“And with Netflix, when the earth’s sick
M.J., AJs, fade away perfect”Not Jay Z, 2020
The world needs Michael Jordan. Yeah I said it. Needs. He’s a mythical figure. An icon. 22 years after his final championship season and 17 years since he left the court for the third (final?) time, MJ still holds a grasp on the world like no other athlete in history.
He is not without flaws (aren’t all mythological ancient Gods?) but twice now, Jordan has provided the world with a much needed distraction during a difficult period. The first time was in 2001, when New York and America were reeling from the horrors of the September 11 attacks. One month removed from the tragedy, a 38-year-old MJ opened the NBA season against the Knicks at MSG. An event of such magnitude that the BBC broadcast the game and the national newspapers actually gave some column space to basketball (I still have the clippings to prove it).
Of course, the Wizards version of Jordan never quite lived up to our expectations and Washington would lose the season opener 93-91, with Mike shooting an inefficient 7 of 21 (though, still leading his team with 19 points). But that didn’t matter. He gave us hope. He gave us a distraction.
Fast forward 19 years and His Airness is back again. With normality temporarily on hiatus due to COVID-19, it’s a Jordan documentary that is setting the world alight. Pushed forward two months (though, technically almost two years late), The Last Dance promised to be a deep dive into the turbulent final season of the historic Chicago Bulls championship run.
The anticipation was nothing short of child-like excitement, which was a welcome relief from the trappings of the lockdown.
Double Clutch’s Netflix Party (which tipped off at 8:05am on Monday 20 April) was a collection of grown-ass adults clearly excited, with multiple conformations of “goose-bumps”. Episodes I and II did not disappoint.
“A beautiful trip back in time, sprinkled with forgotten faces and memories of what looked a different game. The overwhelming intensity of Jordan and the pantomime villain of Jerry Krause looks to make this a series that will go beyond 6 for the first time in MJ’s life.”Double Clutch Netflix Party Attendee, 20 April 2020
For those familiar with David Halberstam’s Playing for Keeps and Roland Lazenby’s Blood on the Horns, a lot of the topics covered (so far) are nothing new. But seeing behind-the-scenes footage and hearing accounts directly from the parties involved added a heightened level of context and nuance, in stunning visual detail.
Just some of the subtle gems (no spoilers) included;
- MJ working over the Iceman, George Gervin, during training camp in 1984
- a rookie Jordan with a noticeable line shaved into his fresh trim
- and the television analysts from Chicago’s 1986 playoff series against the Boston Celtics proclaiming that (current Dallas Mavericks head coach) Rick Carlisle “wants his mommy” having just been destroyed by Jordan
There were a couple of glimpses of the darker side of the GOAT. The side we’ve heard about, but rarely seen. Ridiculing Krause (perhaps my only disappointment with the timing and content of the series is that Krause is no longer around to defend himself), grating with Scott Burrell and chiding other teammates. Even turning down a request for an autograph. Given the drama that surrounded this team in its final season, expect some more explosive interactions the further we get into this.
Certainly, what we’ve seen so far has been more gripping and entertaining than 1999’s His Airness or 2000’s Michael Jordan To The Max. And with all the hype preceding the release, it’s of no real surprise that the first two episodes are already the most-viewed ESPN documentary content ever, averaging 6.1 million viewers – and that’s not including Netflix views. The ratings also make the show the most watched “tele-cast” since sports stopped.
The Last Dance dominated social media, in manner akin to peak Jordan in his zone. It was the number one trending topic on Twitter and at one point, 25 of the 30 trending topics were all related to the show. On Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, “Last Dance” posts from ESPN accounted for a combined 9 million engagements. The world wanted Michael Jordan. And so far, in his final, final come back, he’s delivering.
Echoing 2001, when Jordan donated the entirety of his $1 million vets minimum salary to organisations involved with the 9/11 relief effort, the proceeds MJ would have earned (estimated $3-4 million) from The Last Dance is being given away to charitable causes.
It may only be for 10 episodes, but just like that fax from 25 years ago, he’s back and we love it.
Episodes III and IV drop at 8am BST on Monday 27 April. We’ll be hosting another Netflix Party to watch (and re-watch) both episodes at 8pm BST that evening. Stay tuned to our social media channels for the link – see you there!
Our Mike Miller is not the Mike Miller picked 5th overall by the Orlando Magic in the 2000 NBA Draft. He is in fact one of our podcast hosts and a Lead Writer. He loves beards, begrudgingly respects James Harden, writes a weekly NBA column for GiveMeSport and contributes to Sporting News (FIBA). He’s also represented us as an analyst on Sky Sports, BBC Radio 5 Live, ESPN’s Head in the Game podcast and Love Sport Radio.