Here’s a debate arising from “The Last Dance,” ESPN’s million-part documentary on Michael Jordan:
Would you want your kid to compete as hard as Jordan did if it meant treating so many people as badly as Jordan did? Would you want your kid’s teammates to talk about him having a “fear factor,” as Jordan’s ex-teammates do?
Jordan’s bullying being romanticized is part of the documentary’s shrapnel. But if an athlete was exposed as behaving that way in 2020, he might get cancelled.
To be fair, that’s how locker rooms used to be – and still are, more than we know. Same say toxic. Some say masculine. Some say it’s the same thing.
Jordan said winning has a price. But there’s more than one way to win. Mario Lemieux wasn’t a tyrant. But he won. Wayne Gretzky, Derek Jeter, Magic Johnson, Drew Brees...they weren’t bullies, but were leaders, and they won.
That’s not this documentary’s viewpoint, however. The clear-cut message is that it’s OK to be a total asshat, as long as you win. It's also clear-cut that Jordan is totally comfortable with all parts of his legacy.
Jordan’s bullying doesn’t diminish what he did. But it shouldn’t be idealized or even normalized.
Mentioning Lemieux in the same breath as Jordan caused quite a stir on Twitter. Jordan did win more, but Lemieux did win. Each has a spectacular highlight reel. Lemieux is absolutely in Jordan’s class. Figure in international accomplishment. Lemieux beat the upper-case Russians. CCCP. Jordan beat Croatia. Ho-hum.
Lemieux also beat Jordan’s ass at golf. #FACT
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