The Last Dance Report: The Difference Between Being like Mike and Being Mike

Just like MJ did in Laney High and Scottie did in Hamburg High, the SLAM PH Team will be doing a “Book Report” on each week’s drop of The Last Dance. Here’s the report on episodes 5 and 6.


I’m willing to bet (no, I don’t have a gambling problem) that those of you who are reading this have probably tried to replicate a Micheal Jordan moment. Just pick one: The switch-hand layup, The Shot over Elho, or The Shot against the Jazz. Whether it was on a toy rim, in the drive way, or at your school’s gym, you probably pictured yourself in those Air Jordans, going through one of those moments.

Clichés be damned; We all wanted to be like Mike.

Episode 5 of “The Last Dance” jumped in on why we all wanted to be like Mike. From his performances in The Garden to his Nike deal to playing on the Dream Team, there wasn’t much of a question of why people wanted that.

(However, Toni Kukoc might not have been as big of a fan early on after what happened in Barcelona)

Jordan controlled the mood in any room he entered. He captivated anyone in his vicinity to play along with his games, even though he eventually lost some of them to the likes of the late security guard, John Michael Wozniak.

Screencap from ESPN

The fact that this docuseries has united the basketball community in these times for two hours every Sunday night (or Monday morning) speaks volumes about just how popular he had become.

But then, towards the end of episode 5, right in the middle of the series, the mood of the story shifted.

The previous episodes of “The Last Dance” went through how tough it was for Mike to be like Mike; the internal struggles within the team, the tough opponents, contracts, Dennis Rodman being Dennis Rodman. Those were the hardships that Jordan and the Bulls had to go through to their desired and destined land of glory.

Now, as the series prepares to accelerate towards the eventual ultimate success of the team in its last two weeks, episode 6 and the latter part of episode 5 dove deeper into those struggles that were now directed off the court.

The opening scene of episode 6 was just perfect with Michael Jordan reciting this line for a commercial:

“It’s funny—a lot of people say they want to be Michael Jordan for a day, or for a week. But let them try to be Michael Jordan for a year and see if they like it.”

Photo from Getty Images

He says it once.

Twice.

Each time he is asked to repeat, he looks a bit more annoyed than before.

It’s a line written for an ad, but it’s probably something that Jordan had on his mind a lot.

The awareness that he was being monitored by someone, somewhere during possibly every second of his life in public wore him down more than any game or any training session had.

The “Jordan Rules” book added on to that pressure, bringing to light a side of the Jordan mystification that fans were lesser aware of at the time. Whether it was his gambling issues or the expectations for him to be politically active, the magnifying glass – or a high-powered microscope – seemed to be fixed on Jordan.

The immense amount of pressure and expectation on a single human-being was suffocating to even think about. It was tough enough going in to play night in and night out as the world’s best player on the court, trying to maintain a squeaky clean slate off the court was probably even more tiring.

We see that pressure on some of today’s NBA players as well. Whether it’s when Kevin Durant talks about joining and leaving the Warriors or LeBron speaks up about nearly any issue.

I couldn’t help but feel bad about myself watching through episode 6.

I, too, sometimes fall culprit of being one of those fans, pinning expectations and just focusing so much attention on these athletes on a daily basis. As fans, we all just want so much, so fast, right at that very instance. I didn’t even have to look far for an example. I fought the temptation to download and watch the leaked episodes of The Last Dance when they first came out, just to maybe get a head start on forming an opinion about MJ.

Photo from ESPN Films, Netflix, Mandalay Sports Media, NBA Entertainment

This was not something new that I had just realized from watching these episodes of The Last Dance in particular. But to be reminded in a condensed form with the magnitude of someone like Jordan was something we might have needed.

To be like Mike might have been about floating in and throwing down dunks or calmly hitting dagger clutch shots. Being like Mike was putting in the hard work to be ready for game time.

But being Mike?

These episodes were a reminder that being Mike meant being in the spotlight all the time. And that meant being under constant pressure and scrutiny. That alone is hard to even fathom for most of us.

PS. The opening of episode 5 with Kobe had me drowning in feelings all over again and I know you were, too.


The Last Dance Report

Episode 1 & 2: Turbulence in the Air

Episode 3 & 4: The Beautiful Marriage of the Bulls and the Triangle

Episode 7 & 8: The Trials of a Mortal Man

Episode 9 & 10: The Bulls were the brightest star of the 90s