Before the 6 rings, the flu game, a side quest into baseball, or the iconic last shot, there was only the playground. There have been a ton of athletes, many of them great athletes, but there has only ever been one Michael Jordan.
In 1990, a documentary short was released that intertwined a highlight reel of a young Michael Jordan’s career with the fictional world of Walt Preston, the varsity basketball hopeful chasing the dream of making his high school team. As we see Walt cut from basketball tryouts, we’re reminded that the eventual greatest basketball player of all time was also cut from his high school basketball team in North Carolina.
What we see next is like something out of a dream, or at least the most optimistic of after school specials. On the eve of the following year’s basketball tryouts, Walt Preston doubts himself and his preparation for his next opportunity at making the team. Then, out of seemingly nowhere, Michael Jordan appears to help Walt with his game.
The next segment is filled with Jordan torching defenses in the closing seconds of the game. The Cavs, the Knicks, the Pistons, all the way back to winning the NCAA Title against Georgetown, they all bared witness to MJ’s early signs of greatness. Before Jordan had truly written his legacy, he was forcing the issue of becoming the greatest closer the sport had ever seen.
In supporting audio clips from his peers and most respected opponents, everyone from Chris Mullin to Horace Grant put over Michael Jordan for not only his competitive drive, but also for his under rated passing ability and elite defense. Jordan was revered for his complete game.
His rivalry with Dominique Wilkins and Joe Dumars are both highlighted in the documentary. The exciting and fun competitive rivalry with Wilkins is quickly transitioned to the rough and intense feud with Dumars and the Pistons. The Detroit Bad Boys would stand in the way of Michael winning an NBA Title on more than one occasion, and in 1990, Jordan was still chasing those championship dreams.
The best part of the feature might be seeing Scottie Pippen in a giant pair of glasses. This pinnacle moment comes amidst commentary on Jordan being a dominant dunker with his ability to drive to the basket. This is followed by a series of slow-motion slam-dunk moments that present Jordan’s grace and beauty flying through the air as almost mystical.
So what does Walt take away from his pickup game with Michael Jordan? He learns to not be afraid, to believe in himself, and to take the shot. No 90s feature documentary could end without a music video. I’ll save that little treasure nugget for those of you who seek out the film, but look for cameos by Lisa Lisa and Kid ‘n Play. Michael Jordan’s dancing does not disappoint.
Michael Jordan is the most prolific basketball player of all time. His branding and name are as infamous today as they were in the 90s. The shoes are iconic, his aura is unrivaled, and his name is the base line of comparison to all others. Jordan has had a plethora of documentaries in his time, many of which we’ll likely get to at some point in review, but this one in particular has an overwhelming amount of nostalgia factor surrounding His Airness. Be apart of the greatness and see the film for yourself!
Want to check out Michael Jordan’s Playground? Pick up the Ultimate Jordan DVD set over at Amazon. The collection contains a half dozen Jordan documentary films and five complete game entries. Have a favorite Michael Jordan moment? Share below for your thoughts!