Urban: Good for Ball, Bad For Ball with 'The Last Dance,' Isiah Thomas and Blake Snell

As always, everything in life can be labelled in 1 of 2 ways

Mychael Urban
May 14, 2020 - 12:00 pm
Good for Ball, Bad for Ball with "The Last Dance," Isiah Thomas and Blake Snell

Anne Ryan-USA TODAY

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The time for detailed explanation is over. If you don’t get it by now, you never will.

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Everything in life can be labeled in one of two ways — #GoodForBall or #BadForBall. And we do mean everything. To wit:

Whatever’s left of your holiday turkey the day after? #GoodForBall. Whatever’s left of the top few layers of skin on your forearm after what’s now known in your family as The Deep-Fryer Incident of 2007? #BadForBall.

The voice-command feature on your Xfinity remote? #GoodForBall. Mine boasts an accuracy rating of about 98 percent; very rarely will it not clearly understand what I’m asking of it. And then we have the talk-to-text feature on my phone, which is accurate maybe 55 percent of the time. Just yesterday turned “I’ll be turning onto your street …” to “Albee’s burning your feet.” #BadForBall. FYI, Albee is the name of a former producer at The Game, and for the record he has never even once tried to set my feel on fire.

I think we’re ready to rock, no? Away we go...

“The Last Dance,” ESPN’s 10-part docuseries on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls dynasty of the ‘90s, is the second-best sports doc in history. It’s also the most-needed sports doc of all time, a fact ESPN acknowledged in pushing the airing of “The Last Dance” up by a couple months. As much fun as it is watching replays of “classic” NFL games — Brett Favre’s Vikings against Aaron Rodgers’ Packers, anyone? — it’s a billion times more interesting to hear about MJ popping Little Stevie Kerr in the face after Kerr popped His Airness in the chest during a particularly contentious practice. #GoodForBall.

Phil Jackson promptly booted Jordan from practice, and I’m not so sure any other coach would have taken such a bold step with a petulant superstar. Contrast that with Jackson allowing Dennis Rodman to take a 48-hour, in-season sabbatical so The Worm (best NBA nickname of the ‘90s) could get his freak on in Vegas.

Predictably, Rodman did not return on time, prompting Jordan to track down Rodman and bang on his door while Carmen Electra hid, naked and wrapped in bed sheets, behind a couch. But Jackson didn’t punish Rodman for coming back late, fully aware that to do so likely would have thrown His Wormness back into the funk that prompted the Vegas jaunt in the first place. Jackson had the Midas touch as a head coach, as further evidenced by his handling of the delicate dynamic of Kobe v. Shaq on the way to rings No. 7-11. #GoodForBall.

(We must note here that Jackson’s touch turned from Midas to Medusa as an executive in New York, but hey, who hasn’t crapped the bed since the last time the Knicks were relevant?)  

There are sentences you’ll probably write a thousand times. “Hope to see you soon,” for instance. “I love you” is another. Then there are sentences such as, “Rodman did not return on time, prompting Jordan to track down Rodman and bang on his door while Carmen Electra hid, naked and wrapped in bed sheets, behind a couch.” Pretty sure that’ll be an outlier for me when it’s all said and done. #GoodForBall.

Isiah Thomas of the Bad Boys Pistons was a phenomenal player, and the show of heart he put on while scoring 25 points in the fourth quarter of Game 6 of the 1988 NBA Finals — on a severely sprained ankle that forced him to hop on one foot whenever possible — was an all-timer. (And, unlike Curt Schilling’s bloody sock, this was real.) Isiah’s good-looking dude, too. And obviously very intelligent; he’s one of the more articulate athletes I’ve ever interviewed. Yet he’s roundly reviled outside of Detroit and his hometown of Chicago.

Why? Because he’s kind of a Richard —  Dick, for short. From leading the Piston’s walkout before the final horn against Jordan’s Bulls, to saying Larry Bird would be “just another guy” were he not white, Thomas is as adept at pissing people off as he is inept as an executive (see: CBA, Knicks), and it cost him a coveted spot on the Dream Team. There’s a straight-up phony behind that dazzling smile, and don’t believe Jordan for a second when he says he didn’t have a hand in keeping Thomas off the Dream Team roster. My sources say that was pretty much all MJ, but there wasn’t a guy on that team who had love for Thomas. Richards, in general, are #BadForBall.

The final two episodes of “The Last Dance” air this Sunday, and it can’t come soon enough. Unless ESPN decides to re-air the 2004 NFL Wild Card game in which Randy Moss “mooned” Packers fans, sending Joe Buck into an Exorcist-worthy tizzy. In that case, I can wait. #GoodForBall.

Baseball? It’ll be back when it’s back, even if Rays pitcher Blake Snell won’t be. Too risky, Snell says. Not worth it on a reduced salary. I’m with Snell, but I’m not, simply because I don’t think baseball is coming back any time soon. The players’ union is too powerful, as is THE VIRUS THAT ISN’T GOING ANYWHERE anytime soon. Slow down, people. A rushed return to normalcy isn’t just #BadForBall. It’s dangerous and irresponsible.

 “Baseball,” by Ken Burns. That’s the answer to the question you had earlier when I wrote that “The Last Dance” was the second-best sports documentary in history. If you haven’t seen it, go. Now. It’s about a day and a half long, but hey, you’ve got the time. Trust me. #GoodForBall.

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