The Last Dance: Michael Jordan talks Dream Team, Isiah Thomas, Toni Kukoc, Reebok logo at Olympics

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“The Last Dance” documentary on the Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls packed four major story angles from the Dream Team at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics into about 17 minutes on Sunday night.

First, and, if any of them, somewhat revelatory, was Isiah Thomas‘ omission from the 12-man roster (tackled in detail here).

It was the most significant news of the original roster selection and reignited with Dream Team documentaries in 2012 (20th anniversary in conjunction with London Olympics) and a previous “Last Dance” episode on the Bulls-Pistons rivalry.

In previous interviews in 1992 or more recently, both Jordan and Rod Thorn, a USA Basketball player selection committee member in 1992 who called Jordan to offer him a team spot, gave different answers about whether Jordan or Thorn said it first: that Thomas wasn’t going to be chosen for the team. Or whether either said it at all.

The new wrinkle from Sunday’s interview: Maybe Thomas’ name wasn’t uttered at all.

“Before the ’92 Olympics, Rod Thorn calls me and says we would love for you to be on the Dream Team,” Jordan said. “I said oh, who’s all playing? [Thorn] says, uh, what does that mean? I say who’s all playing? He says, well, the guy you’re talking about or, you’re thinking about, is not going to be playing.

“I respect Isiah Thomas’ talent. To me, the best point guard of all-time is Magic Johnson, and right behind him is Isiah Thomas. No matter how much I hate him, I respect his game. Now it was insinuated that I was asking about him, but I never threw his name in there. … You want to attribute it to me, go ahead, be my guest, but it wasn’t me.”

Thomas repeated that he didn’t know why he was left off.

“The camaraderie that happened on that team, it was the best harmony,” Jordan said. “Would Isiah made a different feeling on that team? Yes.”

DREAM TEAM: Why Jordan Nearly Said No | Roster Decisions

The rest of the Dream Team segment, split into two parts by a commercial break, looked at the famous practice game in Monte Carlo. With Clyde Drexler and John Stockon sidelined, the teams were: Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Larry Bird, Karl Malone and Patrick Ewing against Johnson, Chris Mullin, Charles Barkley, Christian Laettner and David Robinson, according to Jack McCallum‘s 2012 book, “Dream Team.”

Johnson, who said it was the best basketball he was ever a part of, and his team led by as many as nine points. It also involved a level of trash talk befitting the occasion.

Johnson said he, at one point while leading, said, “If you don’t turn into Air Jordan, we’re going to blow you out.” Jordan then willed his team to an eventual victory.

“After that game everyone kind of acknowledged we were in a new era,” NBA PR executive Brian McIntyre said. “Michael Jordan was the alpha alpha, period.”

From there, the episode moved to the “Kukoc Game,” when the U.S. faced Croatia in group play. It was the first time Jordan and Pippen went up against Toni Kukoc, the prized recruit of their hated Bulls general manager, Jerry Krause.

The Kukoc game, and how he earned Jordan’s respect, is covered in detail here.

“Jerry paved the way for a lot of hell for Toni Kukoc,” Pippen said. “Every guy on that Olympic team looked at that kid and felt like he may not even think about coming to the NBA after he played against us. It wasn’t anything personally about Toni, but we were going to do everything we could to make Jerry look bad.”

Lastly, the segment touched on Jordan famously covering up the Reebok logo on the official U.S. Olympic medal podium jacket. Jordan, after insulting then-USOC executive Harvey Schiller while riding in a car, teased that he had a big surprise. He ended up draping an American flag over his right shoulder.

Other players also wore flags or zipped their jackets so the Reebok logo was hidden.

MORE: MJ’s note to Knight at 1984 Olympics | Why Jordan skipped 1996 Olympics

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Kenenisa Bekele still eyes Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon world record, but a duel must wait

Kenenisa Bekele
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LONDON — Kenenisa Bekele made headlines last week by declaring “of course I am the best” long distance runner ever. But the Ethiopian was fifth-best at Sunday’s London Marathon, finishing 74 seconds behind Kenya’s Amos Kipruto.

Bekele, 40, clocked 2:05:53, the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. He was with the lead pack until being dropped in the 21st mile.

But Bekele estimated he could have run 90 to 120 seconds faster had he not missed parts of six weeks of training with hip and joint injuries.

“I expect better even if the preparation is short,” he said. “I know my talent and I know my capacity, but really I couldn’t achieve what I expect.”

Bekele is the second-fastest marathoner in history behind Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, who broke his own world record by clocking 2:01:09 at the Berlin Marathon last week.

“I am happy when I see Eliud Kipchoge run that time,” Bekele said. “It motivates all athletes who really expect to do the same thing.”

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Bekele’s best time was within two seconds of Kipchoge’s previous world record (2:01:39). He described breaking Kipchoge’s new mark as the “main goal” for the rest of his career.

“Yes, I hope, one day it will happen, of course,” Bekele said. “With good preparation, I don’t know when, but we will see one more time.”

Nobody has won more London Marathons than Kipchoge, a four-time champion who set the course record (2:02:37) in 2019. But the two-time Olympic marathon champion did not run this year in London, as elite marathoners typically choose to enter one race each spring and fall.

Bekele does not know which race he will enter in the spring. But it will not be against Kipchoge.

“I need to show something first,” Bekele said. “I need to run a fast time. I have to check myself. This is not enough.”

Kipchoge will try to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles at the Paris Games. Bekele, who will be 42 in 2024, has not committed to trying to qualify for the Ethiopian team.

“There’s a long time to go before Paris,” Bekele said. “At this moment I am not decided. I have to show something.”

So who is the greatest long distance runner ever?

Bekele can make a strong case on the track:

Bekele
Four Olympic medals (three gold)
Six World Championship medals (five gold)
Former 5000m and 10,000m world-record holder

Kipchoge
Two Olympic medals
Two World Championship medals (one gold)

But Kipchoge can make a strong case on the pavement:

Bekele
Second-fastest marathoner in history
Two World Marathon Major victories

Kipchoge
Four of the five best marathon times in history
Two-time Olympic marathon champion
12 World Marathon Major victories

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Yalemzerf Yehualaw, Amos Kipruto win London Marathon

Yalemzerf Yehualaw
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Ethiopian Yalemzerf Yehualaw became the youngest female runner to win the London Marathon, while Kenyan Amos Kipruto earned the biggest victory of his career in the men’s race.

Yehualaw, 23, clocked 2:17:26, prevailing by 41 seconds over 2021 London champ Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya.

Yehualaw tripped and fell over a speed bump around the 20-mile mark. She quickly rejoined the lead pack, then pulled away from Jepkosgei by running the 24th mile in a reported 4:43, which converts to 2:03:30 marathon pace; the women’s world record is 2:14:04.

Yehualaw and Jepkosgei were pre-race favorites after world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya withdrew Monday with a right hamstring injury.

On April 24, Yehualaw ran the fastest women’s debut marathon in history, a 2:17:23 to win in Hamburg, Germany.

She has joined the elite tier of female marathoners, a group led by Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir, the reigning Olympic, New York City and Boston champion. Another Ethiopian staked a claim last week when Tigist Assefa won Berlin in 2:15:37, shattering Yehualaw’s national record.

Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, finished Sunday’s race in 3:20:20 at age 65.

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Kipruto, 30, won the men’s race in 2:04:39. He broke free from the leading group in the 25th mile and crossed the finish line 33 seconds ahead of Ethiopian Leul Gebresilase, who said he had hamstring problems.

Kipruto, one of the pre-race favorites, had never won a major marathon but did finish second behind world record holder Eliud Kipchoge in Tokyo (2022) and Berlin (2018) and third at the world championships (2019) and Tokyo (2018).

Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest marathoner in history, was fifth after being dropped in the 21st mile. His 2:05:53 was the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. Bekele ran his personal best at the 2019 Berlin Marathon — 2:01:41 — and has not run within four minutes of that time since.

The major marathon season continues next Sunday with the Chicago Marathon, headlined by a women’s field that includes Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich and American Emily Sisson.

London returns next year to its traditional April place after being pushed to October the last three years due to the pandemic.

MORE: Bekele looks ahead to Kipchoge chase after London Marathon

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