Now that ESPN has released the final two episodes of its 10-part docu-series The Last Dance , which chronicles Michael Jordan and the 1990s Chicago Bulls dynasty, one question has eventually bubbled to the surface in all the post-show water cooler talk: did we learn anything new about Michael Jordan ? Well, we sure did in the ninth episode as Indiana Pacers star Reggie Miller, a well-versed talker of trash, got an earful after he tried to upstage Jordan as a rookie during his 1987-88 season. Miller said Jordan looked sluggish in the first half of their first game against one another, which led Miller to fling some verbal knives towards the Bulls superstar. “You’re Michael Jordan?” Miller said. “The guy who walks on water?” Everyone who has watched The Last Dance knows what happened next. Jordan made a career out of turning slights against his opponents. Just ask Seattle Supersonics coach George Karl, who snubbed Jordan at a restaurant before their 1996 NBA Finals. Miller, like Karl, learned the hard way when you p*** off basketball’s GOAT it is at your own peril. “Don’t ever talk trash to Black Jesus,” Jordan said to Miller after going on an absolute tear in the second half, and making the Pacers newbie look like a fool. Invariably, what The Last Dance did was finally give us a glimpse into the psyche of a basketball legend who elevated the sport to new heights in the 90s. Jordan’s success globalised the game. He shouldered a heavy burden and paid a weighty price for being one of the most famous people of the decade. But what I will mostly take away from ESPN’s brilliant series is the curtain pull on Jordan’s motivational tactics. Blessed with natural skill, he often found himself searching for ways to fully exploit his talent, and that came in the form of anger, resentment, aggression and even revenge. To say Jordan was a cold, callous robot hell-bent on making life a living nightmare for both his teammates and opponents isn’t exactly true, but it isn’t far off from reality. This is the cost of being a true champion and it doesn’t matter if you are friend or foe, you will pay the price. Jordan wasn’t in the NBA to make friends, he was there to win rings. Just ask Steve Kerr, who got punched in the face by him during a practice in the 1995-96 season after coach Phil Jackson kept siding with Kerr and calling fouls on Jordan. The insights into Jordan’s internal machinations started early on in the series, as we saw how he handled the Detroit Pistons, who had the Bulls’ number in a number of play-off series in the late 80s. Rough and tumble, led by pesky point guard Isiah Thomas, who Jordan clearly loathes to this day, the Pistons got under MJ’s skin. Michael Jordan shoe sales soar amid The Last Dance nostalgia This in turn compelled Jordan to hit the weights after the 1989-90 season, bulking up his frame to withstand more punishment. In typical Jordan fashion, he made sure the entire Bulls squad came along for the gruelling ride. It was his way, or the highway, and detractors didn’t last long in Jordan’s universe. We also found out in the final two episodes that Jordan can hold a grudge. After he retired from basketball for the first time in 1994, Utah Jazz player Bryon Russell, full of youthful exuberance, said he was sad Jordan had called it a career, emphatically stating that he could guard him with ease – to his face. Three years later, during the 1997 NBA Finals, and again during the 1998 NBA Finals, Jordan made Russell pay immensely for talking smack. Jordan hit the most iconic shot of his career while Russell was trying to defend him in game six of the 1998 NBA Finals. Russell, who looked like a rag doll thrown in the wrong direction, is now undeniably only famous for being “that guy” that Jordan made the shot over to win his sixth championship. Questions will most likely linger long after the dust has settled on The Last Dance . Jordan remains a bit of an enigma to this day, even after he spilled his guts out through 10 episodes. But herein lies the paradox we must come to accept, no one truly knows what went on inside his head during that chaotic period of his life. His motivations were driven by a number of parallel, and at times competing emotional mindsets. He did his best to set the record straight and Jordan was more than forthcoming. He may not have dished the dirt fully on a few subjects, most notably his notoriously infamous gambling habit, but there is a case to be made that every man is allowed to take some things to the grave with him. Jordan, the self-described “Black Jesus”, was just that. An iconic, deity figure who loomed large over basketball for more than a decade. He was larger than life, but fully humanised in the ESPN series, giving us enough answers about a mythical figure we all feel like we now know just a little bit more. Help us understand what you are interested in so that we can improve SCMP and provide a better experience for you. We would like to invite you to take this five-minute survey on how you engage with SCMP and the news.