Outside of limited trips to the neighborhood grocery store, most of us have largely been stuck at home during the past eight weeks due to the pandemic lockdown. I’m a reader, so to keep myself occupied, I downloaded six ebooks and bought two hard-copy, used books from Amazon third-party sellers. Many people have whiled away the surplus hours by binge-watching movies and series on Netflix, Amazon, or other streaming services. In the midst of this high demand for home entertainment, somebody at ESPN (Entertainment and Sports Programming Network) timed it perfectly with the release of “The Last Dance,” a ten-part documentary, which focuses on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls basketball team during their heyday in the 1990s. The first two episodes premiered on April 19th followed by the release of two additional episodes each of the next four Sunday nights.
Sports-starved American males (and undoubtedly some females) are captivated by this series. ESPN previously had good success with its “30 for 30” series about interesting sports stories, but “The Last Dance” documentary has to be shattering all kinds of audience records.
Michael Jordan played for the Bulls from 1984 to 1993 and 1995 to 1998, leading the team to six NBA championships in that span, and is arguably one of the top-three sports icons of modern times. That very short short-list also includes Babe Ruth and Muhammad Ali. What made Jordan so good? Not only was he blessed with extraordinary athletic ability, he was also driven to be the very best.
In his push to win championships, Jordan took no prisoners. He even savagely bullied his own teammates. This series provides many unflinching and sometimes even painfully revealing insights into Jordan’s and the Bull’s rise to the top of the National Basketball Association.
A massive advertising campaign once encouraged all of us to “Be like Mike.” The man still enjoys worldwide fame and adulation to a degree that few others have known.
After having watched the latest episodes of “The Last Dance” this past Sunday night, I was doing my morning walk through the neighborhood and listening via earbuds to a sermon from John MacArthur regarding the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Argh! It struck me how VASTLY different the teachings and example of Jesus Christ are compared to the values of this world as exemplified by the adulation accorded to Michael Jordan. I’m not privy to Jordan’s spiritual beliefs. The man has kept his religious views, if any, so private despite thirty-six years of media scrutiny that they frustrate any and every google search. However, it doesn’t appear from the many interviews and behind-the-scenes segments in this series that Michael knows and loves the Lord.
I don’t want to be like Mike, I want to be like Jesus Christ.
Postscript: Featured in one of the episodes is a quip from Larry Bird in a press interview immediately after 23-year-old, Michael Jordan, scored 63 points in a playoff loss to Bird’s Boston Celtics on April 20, 1986. “It’s just God disguised as Michael Jordan,” said the exasperated Bird. Ach. That’s going WAY too far, Larry!