game-winning assist to Jordan against the Jazz in Game 2 of the 1998 NBA Finals.
After leaving the Bulls, he added two more rings at Gregg Popovich’s Spurs and has since coached the Golden State Warriors to three more championship titles.
4. Toni Kukoc – 1995-1998
The Croat was incredibly important to the growth of European basketball and many believe his influence in the success of the Bulls was underplayed in the documentary.
Kukoc was arguably the best player in Europe before he moved to the USA and he sacrificed a huge amount of his game for Jordan to perform at the level he did.
When Jordan retired for the first time, The Last Dance showed how he became the go-to man for last second shots.
After MJ came back, he willingly deferred on those shots again without complaint.
As a brilliant shooter, he was able to complement Jordan and Pippen as both a starter and a reserve and was deservedly named NBA Sixth Man of the Year in 1996.
3. Horace Grant – 1990-1993
Jordan had a tumultuous relationship with Grant and this was particularly true when he accused him of being the source of Sam Smith’s book The Jordan Rules, which painted him in an unflattering light.
But his talent cannot come into question purely because of his relationship with Jordan.
Acting as the main man in defence, Grant was instrumental from 1987 to 1994, helping the teams win NBA titles in 1990-91, 91-92 and 92-93.
Without his work rate in defence – which complemented those players up – the Bulls’ wouldn’t have achieved as much as they did.
He was the team’s mighty rebounder before Dennis Rodman came along, bringing a high level of defence to match the intensity of Jordan and Pippen at the other end.
2. Dennis Rodman – 1995-1998
The Last Dance has once again shone a spotlight on one of sport’s great mavericks.
Although his exploits off the court earned him special fame, sharing unlikely relationships with the likes of Madonna, Carmen Electra and Kim Jong-un of all people, Rodman was unquestionably one of the greatest basketball players of his generation and one of the finest defensive players in the history of the game.
As a five-time NBA champion and two-time Defensive Player of the Year, his influence was obvious. He was one of the best on-ball defenders you’ll ever see; nimble and aggressive in a 6ft 7in frame with an engine that wouldn’t quit.
Fortunately for the Bulls, he turned out to be much higher reward than risk after they traded him from the Pistons when he was 34.
His relentless and smart play perfectly suited what Jordan and Jackson wanted to do to take the Bulls to greater heights.
1. Scottie Pippen – 1990-1993, 1995-1998
A bromance we didn’t know we needed, but one we are extremely grateful for, Jordan and Pippen’s relationship both on and off the pitch was arguably the foundation of the Bulls’ incredible success.
Pippen was loved by everybody.
Most of the admiration stemmed from his playing style: agressive and eager to take the toughest defensive assignments. But a lot of it came about from the contrast in leadership styles with Jordan.
“He was a perfect complement to Michael,” Kerr recently said on the Lowe Post podcast. “Michael was the hard-ass. You had to be ready every day for his criticism. Scottie would put his arm around you and make sure you were OK. He is a kind soul.”
Unsurprisingly, Pippen and Jackson were the only two figures in Chicago who were present with Jordan for all six championships in eight seasons.
The Last Dance has shown that Pippen was anything but in Jordan’s shadow and accentuated the fact he was a complete, elite player in his own right.
To put it simply, without Pippen, the Bulls dynasty wouldn’t have happen. He was the perfect No.2 for Jordan.