Barack Obama, the country’s 44th president, is identified merely as a “former Chicago resident” in ESPN’s incrementally unfolding 10-part documentary about Chicago Bulls superstar Michael Jordan which premiered Sunday evening.
A separate graphic in the show lists Bill Clinton, the 42nd U.S. president, as a “former Arkansas governor.”
Those who supported failed Republican candidates George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, John McCain, or Mitt Romney when he faced off against Clinton and Obama, respectively, would probably prefer that these descriptions are accurate and that history had turned out differently.
That aside, sports-starved viewers of The Last Dance on ESPN were quick to pick up on the incomplete historical references in the series so far, including one who quipped that in the future, President Donald Trump might be identified as a former WWE wrestler at some future point.
The premise behind these references is apparently to identify Obama, Clinton (and presumably other celebrities interviewed in the series) by where they were at the time of Michael Jordan’s heyday. Maybe it’s also self-consciously designed to generate buzz and social media mentions.
Parenthetically, beyond actually participating in a few matches and hosting Wrestlemania at the Trump Plaza in Atlantic City when he was a high-profile businessman, Trump is actually a member of the “prestigious” WWE Hall of Fame, having been inducted in 2013.
— Sam Roberts (@notsam) April 20, 2020
— Sudhamshu Reddy (@sudhamshureddy) April 20, 2020
— 🔮 Christopher 🔮 (@LeChristopherAG) April 20, 2020
Now Bill Clinton is "former Arkansas governor"
— Tyler Conway (@jtylerconway) April 20, 2020
"Bill Clinton…former Arkansas governor"
Whoever did these titles deserves an award#TheLastDance
— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) April 20, 2020
Michael Jordan, now 57, a six-time National Basketball Association champion, a six-time NBA finals MVP, and a 14-time All Star, is considered the greatest basketball player of all time. He currently is the principal owner of the league’s Charlotte Hornets.
Like all pro and college leagues in the U.S., the NBA is on hiatus owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
ESPN, the self-designated Worldwide Leader in Sports, is desperate for content that will attract viewers, and The Last Dance is perhaps a stopgap. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, ESPN originally planned to air the series in June.
Jason Hehir, the documentary director, provided an explanation of sorts to Richard Deitsch of The Athletic about what he indicated was an intentional description of the ex-presidents.
According to Heir’s somewhat convoluted reasoning, the chyrons reflect any interviewee with an “organic connection” to Jordan.
“That is a Michael thing. Barack Obama is not the kind of guy that I can find his number and text him. Michael had a connection…But I was pretty adamant that we don’t have people in there who don’t have an organic connection to the story…”
About Bill Clinton, Heir noted that “My question was, okay, what is Bill Clinton going to say that is different than any other fan would say about watching Michael play?…Now if Bill Clinton says I was governor of Arkansas when Scottie Pippen was in high school and I saw Scotty play, that’s organic to the story and much more interesting.”
On the subject of Barack Obama and Bill Clinton in #TheLastDance, I thought director Jason Hehir provided a great answer to me on the use of celebrity in a doc like this. Explains the chyron for Obama too.
Here you go: pic.twitter.com/LUrXFDFJOF
— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) April 20, 2020
Pippen, who played high school and college ball in Arkansas, was a key member of Michael Jordan’s Bulls during the team’s championship run in the 1990s.
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