Written by Braidan Lewis (Features Writer)
The Last Dance documentary recounting the Michael Jordan and the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls just passed another Netflix original “Tiger King” as the most popular documentary of 2020.
Every episode is different and presents something capturing right off the start, as the beginning of episode five when we see a young Kobe Bryant at his first all-star game at MSG. With Kobe Bryant’s current passing, this caught me and many other viewers off guard and brought about mixed emotions just seeing him and hearing his voice. But it was nice to hear Kobe and Jordan discuss one another, Jordan when talking about a young Kobe Bryant in the locker room with his all-star teammates saying, “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. He just go out there and take it. ‘I’m gonna make this s— happen. I’m going to make this a one-on-one game.’ … If I was his teammate, I wouldn’t pass him the f–ing ball. You want this ball again brother, you better rebound.”
It was funny to hear Jordan say that when in episode one he talks about originally not wanting Phil Jackson to coach him because he would “take the ball out of my hands.” Kobe also expresses his frustration about being compared to Jordan saying, “I truly hate having discussions about who would win one-on-one,” Bryant said. “You heard fans saying, ‘Hey, Kobe, you’d beat Michael one-on-one.’ And I feel like, yo, what you get from me is from him. I don’t get five championships here without him because he guided me so much and gave me so much great advice.”
Another surprising fact from the documentary was that Jordan originally wanted to sign with Adidas, not Nike. During Jordan’s rookie season, Converse was the top dog in shoes having players like Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Julius Erving. Converse, however, told Jordan that they didn’t see him surpassing those players anytime soon and to be fair it was his rookie year. When Jordan approached Adidas, they didn’t have the materials to make him a signature shoe. Jordan rejected everything that Nike offered him. It wasn’t until Nike called Jordan’s mom that he listened, “My mother said, ‘you’re going to go listen. You may not like it, but you’re going to go listen.’ She made me get on that plane and go listen.” Jordan signed with Nike for $250,000, double than any other player made. According to Nike, “Nike’s expectation when we signed the deal was that at the end of Year four, they hoped to sell three million worth of Air Jordans,” Falk said. “In Year ine, we sold $126 million.”
The documentary also exploits Jordan’s gambling problem, revealed in former Chicago Tribune sportswriter Sam Smith’s novel The Jordan Rules. Jordan’s reputation took a hit after this book was released, giving the public an image differing of the one presented in his “Be Like Mike” Gatorade commercials. Jordan’s reputation in the African-American community was hit as well when he refused to endorse Harvey Gannt during his run for Governor of North Carolina famously saying, “Republicans buy sneakers, too.” It was also shocking to hear former President Barack Obama expressing disappointment in Jordan after these events despite them being good friends in recent years.
The Last Dance continues to provide fascinating facts and details about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, keeping sports fans of every age engaged until the very end of every episode and eagerly anticipating the next episode. If you would like to watch the series for yourself, episodes one through eight are now available to stream online on ESPN Watch.