Alright Alright Alright time for our third review of The Last Dance, this time taking a look at Episodes 5 and 6.
Episode 5 started off with awesome behind-the-scenes footage of the 1998 All-star game.
The locker-room footage of Jordan and the rest of the Eastern Conference All-stars discussing Kobe was amazing.
It was pretty ironic to hear Jordan ragging on Kobe for his shoot-first mentality considering Jordan got some of those same criticisms early in his career.
This is the type of footage we were expecting from the documentary and seeing all of the All-star players gathered around talking about Kobe was probably my favorite moment of any of the first 6 episodes.
I also got a kick out of Kobe saying that everyone should stop all the discussions about who would win 1-on-1 Kobe or Jordan, because without Jordan there is no Kobe.
It was a subtle way for Kobe to put himself on Jordan’s level in classic Kobe fashion while also making a poignant point about appreciating greatness and respecting the evolution of the game and its legendary players.
Another interesting storyline that these episodes touched on was the Air Jordan brand and how it came to be.
Hearing that both Converse and Adidas dropped the ball when it came to recruiting Jordan was wild especially when you consider that the main reason Nike has become the apparel behemoth that it is today is due in large part due to Jordan.
Not recruiting Jordan well enough cost Converse and Adidas billions and billions and billions and billions and you get the point.
One point that Jordan made during Episode 5 was something to the effect of, “if I didn’t back it up on the court the Jordan brand would have meant nothing.”
I can’t remember his exact phrasing but in the moment it felt like a slight jab at today’s players and the idea that they are too focused on building a brand as opposed to improving their game.
A lot of times old, cranky sports journalists will implore NBA players to wait until they’ve won something to start building their brand.
That doesn’t seem to be what Jordan did considering that he signed with Nike straight out of college.
At the end of the day players and people are going to capitalize on the financial opportunities that their position in life affords them. I have a hard time imagining that a player filming a commercial takes away from him improving his game.
It’s just an after-the-fact criticism people can lob at athletes who underperform and maybe there are certain cases where a player does in fact get too caught up in the whirlwind of brand-crafting but great players are going to be great players no matter how many commercials they film during the offseason.
Justin Timberlake and Nas made appearances as well. Nas actually fit into the documentary, talking about having Air Jordan sneakers was like having a lightsaber for kids growing up. This was during a part where the documentary was highlighting the impact of Jordan the cultural figure and seeing how he resonated with a kid from the inner-city like Nas who went on to achieve great things was a nice touch.
Why was Justin Timberlake included in this documentary? I have zero clue and I bet Timberlake himself isn’t really sure.
Not sure what was behind the thought process of, “Man we have to get Justin Timberlake in this documentary about Michael Jordan.”
One of the weirder moments of Episodes 5 and 6 was Jordan’s refusal to just admit that he kept Isiah Thomas off The Dream Team.
Jordan even says that he asked Rod Thorn, who was in charge of selecting players for the team in 1992, who was going to be on the team.
Rod responds by saying, “the player you’re thinking of will not be on the team.”
It is bizarre that Jordan thinks this exonerates him. Maybe he just doesn’t care how his quasi-denial of playing a role in keeping Isiah off the team is received, but if that is the case why not just come out and say, “I didn’t like Isiah and I didn’t want him to be on the team.”
Maybe he thinks he would get some massive pushback from the public but he has already admitted in the past that he explicitly asked for Isiah to not be included on the team.
Just a really bizarre moment from Jordan. The more you try and get to the bottom of his relationship with Isiah the more confused you get.
Whoever’s idea it was to cover up the Reebok logo on the Team USA jackets that the players wore to receive their gold medals with the American flag is an absolute genius.
How can anyone even begin to try and criticize Jordan in that situation? What a chess move by Jordan and Nike.
The rest of these 2 episodes centered on Jordan’s gambling and Sam Smith’s book, The Jordan Rules.
I am going to buy The Jordan Rules but to be honest I don’t feel like discussing it much here.
From what I’ve read Smith admitted to Jerry Reinsdorf that Phil was one of the sources for the book, if not the primary source.
During the documentary Jordan pins it mostly on Horace Grant for some reason and I find it hard to believe that Jordan wouldn’t be aware of the role that Phil played in the book having so many intimate details about Jordan and the Bulls locker-room.
Jordan seems to have this devout loyalty to Phil and I don’t think it has ever been completely explained in-depth. Maybe it has and I need to do some research.
Jordan’s gambling also gets covered in Episodes 5 and 6. Maybe it’s only Episode 6 but they aired a week ago and don’t ask me to do more research for such a minor detail.
What it seems to come down to is this: Jordan was insanely competitive and constantly wanted to gamble on everything he did in order to raise the stakes and get his adrenaline and competitive juices flowing. He would gamble ungodly sums of money with shady characters, a lot of it during rounds of golf, and seemed to make a habit of not paying his debts.
The question becomes: Is it a gambling problem if it doesn’t seem to disrupt Jordan’s life all that much? To Jordan, even in the 90’s, owing someone a million dollars was like owing your buddy $20. It meant nothing to him.
Maybe if he was playing 18 holes with Saudi princes he would have started losing money that actually took a chunk out of his net worth.
I do wonder if Jordan ever bet on himself or the Bulls during games he played in but we will probably never get the answer to that. As long as he wasn’t throwing games or shaving points, and I would say there is a 0% chance of that having happened, who cares if every once in a while he threw 50k on the Bulls to win.
Watching these episodes I had one final takeaway: Being world famous seems terrible.
Who would ever want that?
The constant screaming and shrieking and yelling and grabbing and pushing and pulling and general hysterics that engulfed Jordan whenever he was in public seemed insufferable.
Seeing the scenes of Jordan being greeted with screaming fans as soon as he stepped out of his hotel’s elevator and into the lobby, made me less likely to believe the conspiracies around Jordan’s first retirement.
Seems like the guy just had enough of all the nonstop nonsense.