The Last Dance Finale: Michael Jordan the Player, Icon, and Human

What are we supposed to do now? The greatest documercial/propaganda piece of all-time has finally come to an end.

I just want to get this out of the way, I still don’t think Michael Jordan was a better basketball player/had a better career than LeBron James is/does, although my opinion was nearly wavered a couple times. More on this very, very controversial stance and opinion will be coming in later weeks so stay tuned.

However, I do think that Michael Jordan’s career is the greatest story in the history of sports (and maybe even culture as a whole). The story is what made this series so intoxicating. Even if this quarantine didn’t exist, the documercial still would’ve been as magnetic as ever thanks to all the memes it inspired and provided, the sheer honesty it presented, and the craftsmanship it exemplified on the behalf of Jason Hehir and ESPN.

Jordan’s competitive nature and alpha mentality may have been what most people gravitated to most, but what I found most intriguing was the stuff that I didn’t know about Michael Jordan the person:

  • How he behaved with his teammates whether he was berating them in practice or lovingly caressing them on the court

  • His relationship with the security guards that operated as his old-heads whom he would go to for advice

  • His ability to make anybody feel special, and not like just some other person who entered his charismatic aura

As much as we learned about Michael Jordan the basketball player, we were made more aware of Michael Jordan the person. All of his petty antics, back-handed compliments and jokes, and even his deepest emotions:

  • The man who laughed at the iPad when somebody like Gary Payton said they could guard him.

  • The man who drained every tear out of his body and released all of the grief and anguishing pain out of his body while lying on the floor after his 4th NBA Championship.

  • The man who said “You bitch, fuck you,” as a way of saying “Good game” to an all-time great and close friend in Larry Bird after beating his Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals.

  • The man who ate AN ENTIRE GODDAMN PIZZA before the night of an NBA Finals game, got food poisoning, and proceeded to play lights out the way that only he could.

We learned a lot about his Airness over the course of ten episodes, but upon reflection I’ve come to the realization that there was only one or two minutes of screen-time dedicated to his children.

This sparks a bevy of questions for me, especially considering the fact that Jordan and his team seemingly had final say as to what footage was included and what wasn’t. For all of the concentration on Michael’s relationship to this parents, there was little for his children’s relationship to him.

There are moments in the documentary during the interviews that take place in Jordan’s 52,000 square foot home where he looks devastatingly lonely; the only things that keep him company being what looks like a $100,000 cigar and a similarly priced glass of scotch. But that’s all those things are in the end: things.

He doesn’t have the same wife anymore who stood by him through thick and thin (Juanita Vanoy, Jordan’s spouse from 1989-2006) like how he did when he first retired or in his fantasy life in Space Jam. And he’s now married to an American-Cuban model (Yvette Prieto, married in 2013). He doesn’t have any young kids running around the house. He has his rings, trophies, stogies and his thoughts. That’s it. And at the end of episode 7, he really seemed to question whether or not it was all worth it or if he could have even helped himself if he wanted to because of his innate ache for competition.

When it’s all said and done, after nearly 10 hours of footage, there are still unanswerable questions floating out there about Michael Jordan. I guess that’s what makes him such a cultural icon; the intangibles he possesses and the enigmatic charm he beams.