Musselman Talks ESPN’s “Last Dance” Series on Michael Jordan

During last Sunday’s first two episode’s of ESPN’s 10-part “Last Dance” series on Michael Jordan, Eric Musselman apparently talked as much as he  watched.

As a longtime former NBA assistant and two NBA head coaching tenures with the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings, the Arkansas Razorbacks coach couldn’t help himself describing what he was seeing on TV and had seen in person. His wife, Danyelle, avidly basketball interested as a former ESPN reporter, apparently preferred hearing the ESPN version as it aired. “She told me to shut up because I kept referencing things I either knew of or was semi a part of,” Musselman said during a portion of Monday’s teleconference otherwise devoted to discussing his Razorbacks.  “My daughter  – (elementary school student Mariah) I couldn’t believe she sat through two episodes at her age, but she did.”

The “Last Dance” is great for those who saw Jordan play as basketball’s premier superstar with the Chicago Bulls from 1984-85 through, minus two years playing baseball, 1997-1998 before coming out of retirement to finish from 2001-2003 with the Washington Wizards.

It’s even greater, Musselman said, for those too young, like those he coaches, to see and hear Jordan and the players like Hamburg’s Scottie Pippen from those great Bulls teams that won six NBA championships. “I think for our student-athletes or younger, it was great because they’ve heard about the Bulls and Michael Jordan, but they don’t really know,” Musselman said. “I think it was eye-opening. We talked today with our team (all at their homes with the UA closed because of the coronavirus) on a zoom call. You watch Scottie Pippen and you’re talking about a guy other than his contract situation did what he needed to do to be Robin to Batman and be a team player. Be the best second-fiddle guy there was. There was a lot of Arkansas stuff involved in that show. Whether it be Pippen, where he grew up or at (the University of Central Arkansas. And Joe Kleine (the former Razorbacks great and 1984 Olympic teammate with Jordan and the Bulls backup center from 1997-1999. A lot of Arkansas stuff in that first two episodes.”

Musselman assisted the late Coach Chuck Daly with the Orlando Magic during Jordan’s last 1998 season for the NBA champion Bulls. He was an assistant at Atlanta then finally in his 2002-2004 head coaching tenure at Golden State when Jordan reemerged and wound down at Washington.

The Bulls version of Air Jordan surpassed all, Musselman said. “In my mind yes MJ is the greatest of all-time,” Musselman said. “In my time Jordan was the hardest guy to prepare for.” Musselman explained. “Obviously last night’s show portrayed what he did in that Boston series, Musselman said. Jordan scored 49 and 63 points against the superstar studded 1986  NBA Hall of Famers Larry Bird and Kevin McHale led champion Celtics before the Bulls had provided Pippen and a solid supporting cast. “He was a young player with a team that really didn’t have much around him,” Musselman said. “How he could carry them against a veteran-laden team great team defense whether it’s Bird, McHale or (Bill) Walton or Rick Carlisle or Danny Ainge or Dennis Johnson? That was an incredibly great defensive team and he just torched them.”

Although age and the long layoff had somewhat grounded the Air Jordan part of his game, Jordan was no easy mark when winding it up with the Wizards, Musselman said. “When MJ played his last year with Washington one of the games we couldn’t stop him in the post,” Musselman said. “He just torched us with his turnaround jump shot. I don’t know if there’s too many players that have ever used the backboard any better. His shots off the glass were insane. He was lethal in the post. I don’t know what he averaged that year, but I think he had 18 against us one time, and maybe 21 another time. He was still pretty doggone good, trust me.”

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