I have a few thoughts about The Last Dance, ESPN’s enormous new docuseries on Michael Jordan’s 1997-1998 season with the Chicago Bulls. They range from ‘This show ain’t bad’ to ‘I know fuck all about basketball’, and if you’re looking for more of those searing insights, you can read my semi-review here.
But, a couple of days after the show arrived on Netflix Australia, I’ve been left with one recurring thought: the producers found a way to wind back Barack Obama‘s achievements without delving into politics, racism, or insane conspiracy theories. A feat in and of itself.
Obama, who really kicked off his political career in Chicago, was interviewed for his perspective on Jordan’s legendary run in the 1990s. He admitted that he was “pretty broke” at one point, meaning he couldn’t catch every game MJ was on the court, but otherwise spoke with reverence for the team’s #23.
The guy wasn’t introduced as the one-time leader of the US, though. He was revealed as a “Former Chicago resident.” After all, next to Michael Jordan, even the former President of the United States is just some guy.
Fans appreciated the nod.
Barack Obama, former (Chicago) (p)resident…close enough pic.twitter.com/18ZUZwvd6U
— Sejal Miglani (@sejal_miglani) April 21, 2020
"Former Chicago Resident" is easily the funniest chyron in existence for Barack Obama
— You're Standing Too Close to Adam Jacobi (@Adam_J_Tweets) April 20, 2020
OBAMA LISTED AS “A FORMER CHICAGO RESIDENT” ????
— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) April 20, 2020
“Did that say former Chicago resident?” pic.twitter.com/8Mim66TmKU
— Red Line Radio (@RedLineRadio) April 20, 2020
He wasn’t the only former prez whose stature was somewhat reduced. The second episode of The Last Dance, which zeroes in on Jordan’s former teammate, Arkansas’ Scottie Pippen, featured a chat with that state’s former governor.
Imagine having the pull to get two former United States presidents for your basketball documentary and calling them “Former Chicago Resident” and “Former Arkansas Governor”#TheLastDance pic.twitter.com/3jyN0vHET8
— Cade Onder (@Cade_Onder) April 20, 2020
Speaking to The Athletic, The Last Dance‘s director Jason Hehir said the decision to use those titles was to contextualise their relationships to Jordan and the Bulls, rather than to throw every super-well-known face in front of a camera for their take on MJ.
“Why should [Bill Clinton] be considered an authority on basketball just because he’s Bill Clinton?” Hehir said.
“Now if Bill Clinton says ‘I was governor of Arkansas when Scottie Pippen was in high school and I saw Scottie play,’ that’s organic to the story and much more interesting.”
Fair enough, but still pretty funny.
New episodes of the show will arrive on Australian screens next week. Watch this space for folks introduced as “British lady in a shiny hat” or “Son of a Judean carpenter”.