For younger generations of basketball fans, the ESPN documentary ‘The Last Dance’ gives a new look into what is considered the best dynasty in the history of sports.
During the 1990s, the Chicago Bulls pulled off two three-peats and won six titles, led by Michael Jordan, considered by many to be considered the greatest basketball player of all-time. ‘The Last Dance’ told the story of Jordan’s greatness, following the storyline of the 1997-98 season that broke up the team and served as the franchise’s sixth title of the decade.
For Missouri Western junior forward Tyree Martin, a Chicago native, it’s been a peak into much of what he already knew and brought back memories of his childhood. Martin was born after Jordan’s days with the Bulls. Some of his earliest memories came in fifth grade when he remembers a McDonald’s commercial showcasing a game of HORSE between Jordan and Larry Bird.
Along with hours upon hours of watching highlights, Martin is glad younger basketball fans are getting a look behind the curtain.
“I don’t know a kid who didn’t, especially with (video game) NBA 2K. The older I got, the more I started watching more highlights,” Martin said. “You’re always watching Jordan highlights.”
The series concluded on Sunday with the final two episodes of a 10-part documentary. It’s been a time Martin has kept up with, though he plans to binge the entire docuseries after its conclusion.
In Martin’s formative years, he witnessed Chicago native Derrick Rose’s ascent from Memphis to becoming a league MVP and a face for the NBA. While he became a sense of pride for Chicago youth, he only followed in the foundation Jordan set.
“He’s goat status. Growing up, Michael Jordan wasn’t my goat, that was Derrick Rose. Everything Jordan did, D-Rose did in my eyes except championships,” Martin said.
Though Jordan grew up in North Carolina, where he played his college basketball for Dean Smith and the Tar Heels, he became one of Chicago’s own. So grew a basketball town unlike any other.
“Growing up, everyone has that burden on you, you’ve gotta try to be better than Jordan,” Martin recalls. “Even before D-Rose, you put that on your back of trying to be better.”
Over the years, some of the game’s top players have come out of Chicago — Isiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade and George Mikan, to name a few. Anthony Davis is among the current stars currently repping the city. In many eyes, it’s the hub of high school basketball.
“That’s the mecca. If you ask anyone from Chicago or plays basketball, they’ll tell you it’s the mecca,” Martin said. “You’re either playing basketball or doing something you’ve got no business doing.”
And because of the respect for the game in the city, much of it laid by Jordan, that time is held sacred. In a region that deals with much violence, much recognition is given to the safe place of a basketball court.
And on that hardwood or blacktop just might be the next Jordan.
“Basketball takes over and stops everything. It’s so important in Chicago. It has the power to put everything else on halt,” Martin said.
“That’s why it’s so competitive now, everyone’s trying to be the next guy. That’s what pushes Chicago so much.”