TABLE OF CONTENTS
Before we begin, I'd like to apologize for not writing something for Episodes 3 and 4. I couldn't find the inspiration to write about a topic that has seen so much attention over the last two decades: Dennis Rodman. So here was my quick takeaway from the two episodes:
I'm immediately going to buy the book on Phil Jackson titled Maverick so that way I can become a Native American philosopher and follow in his footsteps.
EPISODE V: Kobe, Culture & Politics
Episode V may have been my favorite thus far. It had EVERYTHING and EVERYONE from Lakers legend Kobe Bryant to President Barack Obama to Nas. The episode began with the 1998 All-Star game where the big brother-little brother bond between MJ and Kobe began.
The Black Mamba picked the Royal Airness’s brain for advice on fadeaway jumpers, post moves, dribble combos, and every feasible basketball topic imaginable. Kobe Bryant was the closest the NBA has ever come to producing another Michael Jordan; an alpha male with a competitive streak that bordered on dangerous and a fadeaway jumper that defined a generation of young hoopers.
Michael Jordan’s impact on basketball is immeasurable, but the footprint he left on culture is just as memorable and incalculable, if not more. He alone made sneakers cool; not just about comfort or exercise, but about one’s own swagger being integral to their brand. People identified with Jordan sneakers then, and they still do. Foot Lockers are waited outside of by hundreds of sneakerheads. The Nike SNKRS app is drooled over by teenagers with bots. From the infamous Air Jordan 1’s to the newest pair of LeBrons; basketball shoes are more likely to belong in a museum than they are in a gutter because of Michael Jordan. He took not just basketball, but culture, and rubbed his magic charisma all over the world.
The 1992 Olympic Basketball team, better known as The Dream Team, was made up of Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, John Stockton, Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, Chris Mullin, Clyde Drexler, and Christian Laettner.
I was able to recite that roster from memory because 1.) I’m a fucking nerd and I can do that kind of shit that doesn’t matter at all in the real world unless we’re talking hoops, and 2.) they’re one of the two greatest rosters ever assembled alongside the 2012 Olympic Basketball team dubbed the Redeem Team (which featured ((let me see if I can get this one too)) LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Andre Iguodala, Deron Williams, Kevin Love, James Harden, Russel Westbrook, Tyson Chandler, and Anthony Davis. Somebody fact check me on this one though).
The matchups in the actual Olympics weren’t as dramatic nor entertaining as the practices that went on behind the scenes. Can you even imagine being in the same gym, let alone room, as the greatest basketball team of all-time? And watching them go at it for upwards of an hour with Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan throwing verbal jabs back and forth? I’m tingling at the thought of it. Mike was so damn famous at this time that he couldn’t even get out of the shower without a microphone swarming in his face. “This is what you call a Pope or Jesus phenomenon,” said one of the many bodyguards who had the task of protecting Michael Jordan.
EPISODE VI: Air Jordan the Public Icon
Episode VI went into deeper detail of Jordan's infamous passion for gambling. This isn’t something I’m incredibly comfortable with discussing, because it’s a pretty worn-out topic. Yeah, Mike liked gambling on golf and card games. But so do my cousins. It was made a bigger deal than it really was because the public has a tendency of wanting to tear down the greats.
What’s the public opinion of the New England Patriots dynasty? They’re cheaters. How do people remember the Golden State Warriors? They were unfair. How have people treated LeBron James for the last two decades? He’ll be out of the league soon, washed; he isn’t really the greatest in the world, that title belongs to Kobe, KD, or Giannis. Stop it. It’s enough already. We always hypothetically pit one-of-a-kind talents against one another; it's in our human nature to attempt to decipher who is truly the best. Muhammad Ali or Mike Tyson? Tom Brady or LeBron James? Let’s just appreciate the greatness and reminisce on them positively at a later date.
The amount of fame that Michael Jordan experienced can only be paralleled with people like Michael Jackson and Tiger Woods. That's it, that's the list. In the modern-day where people are capable of "following" their heroes and celebrities on social media, the demand for physically seeing someone isn't as high. But back in the 90s, seeing Michael Jordan was like coming into contact with a God. An alien. Somebody who wasn't like us. The perfect picture of a person. A handsome 6'6" black man who embodied swagger to an unreachable pinnacle and served as a role model for every person regardless of age.
To Be Like Mike was to be your best self, and he proved that every god damn time he stepped on the court. That's what really separates Mike from the rest of the NBA's rich history of talents. He didn't just inspire hoopers, he inspired businessmen, blue-collar grinders, children, and everybody in between. It didn't matter if you worked at Apple, Gatorade, or were the maintenance man for an apartment building in Pittsburgh, Mike made you want to be the best you that you could.