The Last Dance is a fascinating docu-series that tells the story of arguably the most successful franchise in all organized sports history, as well the man who led that franchise to greatness: Michael Jordan.
And although MJ and basketball enthusiasts already knew that the baller was known for his intense personality on the court, the way the subject is handled in the 10-part 30 for 30 documentary is unparalleled.
What hasn't shone through, however, is Scottie Pippen's trash talk to Karl Malone.
Nabbing six championships in the time frame that the '90s Bulls did is a tall order for any basketball franchise. But getting two threepeats is absolutely unprecedented, especially when you consider the depth of talent in the NBA in that area and the extremely physical and personal style of play that ballers engaged in: Isaiah Thomas and the Detroit Pistons were a very hands-on team, as were the New York Knicks.
This physical style of play made each match-up feel more personal, and it's clear that there's no player in the game that makes athletic contests more personal than Michael Jordan. That personal touch is clearly what gives him a competitive edge.
In fact — and I say this with the utmost respect — The Last Dance doesn't even feel like a basketball documentary to me; it's the diary of a brilliant madman who'll go to any lengths to realize his dreams and using his personal demons to do so.
It feels more like a case study of a psychopathic individual obsessed with being insulted and magnifying perceived slights, just so he could generate inhuman amounts of anger to fuel him and revel in punishing people for those slights. What's brilliant about this madman is he channelled that obsession into becoming the greatest basketball player of all time. Time and again, the documentary reveals Michael's masterful trash talk and intense dedication to the game.
But it may be Scottie Pippen who had the greatest trash talking line of all time.
When the Bulls were pursuing their fifth NBA championship, they found a stalwart team in the Utah Jazz, which had a lineup that rivaled Chicago's dynamic club. They even had that year's MVP, Karl Malone, who was not only and extremely talented player but an enormous one as well. Karl would reportedly bench press 405 pounds in the gym with relative ease. Keep in mind he's a basketball player, not a competitive power lifter.
There were several personality traits of Karl that Chicago fans and members of the media loved to harp on. The biggest was his affinity for "country living." The Washington Post even went so far as to pen an article about Karl titled "A Country Boy in a Hip Hop World." Jim Rome even called him, "the world's only African American Redneck."
Karl's upbringing and personal proclivities made the Utah Jazz and its "folksy" organizational structure the perfect fit for Karl.
A lot was said about Karl's love for driving pickup trucks, listening to country music, and his complaints of high taxes, but the entire state of Utah and Mormonism was even brought up in the beef between the two teams. Heck even coach Zen Master Phil Jackson got in on the action, stating that John Stockton and Karl Malone were dirty players; he even called the Mormon faith a "cult."
Scottie Pippen's trash talk of Karl Malone had nothing to do with any of that, though.
The usually reticent and soft spoken Scottie, the player that Michael Jordan said should always be mentioned whenever his own personal legacy is discussed, was the one who delivered what was arguably the greatest trash talking line in NBA history.
Karl Malone's moniker in the sport was "The Mailman," because he "delivers." Corny, yes, but it stuck. Heck, I even remember this wonderfulllyawkward Rogaine commercial he was in: "It delivers...for me."
Despite Karl's dominance on the court, the big man initially struggled with nailing free throws when he came into the NBA. It's something he put a lot of work into improving, as he was constantly getting fouled. In fact a big strategy teams at the time implemented against the Jazz was "foul Malone." But with the help of a sports psychologist, Karl was able to get his head right to handle live pressurized situations better and his free-throw percentage improved.
But not when it mattered most.
In game one of the NBA finals, the Utah Jazz had a chance to win the game. It was tied at 82 with 9.2 seconds left and Karl Malone was on the free-throw line.
Right before he initiated his pre-shot ritual, Scottie sauntered up to him. According to what he told ESPN's The Jump, this is what went down: "Karl Malone was at the free-throw line and the game is on the line. I was pretty good friends with Karl actually so I just walked by him and said ‘the Mailman don’t deliver on Sunday."
Interestingly enough, Scottie didn't say it to mess with Karl's head, and only recognized that the trash talking may've gotten to the Jazz player after he missed both attempts. After gaining possession of the rock, Scottie made sure it got to Jordan who scored a game-winning jumper, giving the Bulls a game one victory of the NBA finals: 84 to 82.
You can watch Scottie talk about the moment in the video below.
The final two episodes of The Last Dance will begin on Sunday, May 17 at 9 p.m. (EST) on ESPN.