The Last Dance: Michael Jordan’s Views On Winning And Leadership Will Be The Biggest Takeaways

Michael Jordan

On behalf of America, I want to personally thank The Last Dance for airing during the quarantine. Seriously, The Last Dance has been a small beacon of hope these past few weeks. Michael Jordan went six for six in the NBA and now he’s one for one in airing great documentaries during global pandemics. Take THAT, LeBron!

Note: I like and appreciate LeBron James. I can’t wait to watch your documentary in 20 years.

Tonight marks the final two episodes of The Last Dance. However, no matter what airs tonight, my biggest takeaway from The Last Dance happened last week. The clip I’m referencing focuses on MJ and the perception that he’s not a nice guy. These two minutes gave us insight into one of the greatest winners of all time.

“Winning has a price, leadership has a price.”

Was an MJ an asshole? I think it’s safe to say that at times, Michael Jordan was an asshole. MJ punched Steve Kerr in the face, insulted Scott Burrell 24/7, ran teammates out of town, and pushed guys farther than anyone had ever pushed them in their lives. There are different types of leaders. Some leaders get in your face while other leaders tend to back off. There’s no right answer to this question. The only way to measure the greatness of a leader, in this case, is through success. Did Michael’s methods lead to victories?

The answer is a resounding yes. If Jordan didn’t win six championships and six finals’ MVPs, then we’d look at his leadership methods a lot differently. Frankly, there would be no documentary about him either if he wasn’t one of the greatest basketball players of all time. I can’t shake this quote. “The one thing about Michael Jordan was he never asked me to do something that he didn’t fucking do.” It’s not like MJ was barking out orders and sitting comfortably on the sidelines. If you took 100 shots at practice, MJ was going to take 200 shots. If you’re lifting weights for one hour, MJ would do it for three hours. He talked the talk and walked the walk. Jordan was no hypocrite.

It’s difficult for me to comment on Jordan’s impact in the 1990s because I was 6 years old when he won his sixth championship. Through no fault of my own, I’ll never fully appreciate his greatness, both on the court and off because I couldn’t witness it firsthand. However, one thing I can value is his drive to greatness. Watching Jordan discuss the price of winning and leadership makes me want to run through a wall for him. I’ve been waiting for the moment where I won’t like Michael Jordan, and yet, after every episode, I find myself liking him more and more.

MJ may not have been perceived as a nice guy, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. The results speak for themselves.

The Last Dance: The Most Underrated Play From Michael Jordan’s Final Game With The Bulls

1998 NBA finals Bulls vs. Jazz

“After watching The Last Dance, is MJ still the GOAT or is it LeBron? NEXT on *insert sports talk show*.” Turn on the television tomorrow morning and the “MJ vs. LeBron” debate will be nauseating so better yet, maybe skip the sports program and read a book, instead.

All pessimism aside, I, along with every sports fan in the world, am jacked up for The Last Dance, which premieres tonight at 9 PM EST on ESPN. Living in a world without sports has been more difficult than expected so The Last Dance comes at a time when society needs it most. ESPN has done fantastic documentaries in the past with OJ: Made in America and the 30 for 30 series so I have extremely high hopes for The Last Dance.

With ten hours of footage, there are going to be plenty of stories to tell about Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Phil Jackson, and the Chicago Bulls. Between retirement, his gambling issues, and altercations with teammates, the world is going to get an inside look into what made Michael Jordan not only one of the greatest basketball players, but one of the greatest winners. To serve as an amuse-bouche for The Last Dance, let’s go to Game 6 of the 1998 NBA finals between the Bulls and the Utah Jazz. Rumor has it that MJ hit one of the most iconic shots of all time to win the game.

However, I want to focus on the possession before the game-winner. It’s what I call the most underrated aspect of Jordan’s last game for the Bulls. Everyone remembers Jordan’s iconic pose during the shot, but what we forget is how the Bulls got the ball back. With 41 seconds left, John Stockton hit a 3 to put the Jazz up 86-83. On the next possession, Jordan gets right to the rack and hits a layup with 37 seconds left to cut the Bulls’ deficit to 1. The Bulls need a stop. At the very least, Chicago could give up a basket inside the arc to keep it a one-possession game. In most situations, teams are going to play “No 3’s” defense and do their best not to foul. Force a tough jump shot, gather the rebound, and try to win the game on the other end. However, Jordan had other plans.

Did someone say cookies? Michael Jordan stole the ball from Karl Malone, one of the best scorers to ever lace them up, in the post, where Malone wreaked havoc on opponents for nearly 20 years. Because offense sells tickets, most people remember Jordan for his acrobatic finishes and iconic, clutch jump shots. However, Jordan’s defense seems to get lost in the shuffle. Michael Jordan is one of the best defenders of all time, and yet, his defensive excellence is somehow the most underrated aspect of his game. Jordan was a member of the NBA All-Defensive First Team nine times in his career. Jordan is tied with Kobe Bryant, Gary Payton, and Kevin Garnett for most first-team selections.

Wait, there’s more. Michael Jordan won the award for the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year in the 1987-1988 season. Since Michael’s win, the only other guard to win the award was Payton in 1995-1996. Don’t worry, the defensive accolades continue. Jordan was the NBA’s leader in steals three times in 1988, 1990, and 1993. You can make a strong argument that MJ was better on defense than he was on offense.

So kids, next time you want to become the greatest basketball player in the world, make sure you can play defense.

Will you be watching The Last Dance? Leave your thoughts in the comments or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

Should We Say LeBron is the GOAT or Greatest Player of This Era?

Jordan Lebron GOAT

King James has fans up in arms once again. In the latest episode of the docu-series “More Than An Athlete,” LeBron James made comments proclaiming himself to be the Greatest Player of All Time (GOAT). The “More Than An Athlete” docu-series, which airs on ESPN+, tells the story of James and his three friends and business partners Maverick Carter, Rich Paul, and Randy Mims.  As can be seen in the clip below, James stated that winning the 2016 NBA Championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers made him the Greatest Player Of All Time. James’ comments have added even more fuel to the GOAT debate.[yotuwp type=”videos” id=”87AIZBYuIXY” pagination=”off” title=”off” description=”off” player=”modestbranding=0&showinfo=0&rel=0″]

Fans and critics have been debating whether James or Jordan is the GOAT?  Fans and critics have been debating whether a great player should proclaim himself to be the GOAT? Perhaps these are the wrong questions. The question should be whether there can truly be a Greatest Player of All Time? Or should the debate focus on the greatest player of each era?

Should a Great Player Proclaim Himself the GOAT?

Many fans and critics do not think so. After James’ comments, fans, critics, and the media went into a frenzy. While most acknowledged that James is a great player, many felt his comments were inappropriate.  Critics argued that no one should proclaim themselves as the GOAT because it is disrespectful to other greats who came before.[yotuwp type=”videos” id=”56pTyJKcqKY” pagination=”off” title=”off” description=”off” player=”modestbranding=0&showinfo=0&rel=0″]

Of course, it would not be a GOAT debate involving LeBron James if Michael Jordan was not mentioned. Critics of James’ comments referred to a  2009 interview of Michael Jordan when he was questioned about being the GOAT. Jordan stated that he would never say that he was the greatest player because he never had the chance to play other great players that proceeded him like Wilt Chamberlin and Jerry West. This statement, essentially proves that there can never be a true greatest player of all time. 

Can There Ever be a True GOAT? Or Should the Debate be Focused on the Greatest Player of Each Era?

There can never truly be a GOAT because there are too many players who were regarded as the greatest during their era. Great players have stood above the rest throughout basketball history. Given the number of great players to play at various times within the sport, it is very difficult if not impossible to single out one person to be the true GOAT. How does one choose between Bill Russell, Oscar Roberston, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, just to name a few? Bill Russel played during the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s.  He became a player-coach and went on to win 11 NBA championships. Oscar Robertson was the first basketball player to average a triple-double. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar still holds the NBA all-time leading scorer record.

The answer is that one cannot choose because they were all great in their own right. One could argue that they were the greatest players of their eras. However, it would be difficult to designate one of them the true GOAT because they all made invaluable contributions to the game.

Furthermore, the game has evolved over the years. The style of play has changed and continues to change, which makes it very difficult to designate a true GOAT. Plays that are thought of as great today were not before. For example, the game today has largely shifted to three-point shooting.  This is largely due to the dominance of the “Splash Brothers,” Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Before their unprecedented three-point shooting, stopping to shoot a three instead of going for the “easier” bucket was unheard of. Due to their unprecedented three-point shooting, Curry and Thompson will also go down as two of the greatest players of their era.

The 2016 Finals Did Not Make James the GOAT, Because it is not Possible to Designate a True GOAT

First, let us acknowledge that James was correct in some of his comments. He did do something special that had never been done when he led the Cavaliers to defeat Golden State. In 2016, Golden State was arguably unstoppable.  The Warriors beat the Chicago Bulls’ record for most wins in a season finishing at 73-9. The Cavilers came back from being down 3-1 in the series and defeated the Warriors for the Championship.  No team had ever come back to win after being down 3-1.

King James was already a phenomenal basketball player and his accomplishments in the 2016 NBA Finals solidified his greatness that much more. However, does that performance make King James the GOAT? No, it does not make him the Greatest Player of All Time simply because there are too many great players who dominated at different times to have a true GOAT.  However, it may make him the greatest player of his era.

King James’ Performance May Have Solidified his Position as the Greatest of his Era

King James’ performance in the 2016 NBA Finals certainly makes him the greatest player of his era because they beat a team no one thought they could beat against all the odds.  The Cavaliers came back from a 3-1 deficit and beat what is the best team in NBA history, as far as the record goes. The Cavaliers cemented their win with a pivotal moment that was offered by none other than King James.  James ran an almost full 94 feet to block Andre Iguodala’s shot to keep the game tied in game seven. At that moment, the momentum officially shifted to the Cavaliers.

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The Cavaliers rode that wave all the way to victory. With beating the team with the best NBA record, ending a 52-year championship drought, and making the big play to push the team to the win, it is likely that the 2016 NBA Finals may have made James the greatest of his era.  However, King James is still playing. He surely has many great moments to come that could rise to or even exceed the 2016 NBA Finals.  We will see.

We cannot forget that LeBron James is winning in ways no other NBA player has. He has helped start a school, send over 1100 kids to college, won’t “Shut Up and Dribble“, and produced a documentary highlighting the NCAA hypocrisy.