By Drew Stevens (@hismindonpaper)
I sat slouched on my couch this past Sunday with a few shots of Hennessy still percolating in my belly and two kittens frolicking about my feet awaiting “The Last Dance” to return from what would be the last commercial break of the series, and couldn’t help but to acknowledge the void that would soon re-emerge in my life by the end of the evening.
ESPN’s 10-part documentary series was more than just a trip down memory lane, it was a much-needed breather from this three-months-long-and-counting worldwide crisis that has toppled our everyday lives and forced us to question if a resurrection of our previous way of life is even possible.
“The Last Dance” bridged the gap between those of us who are old enough to remember how dominant those Chicago Bulls teams were and others who, apart from high-definition-less clips, could only take our word for it.
For my girlfriend and I, the show served as the impetus for a series of regularly scheduled double dates (of the shelter-in-place nature) with our neighbors, who also happen to be our good friends. Honestly, “The Last Dance” became the highlight of our now otherwise monotonous and unorthodox weeks.
The four of us excitedly tuned into every hour-long episode as did millions of other people, some of whom even brought out various Bulls regalia to dress themselves to the nines — or rather, in the (Air Jordan) 9s.
Yes, the series was peppered with stories of rampant drug use and Dennis Rodman’s various wild in-season hijinks was enough to furrow many brows and curl most lips but, at its core, “The Last Dance” was never intended to be a salacious prime-time tell-all chock-ful of juicy details and shocking revelations, that’s not what it was made for. And yet I was still captivated, particularly by how Michael Jordan spoke about the cost of winning and leadership in episode seven as his eyes began to simultaneously well up with tears, which triggered his call for a break in filming.
‘The Last Dance’ to air reruns on ABC starting this week (Chicago Tribune)
To see Jordan — forever an unapologetic competitor — struggle to fend off his tears was as shocking as it was endearing.
This is where The Grio contributor, Jason Johnson, missed the mark in his reflection of the series, showing a shallowness in both his criticism of, and expectations for the cultural event.
While expectedly well-written, and sprinkled with clever jabs targeted at the series’ protagonist, Johnson’s editorial essentially juxtaposes Jordan’s unwillingness to involve himself in the socio-political issues that existed during the upswing and peak of his superstardom with the outspoken nature of some of today’s most prolific athletes.
But, applying modern standards of behavior to a by-gone era makes as much sense as one’s expectation of Jordan to divulge intimate details of his family life within the confines of a documentary chronicling his basketball career, or for that documentary to not resemble a marathon of highlights of the player most people — his contemporaries included — consider to be the greatest of all-time.
Throughout “The Last Dance,” Johnson, presumably, wanted Jordan to speak to this idea of his responsibility as both an African-American and undoubtedly the highest profile athlete of his era to be as vocal off-the-court about issues affecting minorities and their communities at-large as he was electrifying on it.
What Jordan offered instead was a reiteration of basketball, for better or worse, being his one and only concern. Johnson may think my opinion is too lax, naive or narrow-minded. But that’s him. Because his aim is off.
Drew Stevens is a writer based in Chicago; Follow WARR Media (We Are Regal Radio) on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram