The hero of The Last Dance is obvious: It’s Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all time. The series also has an obvious villain, and it’s not any of the teams Jordan played against: It’s Jerry Krause, the general manager who intentionally dismantled the 1990s Bulls in a foolish attempt to prove his own worth.
Jordan would call Bryant his “little brother,” Bryant would call Jordan his “big brother,” and they’d praise each other’s work ethic and accomplishments. But rarely would either volunteer much more, each man knowing all too well that any glimpse would invite the kind of comparisons and debate they loathed.
Michael Jordan was ratings gold for TV networks during his days dominating on the hardwood. He appeared in the four highest-rated NBA Finals of all time, with viewership peaking at 29 million per game in 1998. When he left the Chicago Bulls for good in his second retirement, Finals viewership plunged 45%. In the two decades that followed, the NBA hasn’t even come close, with the highest-rated Finals—the Golden State Warriors versus the Cleveland Cavaliers—pulling 20 million viewers in both 2016 and 2017.