The Last Dance returned for its third week on Sunday, premiering its ﬁfth and sixth episodes on ESPN. The previous installments focused on Jordan’s costars and his upbringing, but in these episodes, we get into the middle of Jordan’s career and the Bulls ﬁrst three-peat. Here are this week’s biggest moments and takeaways from episodes five and six of “The Last Dance.”
1: “That Laker Boy”
The fifth episode begins in 1998 with the Eastern Conference All-Star team arguing in the locker room about “That Laker Boy.” Of course, they were talking about Kobe Bryant. He was so electric that he was voted the youngest All-Star starter in NBA history at age 19, despite not even being a starter on the Lakers yet. The best part of it all is that even at that age, Kobe was Kobe. He came at MJ’s neck, and the game turned into a battle. Albeit, one that Jordan still ultimately won. It was surreal seeing Kobe speak on the screen about his idol, knowing what we know now. It was nice to see two legends from two diﬀerent eras coexist while getting a chance to reﬂect on a young Mamba. Rest in peace to my eras Jordan. Kobe you are greatly missed.
2: Music is Upper Echelon
At this point, despite all the other amazing things the documentary has done, the main thing that has been standing out to me is the insane choice of music being used in the docuseries. I don’t understand how they can aﬀord to license all this elite music. This episode alone had “Can I Kick it” by a Tribe Called Quest, “If I Ruled the World” by Nas, “The Choice is Yours by Black Sheep” and “Rosa Parks” by OutKast (Which was masterfully placed in a compilation of Jordan’s sold out last game in Atlanta). Shoutout to the music supervisor Rudy Chung, you’re a magician.
3: “Like Mike/Nike Boyz”
If Michael Jordan was better at anything other than basketball, it was marketing himself. In episode five, producers show a behind the scenes looks of some of the sponsorships Jordan had. MJ’s manager had only really managed tennis players before signing Jordan, and he planned to manage Michael’s brand the same way.
Tennis players operate as a single person brand, a technique that hadn’t been utilized in basketball at all. That process all started by securing him a sneaker deal. MJ was initially dead set on Adidas, but they refused to oﬀer him a signature sneaker. Michael’s mother insisted that he meet with Nike, which at the time was a small running company looking to expand operations. After lots of convincing, Nike presented Jordan a signature sneaker, and oﬀered him a $250K signing bonus. Needless to say, it was a good choice. They forecasted $3M in sales of the Jordan line in the ﬁrst three years. They sold 150 million. Way to fumble the bag, Adidas.
4: “North Carolina Roots”
The better Michael became, the more brands became aware of his talent and were calling. If you were watching TV in the ’90s, there was a good chance you would see MJ in at least one commercial. He quickly became the biggest athlete in the world. His shoes kept on selling, and his sneakers turned into a fashion statement that has people waiting in line for hours to purchase to this day. However, that level of fame and branding isn’t free. In 1990, Harvey Gannt was running to be the ﬁrst black senator in the history of North Carolina, and many expected Jordan to endorse his campaign. His opponent, Jesse Helms, was notoriously racist and opposed the desegregation of schools. Harvey Gannt asked if Michael Jordan would appear in his campaign commercial. I want to ask you: What would you do if you were in Jordan’s spot? Seems pretty easy right? Listen to your mom and support Gannt. Easy move. But MJ took another path, he said that’s he’s a basketball player, not a politician. Refusing to back up Gannt because, “Republicans buy sneakers too.” I like Jordan a lot, but I feel like I speak for a lot of people when I say defeating an incumbent who supports segregation is a little more important than his supporters buying his kicks. In reality, MJ tried to ruﬄe as little feathers as he could, and despite what he says, it was a business move. And frankly, it worked.
5: The Mandatory Basketball Dominance section
This might be a reoccurring theme, but I’m just going to run down this episode’s accomplishments, because why not. He embarrassed Tony Kukoc before he signed with the bulls on the way to winning the 1992 gold medal with the dream team. He easily handled Clyde Drexler and Charles Barkley on his way to his FIRST three-peat. And also became the deﬁnitive alpha of the NBA in the summer of 1992. Not a bad 3-year stretch.
6: Bonus Section: “Gambling”
Jordan really got into hot water with the media after he went to gamble in Atlantic City the night before a playoﬀ loss to the New York Knicks. But quite honestly, I do not care about that at all. The way I knew he had a real gambling issue is the fact that he bet any amount of money with a guy named Slim, much less, FIFTY-SEVEN THOUSAND DOLLARS. Why the hell would you ever gamble with a dude named Slim? You are never getting your money back. Ever. Apparently, Slim had a Jheri curl, looked like Eazy-E and “constantly smelled like cigars.” He sounds like my dad’s friend who sells bootleg DVDs. The only kind of monetary exchange I will ever do with a man named Slim with a Jheri curl is buy Avengers Endgame early in 420p quality, and I stand by that.