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NEWS THAT SCOTTIE PIPPEN, Horace Grant and Aussie Luc Longley are joining forces to provide their own account of what it was really like to play on the ’90s Chicago Bulls’ championship dynasty, is the kind of red meat many hoops fans will find impossible to resist.

The exquisitely named ‘No Bull’ tour, which begins tonight in Tasmania, before dates in Melbourne and Sydney, is being framed as the three former Bulls’ attempt to right some of the wrongs contained in Michael Jordan’s Covid-era cultural touchstone, The Last Dance.

Perhaps the best part about the tour is that Aussie hoops fans will get a front-row seat, largely due to the fact that Scottie Pippen is in the country as part of his role as an NBL ambassador, ahead of the league’s finals series. He’s managed to bring Grant along for the ride and, of course, Longley already resides here. There is a good chance that if any of the trio say anything newsworthy—by that I mean anything that might desecrate the public image of Michael Jordan, NBA twitter will melt down.

In promotions for the event, Grant, who played power forward on the first  “three-peat” team, has already referred to The Last Dance as “that bullshit documentary”. He also said, “I would have kicked Dennis Rodman’s ass”.

It’s difficult to tell how much of this bluster is a rather transparent effort to sell tickets, for it’s entirely possibly that when the bright lights come on and the trio take the stage, they lose their nerve and instead ‘play the hits’, as most former athletes do in these types of shows. But that is not WHAT THE INTERNET WANTS!

Raising hopes that some dirt will actually be dished is the fact that all three former players have axes to grind and grievances of varying orders of magnitude, that could be aired, arising from their portrayals in The Last Dance.

Let’s start with the most straightforward and probably benign. Luc Longley was omitted from the celebrated documentary altogether. A reliable 7 footer who crashed the boards, possessed above average passing chops for a big man and set picks that created space for Jordan’s fabled fadeaway jump-shot, Longley was easily the most glaring omission from the doco.

The softly spoken Western Australian was understandably miffed, but Jordan took it upon himself to make amends by appearing on an Australian Story program dedicated to Longley. On it, Jordan said, “When you look back, should we have included Luc, we should have.” He went on to say, “If you ask me to do it all over again, [there] is no way I would leave Luc Longley off my team. No way possible. Because he mattered. He had an impact on me. He helped change me as a person”. Longley appeared touched by the statement and you would assume all is good between the two now.

Moving onto Grant, who was featured in The Last Dance and was far from happy with his portrayal or the documentary’s treatment of other Bulls players. “I would say [the documentary was] entertaining, but we know, who was there as teammates, that about 90 per cent of it [was] BS in terms of the realness of it,” Grant said after the series aired. “It wasn’t real – because a lot of things [Jordan] said to some of his teammates, that his teammates went back at him. But all of that was kind of edited out of the documentary, if you want to call it a documentary.” The power forward’s comments on Rodman ahead of the No Bull tour, meanwhile, are certainly debatable; Grant was a superior offensive player but Rodman is arguably one of the best defensive power forwards and greatest rebounders of all time. But whatever sells tickets, right.

And now to Pippen. There is an increasingly thorny, bitter and grubby dynamic between the former Bulls small forward and Jordan. When The Last Dance came out, Pippen felt his portrayal was unfair. His decision to delay back surgery due to a contract dispute saw him sit out a large portion of the 1998 season, his absence upping the load on Jordan to keep the team afloat, something the doco duly documents. That is what happened, though the documentary perhaps unnecessarily highlights other instances of the small forward’s recalcitrance, not least his refusal to take the court back in the 1994 Eastern Conference semi-finals, when coach Phil Jackson opted to run the final play for teammate Toni Kukoc. Again, that happened. Was it really necessary to bring it up in a doco ostensibly about the 1998 season. Perhaps not.

Pippen, who prior to The Last Dance, appeared to enjoy a strong relationship with Jordan, has since lashed out at his former teammate at every opportunity, going out of his way to praise LeBron James in talk-show segments on the ongoing GOAT debate—if you hadn’t already figured it out, athletes can be as petty, conniving and manipulative as any ‘Real Housewives’ stars, perhaps not surprising given Pippen was once married to Real Housewives of Miami’s Larsa Pippen.

Which brings us to the rather headshaking fact that Michael Jordan’s son, Marcus, is currently dating (despite a brief split last month) Pippen’s ex-wife, a relationship US tabloid sites seem to regard as manna from heaven. The relationship has only served to deepen the enmity between the two former players.

Thus, all the ingredients are there for the No Bull tour to offer a combustible night of revisionist history and score-settling. But the show’s existence, rather than casting a shadow over Jordan’s legacy, only serves to underline what happens when a star burns as bright as he once did. In basketball, a five-player game, one or two players will always drive a team’s fortunes. Couple that with the fact that the sports media industrial complex is built on stars and it’s inevitable that some, if not most players, will be eclipsed. Facts: the Chicago Bulls would not have won any titles without Jordan. Also facts: Jordan wouldn’t have won without his teammates, especially Pippen.

You can bet LeBron James has been taking notes on all of this, and you can expect he will be more generous to his teammates when his own inevitably hagiographic documentary series comes out. James is nothing if not a shrewd operator, though he’s also desperate to catch Jordan in the public’s estimation. It will be interesting to see if he can put his need to be liked above his desire for public consecration.

Jordan, famously, was never overly concerned with being liked by his teammates. His sole focus was winning, something The Last Dance underscored. History, of course, is written by winners. But when teammates are reduced to mere footnotes, we shouldn’t be surprised when they call BULLshit on it. Especially if there’s a buck in it.

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