Michael Jordan’s billion-dollar move that he almost missed is revealed in The Last Dance
The two events were described in the final episode of the 10-part documentary series, “ The Last Dance ”, broadcast on ESPN in the United States, Netflix has international rights. The show tells the story of Jordan’s final epic with the Chicago Bulls.
Although his sublime talent was never questioned and his six NBA titles in the 1990s remain an almost mythical achievement, some questions have arisen about the man behind this myth.
It seems unthinkable now that the superstar who sold millions of basketball shoes with Nike was not even interested in meeting the company in the first place. In the early 1980s, Nike was a young start-up in Portland, Oregon, a brand more synonymous with manufacturing running shoes.
His agent, David Falk, asked Jordan’s parents to persuade him to get on the plane. “My mom said ‘you’re going to listen. You may not like it, but you’re going to listen,'” “recalls Jordan in episode 5 of the hit television series.
The rest is history. Air Jordan was born and Jordan and Nike immediately hit the jackpot.
As Falk says, “By the end of the fourth year, Nike had hoped to make $ 3 million in sales. But by the end of the first year, they had made $ 126 million.” The shoe was iconic and so was a team player marketed more like a tennis player or a boxer. A talented and handsome athlete who quickly became a global sensation of pop culture.
“Michael came at a time when satellite TV and cable TV were proliferating,” Jason Hehir, director of The Last Dance, told CNN Sport. “He had the look, he had the charisma. He was well-spoken. He was intelligent and he was probably the most captivating player in NBA history. It was a perfect storm.”
Almost everything Jordan touched turned to gold. His story is inspiring, his dedication almost impossible to compete and his infectious enthusiasm. Watching him smile from ear to ear on the sidelines of the 1998 All Star match, you can almost feel the joy in your veins.
Jordan has helped make Chicago a major player on the map of world sport. Before his arrival in the summer of 1984, the Bulls were known as the “traveling cocaine circus” and he not only cleaned up the team, he probably helped clean up the city.
“Chicago’s reputation was a kind of gangland and corrupt politicians,” thought Hehir. “It was Al Capone’s house, gangster stuff. This city was fiercely divided on colored lines, one of the homes of prejudice in the country and Michael united people.”
Sports anchor Dan Roan had a seat in the ring from his point of view at the Chicago TV station WGN.
“Everyone was a fan of the Bulls, regardless of your political preference,” Roan told CNN Sport. “No matter where you live, it was kind of a galvanizing problem for the city.”
If Jordan had transcended Chicago, not everyone was just a basketball player.
In 1990, a Senate race in North Carolina presented a dilemma for the NBA star. Charlotte’s first African-American mayor Harvey Gantt, a Democrat, was trying to overthrow Republican Jesse Helms to become the state’s first black senator.
Helms had campaigned fiercely to try to prevent the Senate from approving a federal holiday to honor the icon of civil rights, Dr. Martin Luther King.
“My mom asked me to make a public service announcement on Harvey Gantt,” recalls Jordan in “The Last Dance”. “I said, ‘Look mom, I’m not talking about something I don’t know out of my pocket, but I’ll send a contribution to support it.'”
Gantt lost the election, but it was Jordan’s spontaneous remark on the team bus – “Republicans also buy sneakers” – that defined his position in the eyes of his critics. Jordan admits he said it, “like a joke,” but he has been haunted by these four words for decades.
While the Chicago native, former President Barack Obama, would have preferred Jordan to enter the political fray, he has a certain sympathy for his position, affirming in the film: “America is very fast to kiss a Michael Jordan, an Oprah Winfrey or a Barack Obama, as long as it is understood that you are not too controversial on broader social justice issues. ”
However, if you have ever wondered why Jordan is not mentioned in the same breath as Muhammad Ali, this is undoubtedly the reason.
“I congratulate Muhammad Ali for defending his beliefs, but I never considered myself an activist,” said Jordan. “I considered myself a basketball player. Was I selfish? Probably.”
And Jordan makes no excuses. “I give examples and if it inspires you, so much the better. And if not, then I may not be the person you should follow.”
Roan is reluctant to join those who criticize Jordan’s reluctance to get involved in business beyond basketball, pointing out that the superstar has rarely made any public appearances. But he also quickly added that “if he could have done more social stuff, I think he would have been so punchy.”
Then there’s the question of whether Michael Jordan is the type of guy you want to hang out with. There is a well known expression in sport – “nice guys finish last” – so what does that say about Jordan?
“Anything you think he could say about him,” laughs Roan, who arrived in Chicago a few months before Jordan in 1984.
“He was great for me, but when someone tried to play basketball against him or when he had a problem with someone at the front office like (general manager) Jerry Krause, Michael could be a pretty mean customer.”
Roan remembers very well the time he saw Jordan beating his teammate Scottie Pippen, who had an acrimonious relationship with Krause, to get behind the wheel of the bus and overturn him, exclaiming: “Now, this is your great chance! ”
His former Bulls teammate Horace Grant described Jordan as a devil in the documentary, saying, “You’re making a mistake, he’s going to yell at you, he’s going to put you down.”
And time has certainly not healed the intensity of Jordan’s rivalry with opponents like the Detroit Pistons, “I hated them then and this hatred continues even to this day.”
But during the production of “The Last Dance”, director Hehir found that Jordan was nothing but kind and caring.
“I think a lot of Michael as a guy, he was only respectful to me and to my film crew and to the whole production team. Our makeup artist was pregnant and he urged someone who wanted to light a cigar. He says “am” and “sir”. I mean, he’s a country boy at heart. ”
For Hehir, Jordan’s personality is one of the most fascinating things about him.
“I was interested in getting his perspective on how he feels like a” nice guy “not to be perceived as such. I wanted to know if he had any ambivalence about it.”
“The Last Dance” is a captivating descent from memory; the main drama took place 22 years ago, in a more innocent time, before we were all obsessed with our mobile phones and our social networks.
It’s hard to imagine that the goldfish bowl in which Jordan, Pippen and Dennis Rodman were swimming could have been even more intense than it was back then.
“I think the Bulls’ coverage today would be very different from what it was then,” said Roan.
“All of the enemies trying to pile up. It may have been different enough to affect how they won their games. My feeling is that if he played today he would really shut down, worry of his business interests “and playing basketball. I think it could be about that. ”
Although “ The Last Dance ” covers many aspects of Jordan’s intriguing personality, it is ultimately about the sport, highlighting the grain, the determination, the competitive spirit that always burns fiercely in the eyes of this new 57 year old grandfather.
Despite all the hoopla marketing away from the hoop, Jordan himself knew that it was only about basketball.
“My match was my biggest endorsement. Believe me, if I had averaged two points and three rebounds, I would not have signed anything with anyone,” he said.
Director Hehir says that beyond any perceived lack of character in Jordan, our lasting impression of the show will be from an incredible athlete who wants his team to experience extraordinary success.
“He entered the league and he was the team’s only hope,” said Hehir. “At the end of this 1998 series, Michael must take over the team. If you wrote the end of this series in the script, you would make yourself laugh at a Hollywood office because it is so cheesy, but it became reality. ”