The continuing situation with the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that a number of people have been staying indoors to try to minimize their chances of catching the virus. In such a time, there has understandably been an increase in the use of various entertainment options, such as gaming or streaming.
In terms of streaming, one of the most popular series in the last couple of months has been ESPN’s ‘The Last Dance’, which focuses on the Chicago Bulls and their legendary run of six NBA championships in eight years. Of course, Michael Jordan is front and center of this documentary, as it shows his rise from an NBA draft pick out of North Carolina to become one of the greatest sportspersons of all time, but the show also displays some of his tendencies towards gambling, as well as his absolute commitment towards winning which sometimes rubbed off the wrong way on his teammates.
In general, though, it is impossible to overstate the impact Michael Jordan had on the NBA, and on the world of sports as a whole. In an era without the internet and without social media, Jordan became one of the most recognizable people in the world and dragged the NBA into an era of commercial success on his back. His own image can be seen from the details of the deal he signed with Nike. The sportswear company was expecting that AirJordans would sell about $3-4 million over the four years of the deal; they ended up selling over $120 million in the first year itself. He also made the Chicago Bulls relevant, from a team which had no hope of winning titles, to one which is now regarded as one of the greatest in NBA history, along with the likes of Scott Pippen, Dennis Rodman and coach Phil Jackson.
Of course, there were some downsides to Michael Jordan as well. One of the most famous and well-documented ones is his love for gambling. There was a lot of speculation around Jordan’s gambling habits during his playing days, with many people believing that he had an addiction. However, Jordan has stated in the show that his addiction was to competition and to winning at every moment in life, which is why he turned to gambling and golf during his time off from basketball.
Episode six of the series takes a detailed look at this side of things, with one very well-publicized trip by Jordan to Atlantic City causing a storm of coverage. During the 1993 Eastern Conference finals, the Bulls trailed the New York Knicks 2-0 after the first two games in New York, and Jordan decided to go to Atlantic City with his friends and family to blow off some steam at a casino for real money and get away from all the negative coverage.
The media latched on to this and reported that Jordan only returned to the team hotel in the early hours of the morning, which he strenuously denied and stated that he was in his bed by 1 AM at the latest. He also said that his off-field behavior should not be a concern as long as his on-court performance was unaffected, and he didn’t break any laws. Nevertheless, Jordan was a role model by now, and such behavior was seen as unbecoming of someone who was looked up to by millions of people, especially children, all around the world. This pressure played a direct role in his first retirement at the end of the season, although he did return to lead the Bulls to three more titles after 18 months trying to crack it in Major League Baseball.