The Last Dance — What did Michael Jordan mean to you?

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ESPN debuted a 10-part series on Michael Jordan called the ‘Last Dance’ specifically focusing on the Chicago Bulls last of six NBA titles won during the Jordan era in 1998. Area basketball coaches were asked who Michael Jordan meant to them as a player growing up and now a coach. Here are their responses.

David Pierce, Crawfordsville Boys Basketball

Michael Jordan was the ultimate competitor.  He played hard all the time, and expected everyone else to play that hard too!  It was very difficult to find a weakness in his game.  He was a medium-to-small sized shooting guard that everyone feared. 

As a kid, if you wore his shoes, shirt, or anything with a Nike check you could run faster, jump higher, and were more likely to win at anything. 

As a young kid, I had a trampoline to fly like Mike at my garage goal, and at any chance, in any sport, I would try to wear No. 23 because there was something about wearing No. 23 that gave you a little more confidence that you just might be able to do something special.

Chad Arnold, North Montgomery Boys Basketball

The first time that I got to watch MJ play I immediately fell in love with his game. He cost my parents a lot of money because I was always asking them for Jordan shoes. Whenever I went outside to play ball I would try to practice his moves. I would always try to show the ball on one side of the rim and switch hands under the rim for reverse lay-ups which is what the kids right now call “Jelly”. Obviously I didn’t get off the ground as high as him. MJ invented a lot of these moves that these NBA players try to perfect and use in their game today.

Watching the Last Dance documentary has really been neat to see. It’s brought back a lot of old memories. I just wish all these kids now and even my own kids could have grown up watching him play basketball. He has absolutely changed the game of basketball. Jordan was the ultimate competitor and would do anything it took to win games.

Jake Turner, Southmont Boys Basketball

Michael Jordan is my favorite athlete of all-time.  I was born in 1984, so my sports memories kicked in in about 1991 or 1992, so when Michael was starting to dominate the league is right when I was becoming enamored with sports.  He was the most charismatic athlete I’ve ever seen.  I had many of his VHS tapes like Michael Jordan: Come Fly with Me, so I was a fan from the start.  Many people my age would say they still get goosebumps when they hear the NBA on NBC intro music because it reminds us of the triple-headers on Saturdays and Sundays during that era when it was Michael with the Bulls, Charles Barkley with the Suns, Patrick Ewing with the Knicks, Karl Malone and John Stockton with the Jazz, and Reggie Miller with the Pacers.  The league is great today, but that was my favorite era of the NBA.  I was such a big MJ fan that in their 1995-1996 season - the year they won 72 games, I would cut out the box scores and articles in the Journal Review from every game and I kept them in a shoe box.  I also had over 100 Michael Jordan basketball cards.  He was just a cultural phenomenon because of his greatness on the court, but also his shoes, commercials for Gatorade, Hanes, and McDonald’s, and then starring in Space Jam.  The thing that I loved most about him was his dedication to the game and his will to win.  Clearly, this documentary has shown that he was a flawed person who was obsessed with winning and greatness, but it has been amazing to relive some of his greatest moments and those Bulls teams from my youth.  I hope this documentary has enlightened young players as to how truly great Michael Jordan was.  In my mind, he is clearly the best basketball player who ever lived and he always will be.

Phil Shabi, Fountain Central Boys Basketball

I grew up in Northwest Indiana and all of tour TV came out of Chicago at the time.  Michael Jordan’s career with the Bulls spanned from my early elementary days into my college years.  I feel so fortunate to have been a Bulls fan during that era.  My friends and I lived and died with the Bulls during that time and Michael Jordan had a profound impact on me.  I still remember getting my first pair of Air Jordans in 6th grade.  I remember the battles my younger brother and I would have on the Jordan Jammer (Google it young bucks).  I remember crying when the Pistons would dash my hopes in the late 80s / early 90s.  I remember crying when they finally broke through and won their first championship in ‘91.  I remember wearing Jordan’s #9 USA jersey under my practice gear everyday my freshman year of HS.  I remember wearing a red wristband on my forearm at practices too, even though my school colors were green and orange.  I remember knowing that, no matter what the deficit was going into the 4th, Jordan was going to lead the Bulls back to victory and just waiting for it to happen.  It was similar to watching Hulk Hogan wrestle, knowing that eventually he was going to shake off defeat, hit you with that high boot and drop the leg!

Growing up with the Bulls and Jordan and being a “true” fan in “real time,” and getting to enjoy that ride was something I always told others about.  Watching “The Last Dance” is finally giving others a brief glimpse into what it was really like.

Dustin Oakley, Southmont Girls Basketball

He meant everything to me as a kid. Such a great and iconic figure to the game. I watched as many Bulls games as I could and loved trying to imitate his moves in my dad’s driveway. The 10 part documentary has been awesome, and I loved the competitiveness from him every single day!

Tyler Smith, Crawfordsville Girls Basketball

Even though he broke my heart a few times by beating my Pacers, I always had so much respect for Michael Jordan.  It was so true that we all wanted to “be like Mike” growing up.  People will always have “greatest player ever” debates, but I believe Michael Jordan was the most competitive athlete to ever live.  His work ethic and desire to win will forever be unmatched.  As a player and now as a coach, I want to learn from his competitive drive.  You won’t win every year, but the desire and effort to win should always be there.  He demanded excellence in his line of work, and that’s something we can all hopefully appreciate and take with us.

Jason Good, Fountain Central Girls Basketball

I love the fact that my 11-year old daugher’s room is decorated in almost nothing but Michael Jordan decorations. Bulls 23 comforter. MJ fatheads on the wall. She has been enthralled by the ‘Last Dance.’

His competitive fire was impressive. He’d do anything to win. One of the greatest competitors of all-time.

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