Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. Two of the greatest players to ever play that me and so many others looked to as greats we wanted to pattern their greatness on the court, either on the court as well or into our own aspects of whatever career path we choose. It’s only right that the beginning of episode five that aired Sunday night on ESPN from ESPN Films very stellar and popular current, The Last Dance, 10-part mini-doc. Centering on Jordan and the 90’s dynasty Bulls final championship year of 1997-1998. Starts with, “In Loving Memory of Kobe Bryant.”
As it starts off with Nas’ classic, I Ruled the World, playing before delving into the relationship that Jordan and Bryant developed over the years that started at that years NBA All-Star Game at Madison Square Garden. A sort of passing of the torch from one generation to the next that seems even more surreal and somewhat heartbreaking knowing that Bryant is no longer here with us in physical form. Then to see him talk about the big brother bond that he developed with Jordan. Saying, “He’s like my big brother. I truly hate having discussions of who’d win one-on-one. 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 without him because he guided me so much.” Kobe didn’t shy away from taking on his idol in that All-Star Game too, but more importantly he also had fun. Forever earning Mike’s respect. Which some of us learned even more how truly close that big brother and little brother bond was when MJ gave his very moving and emotionally tearful speech at Kobe’s memorial earlier this year after Bryant’s very untimely passing back in January.
Being how much Jordan said that Madison Square Garden was the Mecca of basketball. It’s only right that game was played at the Garden and that the episode also goes into detail about Jordan’s last game at the Garden in a Bulls uniform exactly a month after the All-Star Game. In which Jordan wearing Jordan 1s for the first time in a game in years played through bloody feet to a ridiculous 42 points game on 17-of-33 shooting to go with eight rebounds, six assists, three steals and a block. In helping the Bulls to a 102-89 victory that would improve their record to 45-16 at that time of the year. Jordan would detail before that how he wanted a deal with Adidas, but it was his Mom, Deloris, who convinced him to take a meeting with Nike that as they say forever changed the course of history. As the saying always goes too, “Mother knows best.” And you have to wonder if Nike ever thanked Deloris for convincing Michael to take that meeting or even knew of that story before now.
Briefly it goes into the shoe business and how with the marketing with director and famed Knicks fan, as well as New York native, Spike Lee. Was a big deal in helping Mike along with his game really promote the Air Jordans into becoming such global phenomenon beyond just basketball. That everybody had to have and especially if you grew up anywhere here in the Chicago area in the 90’s, you know how much bigger it was to have a pair and if you did to show them off to your friends and/or peers. Even family members, just to show off. Mike showed with the Jordans that they were the first basketball shoe you can not only just wear on the court, but as a fashion statement as well. That so many still flock to stores for till this very day.
Jordan’s competitiveness to show how leaps and bounds ahead he was above everyone else is really shown too. Or if anybody was even compared how silly he would make those comparisons look to him. Case in point when him and Clyde Drexler were compared to each other before the ’92 Finals and he proceeded to go off for what was a record six three pointers in a Finals game half and gave the infamous shrug. In that Game 1 victory in which he scored 39 points and had 11 assists. Going on to average 35.8 points in that Finals on the way to helping the Bulls secure a second straight title, while he won his second Finals MVP. It then goes into detail about the Dream Team and how the storied scrimmage in which Magic Johnson’s team was up eight and he made the mistake of telling Jordan. “If you don’t turn into Air Jordan, we’re going to blow you out.” To which Magic said that Jordan then completely took over and helped his team beat his. That truly let everyone at the time that Jordan was now really the alpha of alpha’s with nobody remotely close to him.
From that Olympics with the Dream Team to the Jordans and the great branding with the, “Be Like Mike” campaign. Had everyone from the city and suburbs of the Chicago area and worldwide singing and humming along, “Like Mike! If I can be like Mike. I want to be. I want to be like Mike, if I can be like Mike!” That had us all believing even if we really couldn’t, that we could be like Mike on the basketball court. Especially more so if you grew up anywhere here in the Chicago area here in the 90’s, it had you believing that even more and showing how truly great our childhood was to be around and witness a lot of that while it was going on. While also showing the truly global impact that Jordan had everywhere and how it helped grow the game of basketball into the truly global phenomenon it’s today.
The gambling issues that Jordan also became known for are talked about in episode six. As for the first time we see he doesn’t really have the squeaky clean image we all thought he did. Fortunately for the Bulls Jordan also used that as well as the attacks in helping galvanize the Bulls to come back from a 2-0 deficit in the ’93 Eastern Conference Finals against the New York Knicks to go on to win the series 4-2 to clinch their third straight NBA Finals berth. Where Jordan and the Bulls took on Charles Barkley and the Phoenix Suns looking to become just one of only a few franchises in NBA history to complete a three-peat. Jordan saying how he was a little upset that he didn’t win the MVP that year and that, “They gave it to Charles. But with that said, OK, you can have that. I’m going to get this.” When referring he would rather have another NBA title. The Bulls would of course go on to win that series to complete their first three-peat. With what would come after that better known that will be gone into more detail for next week’s episodes. Jordan was exhausted both physically and mentally after that year/season though. Saying how, “If I ever had the chance to do it all over again. I would never want to be considered a role model. It’s like that’s stacked against me and no way I can win.” In reference of not wanting all that fame. A truly chilling and somewhat mind-blowing way to end episodes five and six. That makes you think for those who seek fame, is it all really worth it?
The perfect climax to setup next Sunday night’s seventh and eight episodes and as we are now a little over halfway through the series. With only two more Sunday night’s and just four more episodes left. It also truly shows the global impact, reach and influence that even nearly two decades after playing basketball professionally that Jordan still has on the game and why so many say there’s really no one who will come close to him on the court as the greatest of all-time. The series with each new episode and highlight showing how outside of maybe Kobe Bryant only, how disrespectful it even is to compare anybody else to Jordan. After watching it, it inspiring and making so many others I’m sure want to hoop too.