The Last Dance

MJ and Company

Since we haven’t had sports since March, I’ve been waiting every week for Sunday night to devour 2 hours of my childhood. I was 3 when Jordan entered the league. I was barely 10 when I noticed the Bulls in the finals vs. the Lakers.

My household wasn’t big on sports. My brothers ran track and wrestled. My dad never really watched sports on TV or talked about them. I cut my teeth on Penn State Football, as if there was sports talk in the family that’s what it was about. I discovered basketball on my own. Something about seeing Jordan switching hands in mid air against a sea of purple captivated me. The Bulls, from a city I never been to, were MY team.

Fire up Sirius by the Alan Parsons Project….Ray Clay shouting “FROM NORTH CAROLINA …..”, chills every time.

From that moment on growing up and playing basketball with my friends we’d talk about Jordan and the Bulls. I was never very good, I was a decent shooter and could get streaky but I never tried out and played the game outside of the playground.

From 1991-1998 it was Jordan and the Bulls. I remember the first retirement blindsiding me and the entire country. I remember seeing Space Jam. I remember thinking Pete Myers could fill the void. I remember Pippen on the bench motioning Jordan to return while showing his Air Jordan logo to the camera. I remember the simple headline “I’m Back” and his first points being free throws in a game against the Pacers on NBC.

I just knew the guy was going to win. The Bulls were going to win the title and that was that. He said so on Oprah. I took for granted not only what I was watching, but the work and fire the Bulls, particularly Jordan, put in to make it happen.

There’s a lot of discussion about who is the G.O.A.T. LeBron or MJ. It’s not a question for me. The game has changed some since those late 80’s and 90s seasons. There’s flopping and defense isn’t what it was, but what MJ had was desire to not only win, but to beat you down and own you. To leave no doubt you weren’t on his level. That type of ice cold instinct and drive is what separates him from the pack. I didn’t see him fail against the Celtics and Pistons, but those fires forged the 6 title seasons and made him push his teammates to be better or get out. Kobe had it to an extent, tutored by MJ, but I don’t see that in LeBron.

When my oldest daughter started trying out activities, basketball was one we signed her up for, starting in 2nd grade. Going into her 7th grade year, she loves the game and has the physical attributes to stick with it along with the desire. She heard me talk about those Bulls teams but outside of some YouTube videos, she didn’t know much about it. She’s grown up in a LeBron James era where Steve Kerr is the coach of the Warriors. By pure coincidence, her brother who’s name is Jordan was born on the 23rd.

Sitting with her and watching The Last Dance, she can see just how dominate those teams were. You still see that fire inside a now 57 year old MJ as he talks about the game.

Shooting around with her in the driveway, we’ve added that fadeaway jumper to her game….back them down…fake one direction, pivot, jump….swish. She picked it up rather quick. I hope she also sees that MJ stare…the fire…the drive. I hope she never learns to flop.


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