Some scattered thoughts on The Last Dance

Like basically every other basketball fan in America, I’ve spent the last five Sundays watching ESPN’s The Last Dance documentary on Michael Jordan’s career and, specifically, the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls. I think it’s a fairly good piece of work, and I’m certainly glad I watched it. In the sports wilderness created by COVID-19, it’s been nice to see so many people band together to watch a sports documentary about one of the greatest athletes in human history. Regardless of how you feel about Jordan’s status as the Greatest of All Time, it’s a useful artifact to show those younger than, say, 23 just how great MJ was.

That said, the documentary is far from perfect. As Spencer Hall noted on Twitter, MJ getting to sign off on basically every part of this documentary was inevitably going to create positives and negatives. Getting unfettered access to MJ as a source is inarguably a great thing, as Jordan is essentially given the role of a director’s commentary. You get his insight on everything – games in the mid-1980s, the Detroit Pistons, Dennis Rodman, etc. – and it provides great value. That said, giving Jordan such power to sign off on the documentary means we hit dead ends on certain subjects very quickly – the Jordan Rules book, controversy surrounding his retirement, his family today, etc. The director fails to inform you MJ even has a wife until the sixth episode, and you hear from his kids for about two minutes in the final episode. Along with that, the promised behind-the-scenes coverage, aside from a very important scene after winning the title, really falls flat. Very little that’s new is revealed, and to be honest, a lot of the most interesting reveals don’t even involve Michael Jordan.

In short, it’s a good documentary, not a great one. The best thing ESPN has done, and will likely ever do, is still O.J.: Made in America. Whether The Last Dance would have been better without Michael’s involvement is not really worth discussing, as it likely just wouldn’t have existed. (Plus, you don’t get the memes of Michael laughing at others’ interviews.) However, there’s some thoughts I had about the show that I felt like expanding on the day after.

  • The Jordan vs. LeBron debate will inevitably splinter into the documentary world. I fear it isn’t enough to take a look at the two best to ever do it and simply say “they were equally great in different eras.” We’ll have to drive this debate to its absolute extremes, and I am near-certain Skip Bayless will make a regrettable appearance in the LeBron documentary in 2025.
  • Will the LeBron doc have the same level of positive coverage towards him? The clear goal of The Last Dance, beyond giving you a bit of the promised access to the greatest dynasty in the last 40+ years of basketball, is to cement Michael Jordan as the Greatest to Ever Do It in the viewer’s eyes. No corners are cut in this process. Even in the episode where teammates are finally allowed to speak negatively about how he treated them, they immediately pivot to “it was worth it for team success.” Obviously, it worked out pretty well, but I found it odd that not even one guy still felt negatively towards Michael. (It’s probably worth reading about how thoroughly Jordan’s Wizards teammates from 2001-2003 hated him, as reported by Michael Leahy’s book When Nothing Else Matters.) Most hilariously, the 1993 series against the Knicks, in which the Bulls initially trailed 2-0, is presented as this major turnaround from Jordan after two “poor” outings in New York (63 points across two games!). In Game 3, Jordan is shown to have returned to his normal status and have carried the Bulls back into the series. In the actual Game 3, Jordan shot 3-for-18 (though he got 16 points at the free throw line alone) and it was Pippen’s 29 points on 12 shots that helped the Bulls demolish New York by 20 points.
  • To follow that up: this is indeed hagiography, but it’s entertaining hagiographyBy showing Michael Jordan to have nearly zero faults, the documentary crafts him as a Basketball God figure that only adds to his legend and makes it more shocking for younger viewers when he doesn’t hit every game-winning shot. As Jordan himself says, he missed 26 game-winning shots in his career. Obviously, you didn’t come to watch the misses; you came to watch the highlights we all know and a few you may not have.
  • The dichotomy of the 1992-93 Bulls and the 1993-94 Bulls was maybe the most interesting part of the series as a basketball nerd. When I interviewed several college coaches last year for the Building a Better Basketball Offense series, I got to talk to a few coaches whose teams had one dominant scorer and secondary/role players surrounding them. A question I’ve always wondered about teams like this was if it became easier or harder to design the offense around one player. Nearly every coach said “both,” and a couple outlined how it’s typically a little easier for players to buy in to an offense where they know they’ll be able to shoot a decent amount of shots. The 1992-93 Bulls were the second-best offense in the league, and Jordan was spectacular as usual, scoring nearly 33 per game in his first last dance. Once Jordan left, the 1993-94 Bulls fell to the 14th-best offense, though their assist rate did jump a bit. (While this is real basketball nerd stuff that no one cares about, the doc spent zero time exploring how the Bulls were an all-time elite Shot Volume offense, turning it over on just 12% of possessions in 1992-93 and rebounding 38% of their own misses. It’s one of the greatest feats in offensive basketball history.) In the documentary, these two teams are presented as nearly equal, even though the post-Jordan Bulls were clearly worse and got to 55 wins on the back of some lucky bounces in close games. That said: it seems like most coaches would probably deem the 1993-94 Bulls easier to coach, no?
  • I wish we’d gotten at least some coverage of the post-Jordan Bulls, and, heck, the Jordan Wizards. Maybe that would’ve been episodes 11 and 12 of this already-very-long miniseries, but if you’re spending an entire episode covering Dennis Rodman, I would imagine you could talk more about what happened after the Last Dance. The coda of this series gives you brief, one-line updates on the stars: Jordan retired. Scottie Pippen was traded. Steve Kerr was traded. Dennis Rodman was released. You’re telling me that with all of the time afforded to you, you couldn’t go more in-depth on Life After the Bulls for any of those final three players? Even MJ gets shorted in this regard. There’s nothing about how he became an NBA owner, an international ambassador for basketball, a constant national figure, etc. It’s simply that he rode off into the sunset and then came back for a couple years down the road. Maybe that’ll be in After the Last Dance in 2022: multiple episodes on just how entertainingly bad the Bulls were from 1999 to 2004. I get that they dunked on Jerry Krause enough already, but someone has gotta explore Tim Floyd going 49-190 as the Bulls’ head coach.
  • As anyone could and should admit, this had several great parts that made the entire experience worth it. I’d love to hear everyone else’s. For me, it’s getting to see Tex Winter drawing up the triangle offense, Jordan’s wails post-title in 1996, Jordan watching others’ interviews, his mom playing a large part in the first episode, and a bit of the baseball discussion.

Again: good, not great. I wouldn’t have it any other way, because we desperately needed something to attach ourselves to in the midst of the sports wilderness.

Tennessee high school football projections, Week 3

Week 3 has arrived! Last week went much better than Week 1 – a 140-36 (79.5%) record, a full eight games above expectation. Also, thank you to WCDT Radio in Winchester, TN and Will Rabb for having me on their Prep Football Insiders show last night – a great time. (I believe the podcast of the show will be uploaded sometime before the end of the weekend, though I don’t know for certain.)

As a reminder, you can keep track of season-long win projections via this spreadsheet, which is linked here:

Now, on to this week’s games. Unfortunately, the system expects the weakest week of football yet – a 140-33 (80.8%) expected record for favorites, with 63 of the 173 games having a 90% favorite or greater. That’s 21 more than last week, along with having just 19 50-59% games. Here’s how the Win Percentage Groups are hanging after Week 2:

  • 50-59% likely to win the game: 46-35 (56.8%); 22-14 last week
  • 60-69%: 50-23 (68.5%); 30-9 last week
  • 70-79%: 35-23 (60.3%); 19-12 last week
  • 80-89%: 46-10 (82.1%); 26-2 last week
  • 90-100%: 82-4 (95.3%); 42-0 last week

Outside of the very randomly poor performance by 70-79% favorites, everything is at least within its expected range two weeks in. That’s good to see, and a tiny bit ahead of what I personally expected. Just like more 60-69% teams will lose games going forward, more 70-79% teams should win. As always, TV information for games is listed below. All games, unless otherwise noted, start at 7:30 PM Eastern time for EST teams and 7:00 PM Central for CST teams.


  • Sheffield 26 at Memphis Nighthawks 17 (this one happened already, obviously; the Memphis Nighthawks won 36-6. Whoops.)


  • Morristown West 18 at Jefferson Co. 32 (7:00 PM ET, WVLT-TV)
  • Mitchell 20 at Memphis Academy of Health Sciences 11
  • Marshall Co. 22 at Tullahoma 19
  • Raleigh-Egypt 13 at Wooddale 29


  • Hixson 3 at Anderson Co. 55
  • LaVergne 32 at Antioch 17
  • Kingsbury 11 at Arlington 43
  • Kingston 11 at Austin-East 36
  • Memphis Overton 9 at Bartlett 39
  • Goodpasture Christian 8 at Battle Ground Academy 45
  • Dobyns-Bennett 30 at Bearden 17
  • Glencliff 0 at Beech 58
  • Covington 43 at Bolivar Central 7
  • Webb 40 at Boyd-Buchanan 10
  • Heritage 7 at Bradley Central 48
  • Dickson Co. 0 at Brentwood 49
  • McCallie 15 at Brentwood Academy 25
  • Clay Co. 29 at Byrns [Jo] 13
  • Oak Ridge 27 at Campbell Co. 26
  • Sequatchie Co. 32 at Cannon Co. 17
  • Southwind 19 at Center Hill (MS) 23
  • Sevier Co. 3 at Central 44
  • Whitwell 21 at Chattanooga Christian 29
  • Fairview 35 at Cheatham Co. Central 13
  • Champagnat Catholic (FL) 32 at Christ Presbyterian Academy 21
  • Johnson Co. 28 at Chuckey-Doak 23
  • West Greene 23 at Claiborne 27
  • Stewarts Creek 34 at Clarksville 19
  • Fayette Academy 32 at Clarksville Academy 22
  • Maryville 43 at Cleveland 8
  • South Greene 29.9 at Cocke Co. 30.2
  • Blackman 45 at Coffee Co. Central 4
  • Lewis Co. 39 at Community 12
  • Riverdale 36 at Cookeville 16
  • Sale Creek 17 at Copper Basin 33
  • Sullivan North 38 at Cosby 9
  • Greenbrier 8 at Creek Wood 42
  • Tennessee 24 at Daniel Boone 31
  • Stone Memorial 29 at DeKalb Co. 17
  • Friendship Christian 32 at Donelson Christian Academy 16
  • Lake Co. 45 at Dresden 13
  • Forrest 25 at Eagleville 27
  • East Ridge 17 at East Hamilton 23
  • Giles Co. 18 at East Nashville 41
  • Cascade 19 at East Robertson 30
  • Knox Catholic 21 at Ensworth 23
  • Harding Academy 7 at Evangelical Christian 44
  • Baylor 22 at Father Ryan 19
  • Huntland 21 at Fayetteville 24
  • Lincoln Co. 17 at Franklin Co. 32
  • Lipscomb Academy 14 at Franklin Road Academy 28
  • Powell 34 at Fulton 16
  • Hillsboro 25 at Gallatin 26
  • DeSoto Central (MS) 22 at Germantown 29
  • Pickett Co. 6 at Gordonsville 43
  • Sullivan South 22 at Grainger 30
  • Sunbright 8 at Greenback 44
  • Union Co. 5 at Greeneville 50
  • York Institute 36 at Grundy Co. 14
  • Gibson Co. 26 at Halls 21
  • Hampton 16 at Happy Valley 24
  • Science Hill 20 at Hardin Valley 26
  • Camden Central 34 at Harpeth 12
  • Coalfield 27 at Harriman 16
  • Dyer Co. 23 at Henry Co. 29
  • White Station 29 at Hernando (MS) 22
  • Waverly Central 32 at Hickman Co. 20
  • Hamilton 14 at Hillcrest 31
  • Hunters Lane 9 at Hillwood 46
  • Bolton 0 at Houston 59
  • Hollow Rock-Bruceton Central 0 at Huntingdon 57
  • Centennial 27 at Independence 34
  • Hardin Co. 24 at Jackson North Side 27
  • Chester Co. 12 at Jackson South Side 32
  • Northeast 23 at Kenwood 17
  • Grace Christian Academy 19 at King’s Academy 42
  • Fairley 41 at KIPP Collegiate 3
  • Brighton 21 at Kirby 35
  • Clinton 14 at Knoxville Halls 38
  • Karns 2 at Knoxville West 53
  • First Assembly Christian 7 at Lausanne Collegiate 45
  • Mount Juliet 27 at Lebanon 14
  • Soddy Daisy 29 at Lenoir City 19
  • Lexington 25 at Liberty Tech Magnet 9
  • Cumberland Co. 0 at Livingston Academy 49
  • Brainerd 9 at Loudon 37
  • Lawrence Co. 16 at Maplewood 29
  • Polk Co. 19 at Marion Co. 25
  • Jellico 15 at McCreary Central (KY) 34
  • Perry Co. 17 at McEwen 34
  • Cane Ridge 33 at McGavock 18
  • Sweetwater 30 at McMinn Central 22
  • Cumberland Gap 0 at Meigs Co. 42
  • Freedom Prep Academy 35 at Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering 12
  • Collierville 20 at Memphis Central 22
  • Zion Christian Academy 31 at Memphis Nighthawks 19
  • Christian Brothers 13 at Memphis University 30
  • Howard Tech 32 at Middle Tennessee Christian 17
  • Wayne Co. 40 at Middleton 22
  • Oakdale 0 at Midway 45
  • King Prep 8 at Millington Central 42
  • St. Benedict at Auburndale 3 at Montgomery Bell Academy 38
  • Cornersville 23 at Moore Co. 24
  • Cherokee 30 at Morristown East 29
  • Macon Co. 18 at Mount Juliet Christian Academy 23
  • Craigmont 13 at Munford 39
  • Davidson Academy 32 at Nashville Christian 28
  • Smyrna 21 at Nashville Overton 19
  • Unicoi Co. 43 at North Greene 9
  • Whitehaven 8 at North Little Rock (AR) 47
  • St. George’s 30 at Northpoint Christian 19
  • GPittman 37 at Northview 7
  • Middle College 28 at Oakhaven 13
  • Siegel 0 at Oakland 53
  • Dyersburg 42 at Obion Co. 12
  • Haywood 19 at Olive Branch (MS) 28
  • Shelbyville Central 23 at Page 27 (7:00 PM CT, WUXP-TV)
  • McKenzie 7 at Peabody 42
  • Briarcrest Christian 20 at Pope John Paul II 27
  • Montgomery Central 28 at Portland 16
  • Franklin 5 at Ravenwood 40
  • Signal Mountain 7 at Red Bank 41
  • Monterey 46 at Red Boiling Springs 4
  • Mount Pleasant 33 at Richland 18
  • Crockett Co. 22 at Ripley 30
  • East Hickman Co. 12 at Riverside 34
  • Oliver Springs 22 at Rockwood 17
  • Wilson Central 25 at Rossview 17
  • Macon Road Baptist 42 at Rossville Christian Academy 12
  • Alcoa 52 at Scott 0
  • Houston Co. 23 at Scotts Hill 15
  • Chattanooga Central 35 at Sequoyah 18
  • Carter 19 at Seymour 21
  • Melrose 29 at Sheffield 9
  • Notre Dame 39 at Silverdale Academy 14
  • Greenfield 35 at South Fulton 18
  • Milan 22 at South Gibson 31
  • Cordova 19 at South Panola (MS) 32
  • Lookout Valley 0 at South Pittsburg 47
  • Gibbs 11 at South-Doyle 37
  • Nolensville 35 at Spring Hill 10
  • White House-Heritage 20 at Springfield 33
  • Hendersonville 38 at Station Camp 7
  • Pearl-Cohn 39 at Stratford 14
  • Elizabethton 45 at Sullivan East 11
  • Collinwood 10 at Summertown 28
  • Columbia Central 14 at Summit 36
  • Stewart Co. 19 at Sycamore 28
  • Hayesville (NC) 19 at Tellico Plains 24
  • Jackson Christian 25 at Tipton-Rosemark Academy 20
  • Manassas 12 at Trezevant 28
  • University School of Jackson 28 at Trinity Christian Academy 17
  • Bledsoe Co. 17 at Tyner Academy 28
  • Hancock Co. 28 at Unaka 21
  • Adamsville 15 at Union City 27
  • Smith Co. 18 at Upperman 34
  • David Crockett 50 at Volunteer 7
  • Rhea Co. 34 at Walker Valley 15
  • Rockvale 22 at Warren Co. 24
  • Oneida 32 at Wartburg 14
  • Memphis East 21 at Washington 24
  • Trousdale Co. 31 at Watertown 18
  • Grace Baptist Academy 29 at Webb Bell Buckle 15
  • Humboldt 14 at West Carroll 41
  • Northwest 31 at West Creek 26
  • Ridgeway 0 at West Monroe (LA) 52
  • Jackson Co. 10 at Westmoreland 31
  • McNairy Central 32 at Westview 23
  • Memphis Business Academy 22 at Westwood 25
  • CAK 35 at White Co. 17
  • RePublic 16 at Whites Creek 32
  • Ooltewah 25.9 at William Blount 25.7

While this isn’t the most purely competitive week of football I’ve ever seen, it still looks fun. There are 145 Region games being played this week, and Week 3 kind of marks the real start of the season. This is when games take on actual playoff importance; your wins count for more and your losses hurt worse. Barring weather issues, 173 games will be played this week, bringing us to 528 total. If I’ve missed one, email Here are the five best games, plus a few honorable mentions, from my perspective.

  1. Knoxville Catholic at Ensworth (Friday, 7:30 PM CT, NFHS Network). This one is an II-AAA East region battle, and one that could hold a lot of importance by year’s end. Ensworth demolished a solid Hillsboro team 48-7 last week, while Knox Catholic struggled with Fort Thomas Highlands (KY) for all four quarters before a late TD put them over the top. The winner here still has to deal with Brentwood Academy and McCallie at the top, but this would be an excellent win for either school. Speaking of which…
  2. McCallie at Brentwood Academy (Friday, 7:00 PM CT). This one likely will end up deciding the II-AAA East regular season champion, but it’s also important for another reason: this is one of two games pre-playoffs where you can see two of the state’s five best teams play each other. (The other is next week, between Maryville and Alcoa.) BA has already soundly defeated a pair of out-of-state teams that would both be among the 25-30 best in Tennessee, while McCallie destroyed a Webb (Knoxville) team that is expected to win II-AA East. Both sides have several future D-1 players, including McCallie’s Jay Hardy, a likely future Tennessee defensive end.
  3. Collierville at Memphis Central (Friday, 7:00 PM CT). Admittedly, it’s strange to feature a game between an 0-2 team in Central and a 2-0 Collierville team with a +2 point differential (29-28 and 25-24 wins!), but it’s two quality 6A teams with a lot of built-in anxiety. Collierville seems to desire winning by coin-flip every week; Memphis Central has disappointed to start the year and desperately needs this win.
  4. Briarcrest Christian at Pope John Paul II (Friday, 7:00 PM CT). Yes, we have three private school games in the top four, but for good reason: they’re all really close. PJPII is favored by a touchdown, but these are two schools currently beating their preseason expectations with a very real chance to separate themselves from a four-team glob in the middle of the II-AAA West pack. (Memphis University reigns supreme, obviously.)
  5. Shelbyville Central at Page (Friday, 7:00 PM CT). I debated elevating something different here, but any neutral observer should be paying close attention to the insane 5A-5 race. Page is a 4.8-point favorite here, but the play is about the same as it was preseason: they’ve got to win this and at least 1-2 more coin-flips to go 10-0. Meanwhile, the top three teams in 5A-5 are separated by a projected 0.26 wins in region play. The winner here gets a leg up on everyone else.

Honorable mentions: Baylor at Father Ryan (Friday, 7:00 PM CT); Haywood at Olive Branch (MS) (Friday, 7:00 PM CT); Ooltewah at William Blount (Friday, 7:30 PM ET); Marshall Co. at Tullahoma (Thursday, 7:00 PM CT); Gallatin at Hillsboro (Friday, 7:00 PM CT); Oak Ridge at Campbell Co. (Friday, 7:30 PM ET); Forrest at Eagleville (Friday, 7:00 PM CT); Trousdale Co. at Watertown (Friday, 7:00 PM CT); Cornersville at Moore Co. (Friday, 7:00 PM CT).

If you’d like to view it, here’s this week’s spreadsheet. The season-long sheet is linked here.

Best of luck to all teams involved this week!