Former Bulls big man Will Perdue talks ‘The Last Dance’ Episodes 7 & 8

The onetime Bulls center explains why most of the players had a better relationship with Michael’s father, James, than they did with Jordan and how “harmonious’’ life without Jordan was during the 1993-94 season.

SHARE Former Bulls big man Will Perdue talks ‘The Last Dance’ Episodes 7 & 8
Former Bulls player Will Perdue says he had a good relationship with Michael Jordan’s father James.

Former Bulls player Will Perdue says he had a good relationship with Michael Jordan’s father James.

Ted S. Warren/AP

Will Perdue knew the seventh and eighth episodes of “The Last Dance’’ would be tearjerkers.

That wasn’t necessarily the case for all the viewers of the wildly popular ESPN documentary, but it likely was for all the players who knew how important James Jordan was to his son Michael, as well as how much he meant to that entire three-peat roster.

“[Jordan’s] dad loved to talk basketball,’’ Perdue said to the Chicago Sun-Times recently. “His dad would approach all of us. ‘Hey, Will, how you doing, man? It’s pretty cool that I got to meet your parents over Christmas. I love talking to your mom because she grew up in Virginia on a farm.’ His memory was unbelievable.

“I used to have conversations with him all the time, and he would be around the practice facility, he would be on the road. He was just like the all-American dad. I don’t know what kind of relationship he and Michael had behind closed doors; it looked great. But he was an ‘aw-shucks’ guy. People would be like, ‘That’s Michael’s dad? Damn, he’s just like a regular guy who just loves talking to you.’ ’’

The episodes dove into the relationship Jordan had with his father and the tragedy that hit the family when James was murdered in 1993.

A few months after James was killed, his son shocked the world and retired from the NBA for the first time.

Perdue said he knew that Jordan and his father often talked about baseball and the love they had for the game, but despite all the rumors that he would be putting away the Air Jordans for some cleats, Perdue still didn’t believe Jordan would walk away from the NBA.

“I was shocked,’’ Perdue said of that October 1993 news conference at the Berto Center. “There were rumors of it, but come on, really? After what happened to his father, the best place to be was on the basketball floor. Where else would his father want him to be? That’s what I was thinking or maybe hoping.

“People don’t realize that guys on the team had a better relationship with his father than we did with him. I’m not saying we didn’t have relationships with Michael, but Michael was really guarded in how he did things.’’

While Jordan was living out his “Field of Dreams’’ adventure in the White Sox’ minor-league system, Perdue and the new-look Bulls went on to win 55 games without the greatest player on the planet and, more important, played a style that actually allowed them to like each other again.

“Without MJ, that team was a lot more harmonious because we really had to come together to win 55 games,’’ Perdue said. “There wasn’t as much drama, wasn’t as much tension, because there wasn’t much expected of us. But there was that, ‘OK, we’ll show you.’ We probably got along more on that team than the first three championship teams combined.’’

But don’t mistake Perdue’s honesty for a dislike of Jordan or all that was accomplished in that first three-peat. Quite the opposite.

“I can honestly say that there were many times where everyone on that first run wasn’t on the same page,’’ Perdue said. “I mean this with total respect because we had to find ways to get everybody on the same page. We had to find ways to play together, whether you like the guy or not, and we did it. That is an unbelievable accomplishment.’’

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