GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — If you’re a sports fan, you’ve probably been coping with the professional game stoppages linked to coronavirus by watching the ESPN documentary “The Last Dance,” which chronicles the Chicago Bulls’ run to their last of six NBA championships in eight years.
Matt Steigenga, a former Grand Rapids South Christian standout, wasn’t there for the last one in 1998, but he did win a title with Michael Jordan and the Bulls the year before.
“It brings back a lot of memories. They come flooding back,” Steigenga said of the documentary. “…When this first was announced that it was coming out, I wasn’t sure what to expect and I think it has surpassed a lot of expectations, especially at a time where we need something to watch.”
He said he was surprised by the unfettered access the film crews had to the team.
==Above, Steigenga talks about the documentary, Michael Jordan and the Bull’s work ethic during their run.==
Steigenga described being a member of the team as like being part of a rock band.
“Every time we rolled into a hotel or a new town, there were crowds and crowds of people and they were there to see one thing: Michael Jordan,” he said. “In the locker room, I had a locker right next to him. … That was a joke they played on the rookies. My first game, when I came back after taking a shower, I had nowhere to go because there was a crowd of reporters standing around my locker. I had to wait 10 minutes to put on my clothes.”
Jordan is still famous, but his status now pales in comparison to then.
“At that time, he was more famous than the pope,” Steigenga said. “There wasn’t anyone on the earth more popular at that moment.”
Steigenga played for the Bulls in two different stints, getting cut the first time in 1996. Later, he was looking for tickets to a game, so he called the team and was told they would see what they could do.
“On Saturday, I’m woken up by a phone call. I answer and all I hear is, ‘Matt, Jerry Krause,’” he recalled, saying he first thought it was a prank but then realized it was in fact the Bulls’ general manager.
“He said, ‘Instead of coming to the game on Tuesday, why don’t you play,’” Steigenga said. “I mean, I was just shocked, to say the least.”
He rushed to Chicago within two hours and the next thing he knew, he was on a plane to play in Detroit the next day.
He signed two 10-day contracts with the team and still got a playoff share and a ring.