The Last Dance Gives Young Brooklyn Nets a New Perspective on Michael Jordan

ESPN documentary is prime content with hoops on hiatus

For some, ESPN’s look back at Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls is a nostalgia play. For a younger generation, it’s a fresh, first look at a sports phenomenon that they couldn’t experience in real-time, and may never be repeated.

“The Last Dance” has been go-to viewing, a basketball oasis in this time where people are staying at home with no live sports to consume.

“What am I watching? “The Last Dance,” obviously,” Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie told YES Network's Michael Grady. “I think everybody’s tuned in to that.”

Dinwiddie is 27 years old, a child more of the Kobe Bryant era, growing up in Los Angeles and idolizing the Lakers star who followed Jordan into the limelight.

“Born in ’93, so barely in my infancy I just caught the last peak, peak years,” said Dinwiddie of the Jordan era. “The thing I just remember is the icon that he is. He carries so much heroism in a sense. Everybody wanted to be like Mike, everybody wanted to have shoes like Mike, everybody wanted to be 6-0 like Mike, everybody wants to in a sense be perfect like Mike. That was the vibe I remember.”

For younger teammates who spoke with Grady, like Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Chris Chiozza and Nicolas Claxton, all 25 or younger, Jordan is a historical figure.

It was Claxton’s father, Charles, who had a more up-close view.

A second-round pick out of Georgia in 1995 — like his son, 24 years later — the senior Claxton saw his only NBA action during the 1995-96 season, facing the 72-win Bulls and Jordan in early November. But in the summer prior, as Jordan prepped for his first full season with pick-up games in Los Angeles while filming Space Jam, Charles Claxton traveled out to California to take part, said Nicolas Claxton.

Jordan’s return that year launched another Chicago three-peat that began with a then-record 72 wins and concluded with the season chronicled in “The Last Dance,” with the specter of the group’s final season together pushing the hysteria around the team to new heights and elevating Jordan’s already immense stature, both at home and abroad.

In France, Jordan’s fame was such that he was essentially synonymous with the sport, something Luwawu-Cabarrot discovered as he gravitated toward the game.

“As soon as I started playing basketball in France, it’s not a popular sport to start with, you always start with soccer or something else,” said Luwawu-Cabarrot. “Since that was the most famous guy, the most famous guy from basketball, people used to call me, ‘Oh, Michael Jordan, what’s up?’ With my ball going through the streets to the court outside, that was the first thing people say.”

Luwawu-Cabarrot might be a rarity in hoop circles as he actually has not been watching “The Last Dance” — yet. He’s waiting for it to wrap up this weekend so he can binge-watch the whole thing.

Like Luwawu-Cabarrot, Chiozza was born in 1995, coming up in Memphis in that immediate post-Jordan era. The ESPN series is giving him a new perspective on the impact of one of the game’s greats.

“I would say my first introduction to Michael Jordan was my dad, watching the reruns of the games and then seeing my dad wear the Jordan jackets and stuff like that, the shoes,” said Chiozza. “I didn’t really realize how big it was until I was probably in middle school, how great Michael Jordan was. And then I started playing in his shoes.

“I think I still didn’t really understand the magnitude until I started watching this. I knew Michael Jordan was the greatest player ever, but just watching how the world reacted to him when he was on the USA team and stuff like that was totally different than anything I would have imagined or see today. With all the great players we have today, I don’t think anyone will have that impression on people again, affect that many people, be that popular with everyone.”

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