Wednesday, May 6, 2020

The Last Dance: Discussion Guide Part 3 of 5

Episodes 5 and 6 of ESPN's "The Last Dance" present a much more complex, controversial or should we say "human" side of basketball great Michael Jordan. Although relentless advertising by Gatorade beckons young athletes to "Be Like Mike" this two-part series concludes with the Bulls' shooting guard admitting, "If I had the chance to do it all over again, I’d never want to be considered a role model. It’s like a game that’s stacked against me. There’s no way I can win." 
The questions from the third discussion guide invite you into what you see and what you heard from the May 3 premiere (the '90s beats paired with Bulls' highlights continue to tell a story within the story poetically....powerfully!). Send me your questions! Tell me your answers! Shoot!

Episode 5: The Black Athlete in America
  • You might not agree, but I believe the starting point for discussion of Ep 5. is in response to the words of Michael Jordan. He said, 
"I never thought of myself as an activist. I thought of myself as a basketball player. I wasn't a politician when I was playing my sport. I was focused on my craft. Was that selfish? Probably, but that's where my energy was."

    Jesse Washington of The Undefeated believes that Jordan could have dedicated but five to ten percent of his time toward social justice.

    I am intentionally leaving this very open-ended. Respond.
  • President Barack Obama weighs in with powerful insight. He said, "any African-American in this society that  sees significant success has an added burden. And a lot of times America is very quick to embrace a Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey or Barack Obama so long as it's understood so long as you don’t get too controversial around issues of social justice." This quote might reveal more about Obama than it does MJ. Respond.
  • Nathan McCall of the Washington Post weighs in heavily. As the camera flashes to a picture of Jordan embracing "The Greatest," McCall states, "Everybody in the world respects Muhammad Ali. You know why? because he stood for something. He stood for something even if it meant sacrificing a payday We respect that. Ultimately, Michael Jordan will be forgotten. Muhammad Ali won’t be forgotten." Will history prove him wrong...or right? 
  • Jordan said, "My game was my biggest endorsement." Through endorsements, Jordan became a billionaire. According to Forbes, he is one of thirteen Black billionaires in the US. Thoughts?
Now, back to the hardwood!
  • "You’re only a success at the moment you’ve performed a successful act." How does Coach Phil Jackson's definition of success sit with you? Is that (more) true for professional athletes/teams?
  • Among the best of the best, any sports fan must ask why a given athlete is great. Chicago Bulls point guard, BJ Armstrong lends some insight about his teammate. He said, "

I felt MJ never played basketball anymore. He just figured out how to win the game. He knew how to steer momentum. How to get guys going. And not only was he that good on the offensive end, he was just as good on the defensive end. He was playing a different game than the rest of us. He let us play but he was there to win the game He knew that and once he figured that out. You couldn’t beat him." Respond.
This question is for the hard core Bulls fans. Please talk. I will listen.
  • Michael Wilbon, son of Chicago, co-host of PTI and writer for the Washington Bulls believed the 1992 Bulls were the best team ever. Agree?
  • Episode 5 concludes with a Michael Jordan, sitting alone, lacing up his high tops. His words are poignant and haunting. They speak to another face of success...or at the very least the price of it. He says, "When you get to the top, it’s great to be admired and respected. I’m not saying that wasn’t 
fun” but every time I would get by myself, I would think about of the end of the season and my ultimate goal—holding up the championship trophy and be recognized as the best team in the world—it’s something at the end of this rainbow that I’m fighting for and I’m going to give every little bit to get to it."
Episode 6: Internal and External Competitors
  • David Aldridge of ESPN said, "A lot of people in that era that you would consider Michael’s peers had won two in a row. 
Isaiah had won two straight. Magic had won two straight but none of them won three in a row. A third championship was the separator. You win three, you’re on Mt. Rushmore. For that team it was all about winning that third straight." Jordan spoke about the pressure to win again and again.  What do you know about the psychology of winning?
  • Michael Jordan and his father went to Atlantic City to gamble the night before Game 2 of he NBA Finals. Jordan violated no team rules, no league rules, no state laws. All he violated were people’s expectations. Should he have gone?
  • When asked “Do you have a gambling problem?” Jordan responded “No. I have a competition problem.”  Respond
In an interview with Ahmad Rashad, requested by Jordan, he said he did not have a gambling problem.
Sunglasses included.
  • Charles Barkley, power forward of the Phoenix Suns said "I have no problem losing to Michael. Losing to Michael…there’s no shame in that." How often do we recognize the greatness in our competitors. Coaches, do you acknowledge the talent of athletes on opposing teams for your own athletes to respect and admire.
  • Over and over again, Jordan is battling an enemy on the opposing team and an enemy within his own organization. His desire to prove Jerry Krause wrong by shutting down players Krause was interested in, talked about and promoted fueled the competitive fire in MJ. Do you have an internal competitor? an external one?
Music Notes!
  • In Episode 5, Naughty by Nature's Hip Hop Hooray underscores Air Jordan taking flight. SO good.
  • In Episode 6, I was thrilled to hear Stereo MC’s "Connected" as Jordan took down the Suns. This song was a huge hit in Farley Hall...Fall of 1993
Photo Credits

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