Greatly enjoyed The Last Dance on ESPN/ESPN2 from director Jason Hehir, a Newton native. Had a lot of thoughts over the 10 parts, but one of the things I'm glad it accomplished was giving the younger generation a chance to understand Michael Jordan's greatness and impact — I thought the documentary did a great job of that.
I was born in late 1973, so I grew up in the 1980s and my graduation into young adulthood (where things that previously entertained me/consumed my life, like watching sports and video games, became less of a priority) came right around the year 2000.
So, basically, the height of my athletic fandom, as far as the NBA was concerned, spanned from Magic and Larry to Michael, then I changed as a fan. The NBA was off my radar after MJ, and didn't reappear until the last few years when it felt like there was more widespread competition. Yes, I hated the Super Teams and still do. It goes against everything I believe about team sports.
To me, spanning all sports, Jordan was the greatest ever in my lifetime. The greatest winner, talent, clutch player, pitchman, ambassador for the game, whatever. You name it, Jordan was the best in my eyes. Do I wish, personally, that Jordan used his immense power to help the lives of everyday people around the world? Yes, but no one's perfect and I don't expect perfection out of anyone.
I hope that people, who didn't watch the MJ era closely, can now appreciate the megastar Jordan was before social media was anywhere to be found (thank goodness). Our family watched this together — I told my kids, "Come here, I want you to see what greatness looks like and what's required ..." (Yeah, I often do that and it might be corny as hell) — and my son couldn't wait until the next episodes.
Back in my South Florida years, my father's company had season tickets to the Heat, starting with their inaugural season in 1988 (Billy Thompson was my jam, but you couldn't sleep on Grant Long, either). So we went to a lot of games and saw the overlap of Magic, Bird and Michael. Of course I was geeked up whenever Boston came to town, but with those teams, it was The Celtics or The Lakers. When the Bulls came to town, you went to see Jordan.
Not that Magic or Larry didn't always deliver, but Jordan was really the first athlete (besides stud pitchers like Roger Clemens and later Pedro Martinez) "worth the price of admission." You never knew what you might see Jordan do in any given game. He could score 60, he could dunk over 7-footers, he could change hands with the ball while in the air for 10 seconds — "A spectacular move by Jordan." (Thanks Marv)
And here's the thing: Jordan always delivered. Even when the Bulls could go through the motions after winning titles and playing 82 games in a season. Jordan was Jordan almost every night.
Certainly, you could make the argument LeBron James was similar in Cleveland — no one ever went to see The Cavs — and that's part of the reason why some of the younger generation maintains LeBron is the best ever, and there are certainly enough stats to back that up even though they were different types of players and played different positions.
There's always been these arguments among sports fans — who was the best ever? — and when I would hear it or see it on Twitter, my answer in my head was always, "It's Jordan, and it's not even close."
There wasn't anything he couldn't do. He could score whenever he wanted to against anyone, he was all-world on defense, he willed his teams to victories and, the thing that really put him over the top in my eyes, was that he was so gifted athletically, he did things you had never seen before or since (watching this back, I had forgotten how it seemed like he seemingly found a way to elevate in the air another 12 inches when he needed it — like he found an invisible step in the air that only he could see).
(The other thing that stood out in this respect: I want to go back and tally all the jumpers they showed and how many didn't touch any rim, especially the clutch shots. It felt like 90 percent of his meaningful jumpers didn't even sniff the cylinder. That's being just born to play the game and on another level than anyone else).
There was just no one like Michael Jordan ever. And there never will be (I'm heartened to see most have come to see it this way). He's one of the few athletes I'm thankful I got to see through youthful eyes when it still really mattered to me.
A few other things that stood out, including obvious connections to the Patriots and Tom Brady.
The A-Hole Factor
There's been a lot of chatter about Jordan's competitiveness and how he demanded the very best from his teammates, including some who didn't like him all that much. Even my wife (who was a damn good athlete herself) asked me, "Would you want to be Jordan's teammate?"
My answer: "Hell yes."
In fact, I'm surprised this is all that controversial. To me, if you were bothered by Jordan's attitude with teammates and coaches, then you haven't been part of a team that was in a competitive situation, or you didn't win very much ... probably both.