The Last Dance. Michael. Phil. Scottie. Jerry. Dennis. Steve.
First-name basis characters in what, for my money, (and I'm not even a noted basketball fan), is the best thing Netflix has come out with in a long time. Not just since Tiger King. Let's get real.
Call it a smutty exercise if you like. The reality is, it's an exercise in relating the more esoteric qualities of wine to something more familiar and framing wine in a way that gets the consumer excited about it without sending them tumbling off the tracks by mentioning a wine's "acidity" and them saying "I don't want to experience any acid" and therefore becoming terrified.
Imagine this: you're in a restaurant. You have no idea what anything on the wine list is, never mind what it costs. You need help. In part A of this hypothetical scenario, a sommelier approaches you and gives you technical information on two wines: where it was grown, how it was made, along with some information on its flavour and aroma, using wine geek-speak. The problem is, you don't know anything about anything they said. In part B of this hypothetical scenario, the sommelier approaches you and says: Wine #1 is Bruce Springsteen. Hard-rocking, lyrically poignant, and handsome. Wine #2 is Donald Fagen. Slick, sardonic, and kind of cryptic.
I'm going with the somm from part B of this hypothetical scenario. I still don't know which wine I'm choosing, but somehow, I feel like I know what to expect from either. Ain't that funny.
This game is all part of getting the eff out of your head when thinking about wine for once. So, now that I've justified my existence, let's match up these characters to some corresponding bottles that mirror their descriptions.
1. Scottie Pippen
Pip is portrayed in the film as under-appreciated by the organization of the Chicago Bulls, both from the perspective of being dangled as trade-bait, and from a compensation standpoint. While he may very well have been the #2 player in the NBA, he was something like the 122nd highest-paid player in the NBA. Scottie's drawl is elegant and soothing. He's aged beautifully, in a literal sense (he looks fantastic). Slender, smooth, with a quiet confidence. I'm calling Scottie a nice Rioja Gran Reserva with at least a decade or more in the cellar. Undervalued, under-appreciated, but also, undeniable.
2. Steve Kerr
The overachiever. The fighter. Scrapping, clawing for his role. Never backing down, even from MJ in a heated practice. He's earnest, and not short on intellect. There's an emotional tenderness present, as well. But at the heart of his character, you think of a workhorse. Cru Beaujolais for Steve.
3. Dennis Rodman
Where do you start? Dennis is to me the most intriguing character of the film. Something about his need to beat to a completely different drum without fear of consequences in the media or with his team, all while being arguably the greatest rebounder in NBA history, a uniquely selfless position, makes him a very attractive character to my own personal sensibilities. The hair, the lifestyle, the show, the circus...and the mastery of something few people approached in such a detailed, technical sense. It's hard to pin Dennis to a wine. I've gotta think as outside the box in terms of wine as he was (and is) in life. It's gotta be something from the new world, where the rules don't quite apply the same way yet. I'm gonna get specific and compare Dennis to Gruet, the champenoise method sparkling wine producer from New Mexico. It's excellent wine, but it's completely out of left-field for most people outside the industry. Wine? New Mexico? Made by former Champagne producer Gilbert Gruet, he discovered some land 170 miles south of Albuquerque where vines had been planted. He ended up planting Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and establishing a winery in the style of a Champagne house. Dennis likes to party like nobody else. Bubbly. Helps. Party. And nobody else has bene as ambitious in New Mexican wine production as Gruet.
4. Phil Jackson
The coach. The mystic. The intellectual. The spiritual. The discipline. The calm. The execution. Phil Jackson is almost as unique as Dennis Rodman, in some ways. There's no shortage of depth to his character, and his leadership is unquestioned. There are few, if any, coaches that resemble the complexity of his character throughout history, at least, not many that happen to also have 6 championships under their belt. For those reasons, Phil most appropriately resembles a prized cru Barbaresco. Slight in appearance, but very long on character. A wine with a truthful, yet esoteric spirit, alongside an iron frame and an academic might. You'll notice that Phil has also aged gracefully and maintains an energetic disposition. Much like these wines.
5. Jerry Krause
Rombauer Chardonnay. Hefty. Sizeable. Maybe a little over-the-top, and maybe a little too, shall we say, forceful?, to be appreciated regularly. But, nobody can argue with the 6 titles produced by the squads of his crafting. It's just...you wouldn't want to hang around him all the time. Nothing could be more fitting.
6. His Airness, Michael Jordan
What else can you say about MJ? It's gotta be First Growth Bordeaux. From a great vintage. I am personally reminded of a 1986 Mouton-Rothschild. Muscular, if not muscle-bound. Confident. Great in front of the cameras. Committed. Dedicated. Nothing spared in the quest for greatness at all costs. Some people will remember that Mouton was not always classified as a First Growth. Michael took some time to reach the heights that he reached, as well. He failed to make the varsity team in high school on his first attempt. He had his doubters early in his career, despite stellar individual play. It took 7 years to get to that first NBA championship title. But once he showed up, he proved beyond belief that he was not short on pedigree, prestige, and true greatness. Gotta be Mouton.
Of course, at the moment, I've just got a hankering for the icy Miller Lite™ that the boys were quaffing after a game.