Episodes five and six aired last Sunday, and we are now past the halfway point of ‘The Last Dance,’ a documentary that will surely go down in history as iconic and a model for how to manage many intersecting narratives at once.
ESPN, Jason Hehir, you have done it again. Bravo.
As per our last two pieces covering the brilliant doc following Michael Jordan and the 90s Bulls’ excellence, we took a dive down the biggest storylines in the two middle episodes of the series.
Mamba and Michael
It is well found the relationship between the late great Kobe Bean Bryant and His Airness, Michael Jordan. They were protege and mentor, student and teacher, little brother and big brother. These episodes delved deep into the foundational state of their relationship in ’98. At the All-Star game, suiting up to go East vs. West, Michael says to his teammates,
“That little Laker boy’s gonna take everybody one on one. He don’t let the game come to him. He just go out there and take it.”
Many people wanted Michael to mentor them. And many young players got the chance. But it was Kobe‘s determination, his willingness to take all the necessary steps to be great “like Mike,” that set up his route to prosperity and forged their relationship.
This old footage was bittersweet to see; Kobe truly was beloved by millions.
We miss you Kobe.
Jordan was an Adidas guy in the early ’80s. Nike then, believes it or not, was a bit of an upstart company, and Converse was the official shoe of the NBA.
Converse had Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Julius Erving, and more. Converse told Jordan they couldn’t give him a platform bigger than any of these guys, and Adidas wouldn’t give Mike his own shoe.
Talk about fumbling the bag.
Jordan’s agent, David Falk, said that he could hardly get Jordan on the plane to meet with Nike, but after Jordan’s mom got on the phone with her son, he agreed to hear them out.
There born was perhaps the greatest partnership in fashion history. Jordan got around $250,000, more than double what any other superstar was getting, and his signature “Air Jordan” shoe, which all was a lot for a rookie who hadn’t proven anything yet.
And Nike, well, Nike got the biggest return on investment imaginable. Here we are, 35 or so years later, and Nike is a titan.
Episode six cast major aspersions on Jordan and his gambling problem. Mostly it was the media at that time, “trying” to drag down the biggest star in the world right as he was reaching his pinnacle.
After a couple of chips, talk switched from Mike being universally beloved, to him being questioned incessantly.
📺@ColinCowherd: "We're seeing that Michael Jordan is NOT perfect, he's REAL. He can be vindictive, petty, and sometimes really mean, but he's REAL. And I'll take that every day of the week instead of the social media posturing I see from everybody else." pic.twitter.com/I5ZHxPsOFt
— FOX Sports Radio (@FoxSportsRadio) May 5, 2020
Does he have a gambling problem? Are his finances in order? Does he treat his teammates horribly?
It took a noticeable toll on Jordan until one night before a game, he sat down with Ahmad Rashad and addressed the allegations.
“I can stop gambling. I have a competition problem, a competitive problem,” said Jordan.
Being such a fierce competitor is what made Mike the GOAT. It is also why he loved golf so much, why he took a shot at baseball, why he returned from retirement to the NBA twice.
Episodes five and six were absolute heat, and the next two are supposed to be even better. Director Jason Hehir recently said that he was surprised Jordan gave the green light, that’s how bad it makes him look.
We cannot wait.