CHICAGO – If there is one opinion that people have taken or has been reinforced in their thinking about “His Airness” is the fact that he didn’t let his competitors have a breath.
Sometimes that was his own teammates in a practice – as we found out in “The Last Dance” episode eight last Sunday when Michael Jordan and Steve Kerr discussed their fight in practice.
Jordan’s intensity that day is just one example that’s been pointed out by filmmakers throughout the series so far. Many fans heard stories about this while the team was winning championships and shortly after. Yet a whole new generation of fans has gotten to discover just how ferocious of a competitor Jordan was back then, which is something they couldn’t pick up on a highlight reel.
Did it borderline on too much?
At times, it seems like it did. Certainly, these examples were a departure from his finely crafted outside image he spent a career building. But there’s no denying the intensity which Jordan drove those around him with was a catalyst to the team’s six championships.
Yet a key thing that stood out to me about episodes 7 and 8 were the very human sides to Jordan’s emotions as a player. There were two examples in particular that were paramount in showing this, one for each episode.
And yes, it’s more than just a crying meme.
The first was at the end of episode seven, when Jordan offered up a defense of his intensity towards his teammates in practice. He maintains that doing what he did was just as much to help his teammates find the success and glory that the future Hall of Famer cherished in his NBA career.
Jordan began to get tearful as he continued his explanation, and perhaps in his most memorable moment so far of the series, asked for a break when his thoughts were finished.
For the first time in the documentary, we saw a true softer side to Jordan, and episode eight would bring another moment.
Following the Bulls’ title-clinching win over the Sonics in Game 6 of the 1996 NBA Finals, Jordan didn’t celebrate much at first on the floor initially. With the game ball in his hands, he retreated to the Bulls’ locker room, where cameras caught him weeping on the floor.
Jordan did this because the team clinched a fourth championship on Father’s Day, and this was the first championship he’d won without his dad to see it. James Jordan’s murder in 1993 was one of the reasons Michael chose to leave basketball, and the emotion of the moment three years later was overwhelming.
What this film did for the first time, however, was to provide audio of the moment. I saw that powerful video on the live broadcast 24 years ago, but when the sound of Jordan’s crying over his father was played, it added even more emotion to the moment.
These two moments show a tearful Jordan we don’t get to see much when reflecting on his career – and they’re a lot better than a popular meme.