Klay Thompson’s uncle, Andy Thompson, shot several home videos that involved Jordan. That fact gave him the courage to pitch a wild idea to his boss. What about we get a film crew to record the MJ Bulls in their last season? He had a hunch Jordan might be interested in that. His boss, head of NBA Entertainment Adam Silver, said ‘yes.’
That was the easy part. Now came the moment of persuading the Bulls to invite all the madness into their locker-room, a place teams fight to remain private. They were lucky. The team, and particularly the coach, understood the historical importance of the season ahead. They agreed that Jackson had the power to tell them to stop shooting in most delicate moments, and the project was on.
More than 500 hours of film was created, a foundation for the greatest sports documentary of all time, so it’s reasonable to take some time before getting it done. No one thought it would take 22 years. Jordan had the rights to the footage and numerous times he refused to finish the project. There was no sense to try and make it if MJ wasn’t aboard.
All this time, LeBron was compared to MJ, but he never really had a case. His only titles up to that point were with Miami, where he went after “The Decision.” In 2011 LeBron choked in the Finals – something MJ never did. In 2012 they won against a too young OKC team. In 2013, Ray Allen’s shot remained the main memory (and a narrative he saved LeBron). In 2014 the Spurs gave them one of the greatest lessons in basketball ever. This resume wasn’t enough to compare with Michael’s 6 out of 6 in the Finals.
Then in 2016, a perfect storm happened. LeBron James completed his life’s mission. The Cavaliers became the first team in history to come back from 3-1 in the Finals. Not only that, but they did it against the 73-9 Warriors, who just topped the Bulls as the best regular-season team of all time. LeBron now had a legitimate case to make.
On the very day of the Cavaliers parade, Jordan had a meeting with Mike Tollin, who had pitched an idea for a six to eight-episode documentary based on the ’98 footage. With LeBron celebrating in the background of everyone’s mind, MJ talked to Tollin about his vision. The last thing Jordan looked at was Tollin’s past work.
“So there’s Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar], there’s Hank Aaron, there’s ‘Varsity Blues,’ there’s ‘Coach Carter’ and so forth. He’s actually looking at them all, and in the bottom right corner is ‘Iverson.’ He goes, ‘You did that?’”
Tollin wasn’t sure was this a good thing or a bad thing. So much was happening that day, and he couldn’t read was Jordan leaning one way or the other. He didn’t answer, and MJ repeated the question. Tollin mumbled a quiet ‘yes.’
“I watched that thing three times. Made me cry. Love that little guy.”
MJ walked around the table, shook Tollin’s hand, and agreed to the project. The stars aligned perfectly for Jordan to feel we need a reminder of how great he was, and the right guy to make it to show up and pitch him on the day LeBron made his mark. It’s time to set the record straight.