The Last Dance, ESPN’s Michael Jordan/Chicago Bulls documentary, has been an emotional experience for sports fans all over the world. As the Coronavirus stopped the world, the sporting world ceased functioning, creating an empty void in the hearts of millions around the globe. The Last Dance has filled that emptiness and then some, by allowing us back to a simpler time when greatness was on display nightly, wearing #23.
But tonight, in the 5th installment of the inside look into the Jordan Bulls, we meet a young point guard who would follow in Michael’s footsteps, eventually entering his name in the GOAT conversation. Stepping into Jordan’s orbit for the first time is Los Angeles Lakers legend, the late Kobe Bryant.
It was no secret that Jordan had an affinity for Kobe. At the end of his career, playing with the Wizards at 40 years old, Jordan and Kobe passed like ships in the night, with one player at the end of their journey and the other reaching their peak.
The master and student were facing off one last time.
“Kobe has learned a lot from studying Michael’s tricks, and we often used him as our secret weapon on defense when we needed to turn the direction of a game,” Coach Phil Jackson said in his book, 11 Rings. Jackson would also later point out the similar response both Jordan and Bryant had to his implementation of the Triangle Offense.
“Turn my game down? I need to turn it up. I’ve improved. How are you going to bottle me up,” Bryant said to Jackson, after explaining they needed to take the ball out of his hand and spread it around.
“We are a team that has to play a certain way. If we do, we’re champions,” Jackson told the young superstar. “If we don’t, we’re a good team. We’ve got to be an inside team.”
And then, of course, there’s this compliment from Jordan in 2004:
The connection between these two NBA superstars, who reshaped the game decades apart, is undeniable. Both players rose to greatness on the game’s biggest stage, and both players became generation-defining athletes. There wasn’t a road Kobe walked that wasn’t laid out by Jordan. Unless it was one that Jordan helped him get to. The two were cosmically connected, that’s undeniable.
Earlier this year, Kobe Bryant, along with his daughter Gianna, six family friends, and their pilot, were killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, CA. The whole world seemed to stop turning, and for Michael Jordan, words could not describe the pain he was feeling.
“I loved Kobe – he was like a little brother to me.”
And now, four months after his death, The Last Dance will feature the beginnings of that brotherhood. The beginnings of an eternal bond between two men who were born to define the game they played.
Get your tissues ready, everyone. This one is going to hit us harder than we expect. After tonight’s episodes, we’ll all be the “Crying Jordan” meme.
The Last Dance Episodes 5 and 6 will air Sunday, May 3rd, at 9 PM and 10 PM.
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