Milwaukee Bucks, Sidney Moncrief appear in The Last Dance opener

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 18: (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 18: (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

As the hotly anticipated Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan documentary The Last Dance premiered, the Milwaukee Bucks and Sidney Moncrief featured in the opening episode.

As Michael Jordan reflected on his rookie season in the NBA, and the process of establishing himself with his Chicago Bulls teammates, it didn’t take long for the six-time champion to mention the Milwaukee Bucks in the opening episode of ESPN’s new documentary series, The Last Dance.

"“I felt like I earned my stripes in the third game. Milwaukee’s always been a nemesis for Chicago.”"

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Bucks fans will undoubtedly agree with Jordan proclaiming Milwaukee as one of Chicago’s longest-running adversaries, as the local rivalry between the Bucks and Bulls has always added some extra incentive to games down the years.

Although the primary focus of The Last Dance is the Bulls’ 1997-98 season, as the opening episode looks to introduce Jordan and offer a snapshot of how he became a Bull in the first place, the timeline also shifted back to his rookie season in 1984-85.

At that time, the Bucks were one of the NBA’s very best teams, and likely an even bigger irritant than usual for the Bulls. The Bucks had gone all the way to the Conference Finals the season prior, and would win 59 games, and sweep the Bulls in the postseason, before ultimately losing to the 76ers in round two in this campaign.

Still, it was a mark of the Bucks’ status at that time that, even today, Jordan recognizes his performance in that early regular season meeting with Milwaukee as a crucial moment in him cementing his status as an NBA player, and as the best player on his new team.

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Helping to set the scene for this particular performance in the documentary was Rod Thorn, who was not only the general manager who drafted Jordan in Chicago, but has also more recently worked as a consultant for the Bucks. Speaking of how Chicago viewed Milwaukee at that time, Thorn remarked:

"“Every time we played them, they’d beat us. They had Sidney Moncrief, who was the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. They had a tremendous defensive team.”"

At that point, Moncrief had made three consecutive All-Star teams, and even more significantly was the league’s back-to-back and reigning Defensive Player of the Year. On that front, Moncrief’s reputation as one of the game’s all-time great perimeter defenders essentially spoke for itself.

Speaking in the documentary, Moncrief pointed to his own comfort at the prospect of facing off with the rookie Jordan based on those he’d matched up with before. That was, at least until he saw him in action.

"“I kind of thought I knew his potential, because I had played against the best players in the NBA so far: the Magics and the Birds and the Dr. Js and Kareems. Some great players. Then all of a sudden, this rookie comes into the NBA and I watched the way he moved on the court and his instincts, and I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s going to be scary.'”"

As the footage on screen showed Jordan come into his own to drive the Bulls forward late in the game, Moncrief was frank in detailing the Bucks’ failed attempts to stop him:

"“Every time we’d try to trap him, he would split, go down the lane, make a really difficult shot. He was so explosive. I don’t think there’s anybody that could defend Michael.”"

Having trailed by nine points heading into the fourth quarter, the Bulls roared back behind Jordan’s fourth quarter heroics to defeat Milwaukee, 116-110. Jordan finished the game with 37 points, marking the first 30-point game of his pro career, six steals, five assists, four rebounds, and two blocks.

Summing up the impact of that moment in what was just the second win of his NBA career, Jordan noted:

"“From that point on, every player on that team felt: ‘This young kid isn’t going to let us lose.'”"

The main attraction of The Last Dance is, without question, Jordan and the last ride of this all-time great Bulls team, but at the same time there will be no end of nuggets that also speak more directly to the fans of so many different teams from around the NBA.

That already proved to be the case for Bucks fans in the opening episode with Moncrief and Thorn, and even a figure like former Bull Rod Higgins, who was a finalist for the assistant GM position in Milwaukee when Justin Zanik was hired back in 2016.

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With two new episodes airing each Sunday for the next four weeks (on ESPN in the US, and arriving the next day on Netflix outside of the US), there may yet be more Bucks anecdotes to come. At a minimum, watching Jordan and the Bulls’ journey in The Last Dance should prove to be nothing other than gripping for NBA fans anyway.