• September 27, 2020

Last Dance: Understanding the Method To Michael’s Madness

 Last Dance: Understanding the Method To Michael’s Madness

NBC Sports/Michael Jordan

Episodes 7 and 8 of The Last Dance have come and gone. It was everything that we thought it’d be and more.

“The Last Dance”/Michael Jordan

I was very uncomfortable watching it, though. There was a certain agitation that came with watching Michael Jordan cry. I couldn’t help but wonder what could be that painful to cripple “Air Jordan”. As he described his pain, I could understand his plight. He played the “bad guy” role on the Bulls and pushed the players around him.

This situation made me think of one of my favorite lines in film history. The heroic John McClane once said:

“You know what you get for being a hero? Nothin’. You get shot at. You get a little pat on the back, blah, blah, blah, attaboy. You get divorced. Your wife can’t remember your last name. Your kids don’t want to talk to you. You get to eat a lot of meals by yourself. Trust me, kid, nobody wants to be that guy.”

It’s one of my favorite lines because I think it holds some truth. The drive that it takes to be a hero kind of limits the rest of your life. It also causes you to put some pressure on people around you.

Ok, maybe I was a little modest on the “some” pressure.

Jordan’s vision of topping NBA history included the players around him. It’s almost like pushing them was a piece of his love language.

“He knew he couldn’t win the championship unless all 12 guys on the roster did their job and competed 100% every single day, so he was going to push you,” Bill Wennington said. “And if he thought you weren’t competing at the highest level, he was going to let you know about it and it wasn’t easy. He was brutally honest. There were some guys he really had to push to try to motivate them to understand that they had to be at the top level all the time if we were going to win.” Wennington is a former teammate of Michael and the Bulls.

Was it right?

Eh, I don’t think I would ever be comfortable with just plainly saying whether it was right or wrong. Abuse and harassment are frowned upon in every arena. Although he explained the method to his madness, that doesn’t negate the pain that he caused his teammates in the process. While I wish that Michael Jordan would have found less abusive ways to inspire his players, leaders do have different methods.

But ethically, it’s definitely flawed.

He knew that. I believe that’s why he was tearing up because he really was innocent in his methodology. He knows that his leadership tactics were obtrusive and I wouldn’t be surprised if those tears were drenched in regret. Those tears also meant that he was misunderstood in his actions but his team knew that he was pushing them to be greater.

“Winning has a price. Leadership has a price. I pulled people along when they didn’t want to be pulled. I challenged people when they didn’t want to be challenged.,” Jordan shared in Episode 8.

As The Undefeated pointed out, Michael’s teammates were able to appreciate the “push” in retrospect. “We were his teammates and we were afraid of him. There was just fear,” says former teammate Jud Buechler. Another teammate, Will Perdue said Jordan, “crossed the line numerous times … but as time goes on … you’re like, ‘Yeah, he was a helluva teammate.’ ”

Rest in Peace, James Jordan.

A heavy portion of Michael’s rough exterior came from losing his father. At least, that’s what I think.

His father, James, was murdered at a North Carolina truck stop in 1993. Losing his dad took a lot of steam from his journey because his father was his best friend. In poor taste, the media began to speculate whether Michael had anything to do with his father’s murder. It was believed that Michael’s gambling habits costed his father’s life.

How disgusting of media members to do that, by the way? I was cringing during this part of The Last Dance.

The Chicago Tribune calls the case a “long legal fight” and it certainly was. The suspects in the case are still fighting for their freedom. Daniel Green and Larry Demery are currently serving life sentences for James Jordan’s murder. Prosecutors say the murder was the result of a botched robbery but Green’s attorneys say there is “little physical evidence” to support that.

Despite the suspects being behind bars, Michael still had to heal from losing his father. That tough task doesn’t have a time limit and it doesn’t have “cut and dry” side effects. People grieve differently.

It’s a scientific fact that we experience grief in 5 stages. I’m not completely confident that Jordan was afforded necessary room for healing and growth. Truncating Jordan’s healing process may have caused other storms in his life. Personally, I believe it was the fuel behind some of his “tough love” moments.

He was hurting.

Bravo, Last Dance.

This series has been a great experience to witness. Episodes 7 & 8 may be my favorite so far. We got intimate with Jordan’s leadership and the gravity of his occasional disrespect. We also got to begin understanding how losing his father affected “Air Jordan”.

It’s clear that there was a method to his madness. He wanted to win….bad. In fact, he needed to win. The final episodes of The Last Dance air this Sunday (May 17th) at 9PM EST on ESPN.

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