The coronavirus pandemic has ended the NBA season, but the basketball world will still be on their sofas and tuned in Sunday evening., but rather the beginning of a about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls titled “The Last Dance”.
Before the 1997-98 season, which everyone expected to be Jordan’s last, NBA producers came up with an ambitious plan to document it all. Now, more than 20 years later, the project has finally come to fruition and initial reviews indicate that it will be a staple for any basketball fan.
But why now? How did this documentary finally come about? There were obviously all kinds of different factors that played a role, but it turns out that three key characters in NBA history helped get Jordan’s approval to go ahead with the film, according to a wonderful story by Ramona Shelburne from ESPN.
Before serving as an NBA commissioner, Silver worked in league offices as head of NBA Entertainment in the 1990s, and was one of the main forces to get the project started. First, he managed to convince Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf and head coach Phil Jackson of the historical importance of documenting this season. It was the easiest part though.
In order to obtain Jordan’s acquiescence, Silver promised that the face of the league would have total control over the film after it was filmed.
“There was no negotiation,” said Silver. “All I said was,” I’m sure there may be some tough negotiation at some point, but we don’t have to have it now. Because first of all we have to capture the images. “
Then he offered Jordan the one thing he couldn’t refuse: control.
“Our agreement will be that neither of us can use these images without the other’s permission,” Silver told Jordan. “It will be kept – I mean literally it was a physical film – as a separate part of our Secaucus [New Jersey] library. Our producers will not have access to it. It will only be used with your permission. ”
It was a risky gamble on Silver’s part because it meant the tapes could have been locked in a Secaucus vault forever. But he understood that getting the footage was the most important part of the league’s work. There would be nothing to understand on the backend if you didn’t capture everything in the first place.
With hindsight, this kind of foresight and negotiation ability makes it easy to see how Silver rose through the ranks of the league to become the commissioner.
M.J. or LeBron? These two will be forever linked in the debate over the greatest player in the NBA, so it is normal that LeBron participated in the making of this documentary. It turns out that Jordan gave permission to use the footage on the same day that LeBron and the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrated their 2016 championship with a parade through the streets of Cleveland.
“The universe has a funny humor,” said Mike Tollin, producer of The last dance. “Because when I woke up, I put ESPN while I get dressed, and there’s LeBron [James] and the Cavaliers parading the streets of Cleveland with the trophy they just won. ”
Was LeBron approaching a ring to match his six legendary titles, a driving force in Jordan wanting to create something that would truly capture his greatness? Or was it just a strange coincidence? Probably the latter, but as competitive as Jordan is always, you cannot exclude the former as a possibility. Anyway, this is an interesting anecdote to history.
Aside from Jordan and LeBron, there may not have been a more culturally significant actor in NBA history than Allen Iverson. So, again, he should also take this story into account.
Tollin had previously made a documentary on the misunderstood star simply titled “Iverson”. It’s a project well done, and Jordan liked it so much that it made him cry. The fact that Tollin was involved in “Iverson” sealed the deal.
The last page of the presentation was a look at the documentaries, films and shows that Tollin and his company, Mandalay Sports Media, had made.
“So there is Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar], there’s Hank Aaron, there’s “Varsity Blues”, there’s “Coach Carter” and so on, “said Tollin.” He looks at them all, and in the lower right corner is “Iverson”. He says, “Did you do that? »»
Tollin did not respond. Jordan repeated the question.
Tollin wondered if it would work for or against him. Like the timing with the Cavalry Championship parade that morning, it was impossible to know.
Tollin muttered cautiously, “Yes. “
Jordan took off his glasses, looked up and said, “I’ve looked at this thing three times. I made myself cry. I love this little guy.
Then he walked around the desk, reached out and said, “Let’s do it. “
Even long after his retirement, Iverson continues to have an impact on the league and culture around basketball. He may not have the accomplishments of others, but his legacy stands shoulder to shoulder with the greatest of all time. Nothing is clearer than this story.
Overall, Shelburne’s story is a fascinating look at the behind-the-scenes work that got this project started, and it’s a testament to the family nature of the NBA in which so many of the most important personalities of the league played a role. make it happen.