Last night's episode of The Last Dance drilled one thing into my mind more than anything else...hating people is awesome. Rivalries, grudges, and genuine hatred make sports a BILLION times better. It ramps everything up. More compelling. More emotional. When Jordan was talking about Isiah and the Pistons last night you could feel it.
That fire still burns and it's amazing.
I really hope and pray that a group of young athletes watches is this documentary and gets inspiration. That they realize that is okay and even good to hate your opponent. That you don't need to be a petty little bitch on social media with cryptic tweets or singing kumbaya with Lebron on the banana boat. You absolutely can and should have rivalries, and grudges that last your entire life. Somewhere along the way we lost that. I feel that level or hatred really ended when KG and Kobe's careers ended. They were that last link back to the 90s and the MJ school of thought.
We had four straight NBA Finals between the Cavs and Warriors and it never felt nearly as intense as Bulls-Pacers, Bulls-Knicks, or Bulls-Pistons. The NBA is absolutely more skilled today(even if that means stylistically the game isn't as interesting), I do think that calling everyone today #sawft is a little bit over blown, but the venom isn't there the way it used to be. It doesn't matter how many people hate Draymond Green in the league now because nobody will engage with him. Draymond's biggest rival in basketball is Charles Barkley. Probably because Draymond has to go back to the 90s just to fit into basketball culture. Durant's biggest rival are trolls on the internet.
I don't know why, when, or how exactly this shift happened. Maybe it's the culture. Maybe it's everyone growing up on the same AAU circuit. Maybe it's USA Basketball. Maybe it's super teams. It could be a combination. All I know is that hatred is missing from the game.
Think of all the great sports memories you have. The ones that are burned into your head even if your own team isn't involved. So many of them are there because the hatred between the teams was real. Avs-Wings in the late 1990s, Bulls-Pacers, Bulls-Knicks, Bulls-Pistons, Red Sox-Yankees in the mid 2000s, Blackhawks-Canucks 10 years ago, Flyers-Penguins about 10 years ago, Bruins-Montreal with Lucic vs Komisarek and the Montreal fans trying to get Chara arrested for assault. Maybe I am a neanderthal, but hating people and the feeling that the intense competition mixed with that hatred might actually cause things boil over into physical violence makes sports WAY more exciting. I don't remember the Bad Boy Pistons at ALL because I am too young, but I still wanted to punch my TV any time they showed Isiah. When Jordan, Isiah, John Salley, and Rodman were talking about that rivalry I had goosebumps and it was something that has been buried for legitimately 30 years.It's something I haven't felt about any sport in a long time. I need that in my life again on a regular basis. I NEED Michael Jordan and The Last Dance to make having a deep, visceral hatred of your opponent cool again because it is.