ESPN’s 10-part Michael Jordan/’90s Bulls documentary is the best things sports fans have going right now. “The Last Dance” has quickly become the most-watched docuseries in the world, and sports networks are filling their airwaves with Jordan content in the absence of live sports.

Missouri basketball has its own connection to Jordan and the ‘90s Bulls in Tom Dore, a former Tigers basketball player from 1977-80 who was also the Bulls’ TV announcer from 1991-2008. As an announcer, Dore was at the games, rode on team buses and planes and stayed in team hotels. Hanging out with the guys in the downtime between games, not the games themselves, are Dore’s favorite memories, he says.

Dore talked about what he remembers from his time around one of the most famous athletes and teams of all time in an interview with the Missourian. The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

On Jordan betting on anything and everything

“The thing I remember most was how competitive those teams were every single day. We bet on what time the plane was going to take off, what time the plane was going to land. We bet on whose bags would come off first until we figured out Michael was paying off all these guys.

“There’s one time where I thought, I’m gonna be school smarter on this, so I went to the pilot and I said, ‘Hey, here’s $20; how long will the flight take?’ If I said this time to land I should be in pretty good shape (to win the bet),’ and he said, ‘Yeah, I’ll try to hit that right on the mark.’

“So we touch down and I click my watch to stop. It’s exactly Michael Jordan’s time, not a second one way or the other. He would always sit right across the aisle from me. And so I turned and look at Michael, and he holds up my $20 bill. Somebody put a little highlighter mark on it, so I knew it was mine. He holds up my 20 bucks, gets a big smile on his face and puts it in his pocket. He had paid the pilot a little more to make sure we landed at the right time.”

On the card games played on the team plane

“Once the plane took off, they were playing cards. It was always interesting. That second three-peat it was Michael, Scottie and Ron Harper. The fourth guy was the fish. And if you didn’t know who the fish was and you were in the game, you were the fish. Imagine three piranhas swimming around this goldfish. And then all of a sudden one of them rips you apart; that’s what those card games were like.

“I remember we were going on a West Coast trip with Jack Haley (former Bulls player). So you get $100 a day; you’re on the trip for two weeks, you know, that’s a lot of money. We got to wherever we were on the West Coast, and Jack had to go hit the ATM so that he had enough money to pay those guys back what he owed, not to pay for his food and, you know, newspapers, all that stuff.”

On the team breaking up

“It was surprising. At the end, Jerry Reinsdorf tried an 11th-hour deal. He went to Phil and said, ‘Hey, look, I want this to work.’ And Phil said, ‘No, I’m not coming back.’ It was kind of an either-or situation (with Krause and Jackson), and that was the domino, because Michael wasn’t gonna play for anyone else.”

On his and fellow announcer Johnny ‘Red’ Kerr’s pregame antics with Jordan

“Michael would come over clapping rosin, and he did it on accident one time. And so Red (Kerr) coughed and waved it away. He would go home after home games when we weren’t going anywhere and watch the games again. He loved the bit, so he did it from there on out.

“And so every once in a while, Johnny would bring an umbrella for each of us or whatever it was. The last time he did it, he brought these tiny handheld fans. This is how goofy we were: We even practiced putting the fans together and our fists together so we’d blown the rosin back at (Jordan). He claps the rosin, we put the fans out and it gets in his eye.

“I’ll never forget this; if I get Alzheimer’s, this will be the last thing I remember. Johnny looks at me, and we both push the button so nobody can hear. And he says, ‘Tomorrow morning’s paper, the headline is going to be, “Former Chicago Bulls announcers Tom Dore and Johnny Red Kerr,” and then it’ll describe something about the game.’ The next day, (Jordan) comes up to me and Johnny and sits down, and he is dying laughing because he was fine. But he said, ‘Hey, did you really say former Bulls announcers?’ and we were just roaring laughing about it. And so Phil Jackson comes over. So Johnny starts telling the story, and they all thought it was the funniest thing. Phil Jackson looked right dead at me and said, ‘Dore, that s--- is over.’ We had a blast doing stuff like that.”

On Jordan overhearing criticism on the broadcast

“Michael walked by me one time; he needed 35 points to stay in the race to win the scoring title. So going into the fourth quarter, he walks by, and I said (on the broadcast), ‘It doesn’t look like Michael’s gonna be able to win the scoring title; he’s only got 19 points,’ or something like that. He stops and he looks right at me as I’m saying this; and I didn’t stop; I didn’t flinch, I just finished what I was saying and sat down. And oh, you could tell that was all he needed, something like that, oh my God. And so he ripped them in the fourth quarter; I forget what he got like 14, 15, 17 points just in the fourth quarter. And so he’s coming out with like two minutes to go or whatever it was, but I remember him looking at me and kind of giving me one of those smirks.”

On Jordan’s competitiveness

“I think everybody knows how competitive Michael was at everything. I won the NCAA Tournament pool one year, and then the next year, Neil Funk, our radio announcer, now the TV announcer, won it. I remember when I got the winnings. (Jordan) was looking at me and I kind of slapped the money a little bit, said ‘thanks’ and put the money in my pocket. And you could tell that that tore him up.

“So, the next year, I think he did five entries. And the next year, I think he did 10. Something like that, where he just had to win. And so he won with his 10 entries, and I got second, maybe third. And so when we figured it out, with him having to put in 10 entries, I actually got more of a return on my money. He listened to that whole conversation. And you could just tell he was so furious because he wanted to be the ultimate winner. But those things were just so much fun to do to each other. You’re just trying to break the monotony on the road.”

On going to the movies with the Bulls on Thanksgiving

(In 1996) we were in Salt Lake City on Thanksgiving Day and we’re like, ‘We’re dying; there’s got to be something to do.’ So I walk over, find the paper and ‘Casino’ just came out. Michael got interested; that was his kind of movie. And so, he came over. We asked him if he wanted to come with us, and he said he couldn’t go see a movie.

I said, ‘Mike, it’s Thanksgiving Day; there won’t be anyone there. If you want to go, this is a great time for you to go.’ So, one of the guys that was serving the food came over and said a theater was two blocks away, and Michael agreed. It was the longest two blocks in the history of America; we felt like we had walked to Yellowstone Park. Michael was killing me the whole time. We get to the movie theater, there are two people there — a guy selling tickets and the guy selling popcorn and coke.

So we buy our tickets; there’s probably 10 of us. We’re having a blast, the theater all to ourselves. So, the movie ends, and Michael says, ‘Dore, go see how many people are outside.’ It was a mob scene...So now I gotta walk back in and say, ‘Hey Michael, you might have been right about a few people being outside.’ And so we figured out the best thing to do was making like the pro boxer ring with the eight or 10 people kind of forming a box around him. We got about four steps doing that, and he realizes that Johnny’s going too slow, so he just kind of breaks through and brushes a couple of people off and runs these extremely long two blocks back to the hotel.”

On how Jordan orchestrated the reveal of his number 23 jersey when he switched back from number 45

“Before (Game 2 of the 1995 series against the Magic) our equipment guy put the 23 jersey in the locker instead of 45. And I guess Michael looked at him as like, ‘It’s time.’ So he comes over to me and says, ‘Hey, I’m putting my cape back on.’ I knew exactly what he meant. And he says, ‘Which camera is yours?’ So, you know, the guy raised his hand; he put the red light on.

Michael said, ‘I’m going to turn after the introduction; I’ll turn and face him and I’ll pull off my warmup jersey and you’ll see 23.’ So I said, ‘Got it, I’ll take care of everything.’ So I kind of warned Chicago on TV, you know, the viewers during the pregame show with some special coming up.

They finish warmups, the red light comes on, and he turns to face them and rips off his warmup jacket like he was pissed and you can see the 23. And I’m hearing screams from Chicago to Milwaukee; you could hear those people so loud. My tagline was, ‘Superman has put his cape back on.’ The crowd was so loud. It was all him, but it was electric through the TV, and he was awesome that night.”

On Steve Kerr’s NBA Finals winning shot against Utah in 1997

“Michael says to Steve, ‘Hey, look if they come to double team me, where do you want to be so that you can get a jump shot?’ So Steve drew one little circle right there and Michael said, ‘OK, I’ll catch the ball, and if they double me, it’s coming.’ So Steve catches it in his favorite spot because Michael thought ahead. That’s the kind of thing that he did.”

On Dennis Rodman

“Once Dennis came it was more like that rock star show. Before, it was Michael and Scottie and it was really basketball-related; that’s what they focused on. But after Dennis got there, it was more of a show. Because Dennis understood all that marketing, you know, driving downtown with the makeup and the lipstick and the wedding dress for a book signing. Dennis really got that stuff.”

“Dennis did what he did. But he was so good defensively, so good at rebounding. Everybody else would study ‘how do I get my shot?’ Dennis is looking at if Reggie Miller’s on the left side, and he misses a 3, this is generally where it’s going to go. He studied all that stuff. Now, they can tell you all that stuff. Dennis was so innovative and so smart with what he did, how he attacked rebounding and defense that he was way ahead of his time. In those two things he is or was a genius.”

  • Spring 2018 sports reporter. I am a sophomore studying business and sports journalism

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