For hoops fans, and especially for those who followed the National Basketball Association through the Bulls’ Dynasty in the nineties, ESPN’s decision to move up the release of The Last Dance two months to April 19 is a welcome one. With the new coronavirus pandemic forcing most countries in the world to implement quarantine measures, the broadcast giant will most certainly be serving the 10-part documentary to a captive audience. As the Lakers’ LeBron James argued on The Road Trippin’ podcast of former teammates Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye last week, “if I’m Michael Jordan, I’m going in there and I’m making a conference call and I’m like, ‘Okay, what’s the reason that we’re going to hold onto it until June now? Compared to now when everybody is at home?’”
To be sure, all and sundry would have tuned in even if The Last Dance stuck to its June playdate. Jordan’s status as the best of the best in NBA annals, his continued influence as owner of the Bobcats, and his contributions to the Jordan Brand make him a compelling figure on whom to hang the limited series. And, make no mistake; while the project purports to be about the Bulls’ 1997–98 season, it makes no bones about its focus on the lead character. It’s why the initial teaser, posted via a 30 for 30 tweet way back in May 2018, carried a #MichaelJordan hashtag and used up just about all of its minute-long runtime on footage of him, and with him doing the voiceover.
In this regard, Jordan’s teeming followers will be pleased to note that he cooperated fully with the production bankrolled by Netflix and ESPN Films. In fact, Jump 23, his company, is a partner along with NBA Entertainment, which owns the 500-hours-plus worth of footage of the championship campaign acclaimed director Jason Hehir and his staff pored through. They then complemented their three-year effort with the conduct of over a hundred interviews to present, in his words, “the definitive story of an era-defining dynasty.”
All things considered, The Last Dance looks to be a certified blockbuster. There’s already a lot of hype, fuelled in no small measure by anticipation. James couldn’t help but tweet to his 45.7 million followers “April 19th can’t come fast enough. I CAN NOT WAIT!! Yessir!#LastDance” as soon as he heard the news yesterday. Yet, in the steady hands of Emmy Award-winning Hehir, it seems to be destined to live up to outsized expectations. Which is just as well. After all, its subject did, and more. Jordan ruled the nineties without equivocation, and, as the appetite for the foretaste shows, he rules still.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994.