Like much of the sports world, Dennis Hopson watched every episode of “The Last Dance.”
With the NBA and all other sports across the world at a standstill, ESPN's 10-part documentary on Michael Jordan's pursuit of a sixth NBA championship with the Chicago Bulls proved to be a must-watch binge of basketball nostalgia.
And like most, Hopson enjoyed what he saw. But having lived it as a member of the first Bulls team to win a title, Ohio State's all-time leading scorer said he would've liked to have seen a little bit more.Get the news delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our BuckeyeXtra newsletter
“I think it's been pretty good,” Hopson, now the head coach at Lourdes College in northwest Ohio, told The Dispatch. “I think there were some things said about other players that I don't think should've been said.
“They show Michael doing X, Y and Z, but they don't show the other guys doing X, Y and Z back to Michael.”
The documentary, which primarily focuses on Jordan while telling the story of the final season of the Bulls dynasty, details Jordan's competitive nature and seemingly eternal quest to gain an edge on his competitors or teammates.
It wasn't always kind — his continual ribbing of teammate Scott Burrell stands out, as does the time he traded blows with Steve Kerr — but Jordan and others acknowledged that his attitude helped him climb to the top of the sport.
Another former Buckeyes player who had an up-close view of Jordan's skills and ethic was Brad Sellers, who spent three pre-championship seasons with the Bulls but was traded after the 1988-89 season.
Now the mayor of Warrensville Heights, a Cleveland suburb, Sellers averaged 17.8 points per game in two seasons with the Buckeyes, then was the No. 9 overall pick in the 1986 NBA draft. That was to the chagrin of Jordan, who wanted the Bulls to select Duke guard Johnny Dawkins, who like Jordan played in the Atlantic Coast Conference and with whom he shared an agent.
But while Jordan might not have wanted Sellers on the roster, general manager Jerry Krause had a vision.
“He says to me, 'Listen, I drafted you because this game is about to change. You're going to be the prototypical small forward in this league. You're going to be the first 7-foot small forward in this league,'” Sellers said. “Which is crazy, right? Now here's a guy (Krause) who they maligned (in the documentary). Here's his vision in '86, saying this thing is about to change.”
Sellers would not be around for the title that Hopson, his roommate at Ohio State, helped bring home to Chicago.
Hopson shared that season with another former Buckeye, assistant coach Jim Cleamons, a Linden product who played at OSU from 1969-71 and then was an assistant coach for the Buckeyes from 1983-87. Now living back in Columbus, Cleamons joined the professional ranks in 1989 and would spend his first seven years working under Bulls coach Phil Jackson.
He was responsible for the team's perimeter players.
“(Jordan), when he got there, he was known as a scoring guy, but could he win?” Cleamons said. “He had to take his scoring ability and give up a little bit of scoring to win some games, and once he saw that was working, that was a nice formula.
“You didn't have to tell him anything else because winning is what it's all about. Every offseason, he came back with something else in his package. That's the brilliance of him as an athlete.”
Upon his arrival for the 1990-91 season, Hopson said he had to adjust to a new locker-room mentality after three seasons with the New Jersey Nets that saw them post a record of 62-184. It helped that he was already familiar with Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant, having been part of the same draft class.
He also had to adapt to the reality that it was Jordan's show, not his.
“They had a goal there, man, and that was to win an NBA championship, and they were very, very focused on getting that done,” Hopson said. “I knew that going to Chicago was going to stunt my growth as a player because … no matter what, Mike was going to play. No matter if I went in and knocked down 10 jump shots in a row or missed 10 jump shots in a row, Michael was going to play.”
Hopson and Sellers said the documentary has rekindled relationships with their former teammates. Hopson had former Bulls guard B.J. Armstrong speak to his team via a Zoom call last Monday, and Sellers said he's reconnected with Gene Banks, who was in his final NBA season when Sellers was a rookie.
None of the former Buckeyes is quoted in the documentary, but Sellers' place in history is immortalized. It was the future mayor who threw the inbounds pass to Jordan when he hit his iconic jumper over the outstretched arms of Craig Ehlo to eliminate the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the 1989 Eastern Conference playoffs.
“The (Richfield) Coliseum was 15 minutes from my house,” Sellers said. “Don't think I didn't think about that when I was walking to take that ball out. I was like, 'Wow, here it is. I'm in the venue in the other uniform, and here it is.' ”
Many more wins would follow, even as some of the supporting cast changed. The documentary showed the toll it took on Jordan and his teammates, but that same grind also produced lifelong relationships and lessons learned.
To this day, Sellers said if a former Bulls player was to “trumpet the call to return home,” everyone who could possibly be there would be.
So although “The Last Dance” leaned heavily on telling Jordan's story, its message stretched beyond just one player.
“It brought back a lot of memories,” Cleamons said. “A lot of things young guys don't quite understand still is how grueling a life being a professional is. Young players that have some talent, a lot of times they don't know the process of bringing that talent to a level where you're actually getting paid for your production.”