7 Points about The Last Dance
“The Last Dance is a 2020 American sports documentary miniseries focusing on the 1997–98 Chicago Bulls. The series features film from a crew that had an all-access pass to the Bulls during the NBA season.”
I received more messages about this debut than any premiere I can recall. It has conjured up so many thoughts and feelings. While my wife and I watched it, I took dozens of notes. I’ll share seven of them here.
During the 1990s, it seemed everybody was a Michael Jordan fan. But I’d put my MJ general knowledge up against anybody’s. I knew his birthday, his scoring average by season, how many seconds were left on the clock for his big wins… let’s just say that I was aware of most of the story shared across Episodes One and Two, even if perhaps I’d forgotten a lot of it. My entire room was plastered wall-to-wall with Nike. Probably one-third of the real estate was dedicated to Jordan. My #2 favorite athlete was Andre Agassi, who maybe covered another 25%. The day I met Agassi… let’s see if I can remember the date… April 3, 1991… was life-changing. However, that’s a different story for a different time. The time I met Jordan… well, see #6. The balance of my walls were Nike ads, Sports Illustrated swimsuit calendars, and quotable quotes (mostly others’ but some of mine as my journey into total self-absorption was well underway).
I was low-key jealous of our family friends, the Jains, simply for the fact that they lived in Chicago. And of my Fairfield classmate, Jordan Cropp, because of his name. Hell, even a little bit of the Middle Eastern country.
Imagine my envy when I found out that a man with whom I sometimes stay in Chicago was his doctor. (He has my same name but spelled Rajeev Khanna… OK, so the last name is pretty darned different). Or that one of Russell Peters’ bodyguards, Shake, had also guarded Jordan (if not in the paint).
On every test I took, I drew a Nike swoosh around the 23rd question. Most of my guy friends liked the number 69 for the jokes; I thought of it as 23 x 3.
Of course, the idea of my even trying out for the basketball team was so farfetched it didn’t even occur to me till a few seconds ago. That’s a long time. I’m 44… a year short of the number Jordan would wear in Indianapolis for his return, when he went 7-for-28 in shooting. (I didn’t have to Google that.)
Two boys in Fairfield High School Class of 1994, Eric Seitz and Jason Money, were equally obsessed… but were actual jocks who had an actual claim to Be Like Mike. Still, whenever that Gatorade commercial came on as we were watching Lisa Ling and Rawley Valverde on Channel One…
Sometimes I dream
That he is me
You got to see
That’s how I dream to be
I dream I move
I dream I groove
If I could be like Mike.
…my classmates would glance at me as I’d stare, mesmerized, at the screen. Towards the end of the year, I mostly had my face on my desk as I could never get used to our 7:00 AM high school start time. My inability to wake up early has not evolved in the slightest and is the primary reason I’m glad I’m a comic. And yet, I’d look up, blurry-eyed, smile at the sight of Michael, nod, and plunk my head back down, quite literally dreaming.
To this day, whenever I cut through four lanes of traffic to take an exit off the 405, I hear Marv Albert’s voice in my head, right after MJ shifted the ball from his right hand to his left as he completed his shot… “A Spectacular Move!”
After the Chicago Bulls won their fifth championship in 1997, I was stunned at how quickly the questions came about whether they’d all return to try for a sixth. I’m still reminded of one of my favorite quotable quotes, this one from tennis great Martina Navrátilová:
“The moment of victory is much too short to live for that and nothing else.”
For years, it has focused me away from the thrill of killing and towards the personal relationships in my life. Nowhere was that illustrated better for me than the night of the Bulls’ penultimate championship.
Ah, the baggy ’90s style. Those sports jackets look line trench coats.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t share my own Michael Jordan story, the one I told on my tour, The Man in The Middle: One night, I was at the The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara. No, I couldn’t afford to stay there; I was doing a corporate event.
I had two pairs of shoes with me — my dress black boots and my white Jordan 11s. I was torn as to which pair to wear. I’d go in the middle, but I didn’t have any brown ones. I went with the formal style since it was a formal gig. I’m walking on the beach all by myself and I see this big man walking toward me. After a few more steps, I see he’s black. Then I see he has an earring on. As we pass, I say, “How’s it going?” He replies, “Wassup?”
Later that night, I find out Michael Jordan is staying at the resort. Oh. My. Gosh. I missed my shot to meet one of my all-time idols. And I beat myself up for years, thinking, “If only I’d rocked my Jordan 11s, he may have talked to me.” It would’ve been like one of his Nike commercials. “Nice shoes.”
My friends couldn’t believe it. They were like, “It’s him and it’s you. Clear path to the basket — how’d you miss?” Because you don’t expect to see Michael Jordan walking towards you. I mean, I have a lot of fantasies of MJ… none of them involved a long walk on the beach.
Great tale, right? Most of you have a story about the time you DIDN’T meet Michael Jordan. My only consolation is that Jordan right now somewhere is telling a group of people, “You know, one night at the Ritz-Carlton Bacara, I was strolling on the beach and this bald little Indian man walked right by me and very coolly greeted me. I could tell he was a fan… not from his shoes but from his hairstyle. Didn’t ask for a selfie or an autograph — so smooth.”
I look forward to Episodes 3 and 4… watching the 6th championship as we all stay 6 feet apart.
Rajiv Satyal is a standup comic. He resides in Los Angeles and can never show his face in Santa Barbara ever again.