The Last Dance • Leroy Hill Review
Updated: May 15
I’ve resisted watching the Last Dance. Something about knowing too much about your sports heroes and them diminishing right before your eyes. Case in point: Steve Carlton is the Phillies greatest pitcher. Every kid who loved the Phillies loved “Lefty.” He won 34 games one year on a horrible team. He retired and entered the hall of baseball heroes and remained there until controversial writings began to appear. Ultimately, his teammates had to bail him out publicly, but that episode ruined or called into question all of those childhood memories of his great performances.
Jordan, according to reports, has been shown himself to be a petty tyrant. I watched two episodes last night. His answer to that charge would be, ‘I needed to prepare my teammates for the wars we would face.’ A sort of, ‘you will fear me more than you will fear them,’ ethos. Also, there was the petty mind games he played with himself. All of that conspired to make him a champion, but somewhat of a small person. I can confirm that the father of one of his teammates told me personally that his son (who was on both shows last night) hated playing with the Bulls, so much so, that after his playing career his father held his championship rings in an oak case in his home, his son refused to keep them himself. Those rings were beautiful. When the Bulls won the parents of each player also received gifts. This player’s mom received a gold pendant in the shape of a bull with a gold chain with three diamonds, If I remember correctly the dad received a watch. He never went into why this player hated his time there, but the Last Dance told us why. I remember thinking he’d feel better about it over time and may even come to miss it. The memory has a peculiar way of smoothing out the rough and jagged edges of hardship leaving only the good times as cherished events.
I was particularly moved to tears watching Jordan weep over his dad. I remembered my own loss of a parent around the same time. That provides so much backstory to the comeback year where the Bulls proved that they were the greatest team ever. Jordan’s emotional outburst after they won the championship was somewhat shocking. I don’t recall any of the greats responding that way after winning it all.
I also saw what I loved the most about Jordan. His drive to be great. As much as I wish it were different, with some people, you don’t get great without jerkiness; that’s not an excuse, that’s an observation.
All in all, it was a real treat to be taken back down memory lane with the greatest basketball player ever. Jordan is a complex person, but all of us are. In some ways, I want him to remain in that rarified air above it all, but I also recognize that in our times people are no longer objective. The likelihood that someone would tell the story of the greatest sports icon in history accurately may be a thing of the past. I still have mixed feelings but he’s still Jordan.