A narrative in tweets
I’m listening to the Last Dance playlist on Spotify as I’m typing this. I’m still reeling from The Last Dance even though it’s been more than a month since the final episode aired. Many viewers exclaimed that it’s the best sports documentary of all time, and it enjoyed viewer ratings unprecedented for its genre. The documentary about the magical run had quite a magical run itself. Why did it strike such a chord?
First, the timing was genius. It delivered right when everyone is forced to stay in, when people were craving for sports, looking to fill an NBA-sized hole in their lives, and just plain nostalgic for livelier times.
Second, the film is well-made and a joy to watch. Yes, you could argue that it’s a one-sided narrative that’s meant to make MJ look good. But the pacing, music, and backstories rivaled even live sports in drama and excitement. I even enjoyed the way it swung back and forth between timelines.
Third, you get the amusing bombshell reveals and never-before-seen footage.
Like the psychotic side of Jordan.
The shenanigans of Dennis Rodman.
The new memes.
The ego stroke so huge that even presidents had to pay tribute.
And probably most resonant of all, the treatise on leadership.
Everyone talked about how great Michael Jordan was, but for younger audiences he lived mostly in highlight reels until The Last Dance. Not only do we enjoy a courtside view of Jordan the superhuman athlete, we also get a behind-the-scenes view of Jordan, the flawed human being singularly obsessed with winning.
Back to the 90s
The documentary was unlike any other because it was a time machine back to the 90s. It resonated with audiences by surfacing new stories out of what we all thought was a well-worn chapter in sports.
The 90s was a special time for the world, but especially for America. It was a time when the USA so far ahead of the rest of the world. Michael Jordan is the figurehead of that invincible America. He owned that era and exported that vision of America to the world.
The other day, I was watching a Bulls team intro video (with the Bulls theme by Sirius) on Youtube. I scrolled down and almost laughed out loud when I read the top comment: “In retrospect, this was the peak of Western civilization.”
Small wonder why the 90s are making a comeback. In this age of fake news and cancel culture, online revolts and anxiety, people are pining for the good old days.
Jordan owned that era. Of course, MJ the marketing savant is cashing in on the nostalgia.
Aside from Michael Jordan, we are also seeing other 90s stalwarts back at the forefront. Pokemon was the top-selling game on the top-selling console last year. Square Enix just released its remake of Final Fantasy 7 for PS4. There’s talk about releasing a new Harry Potter series on HBO.
The irony is that the person most nostalgic for the 90s is probably Michael Jordan himself. There was a scene towards the end of the last episode that talks about how present he is. I don’t believe he maintains that sense presence today. From the interviews, I could sense that Jordan still lives in the past, chasing invisible enemies, pining for a return to the 90s. With a tinge of regret and wistfulness. he sighed at the interviewer, “We could’ve won 7.” That still haunts him to this day.
But why? He already had the perfect exclamation mark to a legendary career, a storybook ending to an epic Last Dance.
Well, not quite.
2000s Jordan is an afterthought best left in the “He-who-must-not-be-named” territory. MJ left his magic in the 90s, but new young stars he inspired have since stepped in to fill his impossible shoes. I’m looking forward to that next dance, and I hope I won’t have to wait until 2000s nostalgia starts to kick in before it shows up.