In a normal sporting universe, the football fans would have been gearing up for the Champions League final by now while the Liverpool army would have been still in a celebratory mode; talk would have been if Rafa Nadal can add another French Open to his kitty as the Formula One juggernaut would have been rolling through Europe.
However, these are tough times. With no live action round the globe till recently, they are now talking about a sports docu-series instead. ‘The Last Dance.’
The 10-part documentary on Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball player of all time, had been the talking point of the sporting world ever since it came on Netflix a month back. By the time it finished last Sunday, it averaged 5.6 million viewers across its 10 episodes, making it the biggest in the history of ESPN.
Interestingly enough, producers ESPN had planned to release it in June to time it with the NBA Finals, but the decision to bring it forward to plug the gaps in content in the times of coronavirus epidemic proved to be a masterstroke on their part. It was LeBron James, the modern day great who has often evoked comparisons with ‘MJ’ in terms of statistics, had himself gone on air to push for an early release of the film - apart from admitting on twitter later as to how the fourth episode had moved him in particular.
“Listen, if I’m Michael Jordan, I’m going in there and I’m making a conference call and I’m like, OK, what’s the reason we gonna hold onto it until June now? Compared to now, when everybody is at home,” James had said.
The series is the best gift possible for the legion of fans of the man who called himself the ‘Black Jesus,’ who believe that there would never be a greatest basketballer born and sneer at any comparisons with the contemporary greats now. The journey in the documentary begins with the 1997-’98 season which chronicles Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in their quest to win their sixth NBA championship in eight years and in the bargain - revealed often little known facets of his ruthless pursuit for success and domination of the opponents.
The self-driving streak in Jordan has found top current sporting heroes from unexpected quarters swooning over the series(e.g. Indian cricket skipper Virat Kohli who cannot stop gushing about it), but there are critics who have stopped short of calling it a hagiography - and not without reason.
“That documentary was for MJ, to be honest,” said Horace Grant, a former Bulls teammate of Jordan while other legendary Bulls like Dennis Rodman and Scottie Pippen also felt the series should have been more about the awesome exploits of the team rather than just ‘MJ’ himself.
But then, there is always this dichotomy in a team sport when an individual gets larger than life – relegating other stalwarts in the shadows.
It will always be a subjective discussion – and will continue to raise the storm in the coffe cups even after the NBA season resumes!