The Story Of How Michael Jordan Finally Agreed To The Release Of 'The Last Dance' After Almost Two Decades Is So Fucking Cool

Tomorrow night the long-awaited first part of the Michael Jordan documentary The Last Dance comes out and I'm treating it like a live sporing event. Hell I'm treating it like the Super Bowl with how desperate I am for sports. Nothing else really matters anymore. We have no idea when sports are going to start up again so we're left with things to look forward to like Dave's unboxings, Coach Duggs, the NFL Draft and this MJ doc. This week days of the week actually mattered. We're all just trying to get to Sunday. 

There have been countless blogs written on this site about the upcoming doc, but this ESPN article by Ramona Shelbourne today stopped me in my tracks. I feel like a lot of us have been wondering what took this so long to come out since it was filmed in 1998. This shit is so fucking cool to me. 

It begins with Adam Silver, who at the time was the head of NBA Entertainment. He was basically in charge of getting players' personalities out to the public to help grow the game. He heard rumblings that this would be Michael's last season so he wanted to try and make it count for his department. Silver needed to get Phil Jackson and MJ on board to get this documentary off the ground. Without them he would get nowhere in terms of access. 

It seems like Phil didn't have a problem as long as he could close the doors here and there, but Jordan was another story. 

"Our agreement will be that neither one of us can use this footage without the other's permission," Silver told Jordan. "It will be kept -- I mean literally it was physical film -- as a separate part of our Secaucus [New Jersey] library. Our producers won't have access to it. It will only be used with your permission."

So the deal was unless MJ said it was okay, no one could release the footage. It would just be like it didn't happen. Hard to turn down that kind of offer. 

"Worst-case scenario," Silver told Jordan, "you'll have the greatest set of home movies for your kids ever created."

Well, for 20+ years there was FIVE HUNDRED (500) hours of film just sitting in Secaucus, NJ. No one could convince Jordan it was time. You couldn't even get a face to face meeting with the guy about it. It didn't matter who you were, MJ wanted no business with this footage being released. Part of that is so baller and helps make him the GOAT. He controlled when his story would come out and no one else could do a damn thing about it. I love that power move. 

EVERY FEW YEARS a producer would come along, pitching himself as the right person to make the documentary. Frank Marshall, Spike Lee, even actor Danny DeVito gave it a whirl.

According to Jordan's longtime business partner, Curtis Polk, none of them ever even made it to a face-to-face meeting with Jordan.

We talk about Spike Lee being one of the greatest film makers in the business and Jordan wouldn't even see him in person. Might as well be a guy who films home videos to Jordan. 

Flash forward a ton of years and enter producer Mike Tollin. He was basically the only guy who hadn't given up on this documentary. This dude has been in charge of projects like Coach Carter, Varsity Blues, Radio One Tree Hill, All That, Smallville, as well as docs about Kareem and Hank Aaron. Well, he saw the OJ documentary come out a few years ago where it was spread out over 8 episodes. Back in the 90s and early 2000s docs were just one long episode. There was just too much film here (500 hours) to shrink down to just one 90 minute production. Tollin says that the OJ doc really changed things and opened the door for this to happen which is so fascinating to me. 

Now to the meeting. Well after sitting down with two of MJs closest business partners, Curtis Polk and Estee Portnoy (PORTNOY wait what????), they figured something out. They knew Jordan wouldn't agree to a formal meeting. I mean if the guy wouldn't sit down with Spike Lee or Frank Marshall, he's not going to sit down with Mike Tollin for something he's put off for almost two decades. 

They had Tollin come in during draft prep for the Hornets to just hang out. This was done behind MJs back as a way to make this possible, but they knew this had to happen. The funny timing of it all was that the meeting happened the day of LeBron's parade in Cleveland after beating the Warriors in Game 7 of the 2016 Finals. You have to think a little bit of Jordan died that day. LeBron had just taken a big step into the discussion for the greatest of all time. That absolutely had to bother MJ. 

Tollin had this book made that started out with a letter from himself talking about kids worshipping Jordan and his sneakers but never seeing him play. All of a sudden he had Jordan intrigued. Once he got to the final page he saw all of the movies and docs that Tollin had been a part of. One stopped him in his tracks and sold him: Iverson 

"He's actually looking at them all, and in the bottom right corner is 'Iverson.' He goes, 'You did that?'"

Jordan took his glasses off, looked up and said, "I watched that thing three times. Made me cry. Love that little guy."

Then he walked around the desk, extended his hand and said, "Let's do it."

If you haven't seen the Iverson documentary go watch that before tomorrow night as a pregame. It is SO FUCKING GOOD. It even got Jordan to cry during it! That documentary sold MJ and caused him to green light probably the greatest sports documentary we'll ever see. 

So now everyone's got to wonder why now? Why hold 500 hours of film for 20+ years? The rest of the article details how MJ was sort of scared of growing old and becoming a thing of the past. He actually toyed with the idea of delaying his induction to the HOF by playing in a game here and there. That's how terrified he was about being forgotten and moved on from. So now LeBron has become LeBron and the image of MJ is either a thing of the past or something only told through highlights to young people in America. MJ won't let that slide. That's why he's the best. Dude waited as long as he could for someone amazing to come around in the NBA that could hang with him and then decides to drop this super doc of why he's MJ and you're not. BALLER. 

To be honest, I don't really know as much as I'd like to about Michael. I need this documentary. Jordan is just terrified of the sports world forgetting him, which is crazy because that'll never happen. But a lot of the MJ vs. LeBron date is one-sided because of the recency bias of seeing LeBron James dominate people in today's NBA. We forget how fucking immortal Jordan was whether we like it or not. I think we're going to see all we need to with this documentary starting tomorrow night. 

The whole back story of how this started with the current commissioner of the NBA, then was stowed away for decades like something in the CIA and finally uncovered by the determination and will of this producer is so fucking cool to me. Now it's here baby. Gimme 'The Last Dance' right now!