Few people understand what it’s like to be Tom Brady. Even among his peers, the experience isn’t the same. Even a Rob Gronkowski type doesn’t experience being the focal point of an entire sport. For that, Brady must turn to stars from other sports. Watching the Michael Jordan documentary, The Last Dance, Brady saw someone experiencing a sports career that resembles his own.
How Tom Brady’s career mirrors Michael Jordan’s journey
Brady and Jordan’s career similarities stretch beyond their aptitude for winning championships. In youth sports, neither were seen as the perfect specimens for their respective sports. They each had siblings they looked up to, who showed immediate aptitude and athleticism on a level they had to work a bit harder to achieve themselves.
Jordan was short, but determined, and enjoyed a growth spurt at the end of high school, as Sportskeeda reports. Brady was slightly pudgy, and not physically gifted compared to his peers. It lasted a bit longer for him, as he struggled to justify getting more playing time at the University of Michigan.
Once the two were in the league, their paths start to look similar once again. The Chicago Bulls and the New England Patriots were both unsuccessful franchises, that suddenly found themselves thrust into national adulation on the back of a single, explosive superstar. On the other side of that equation, however, were the accusations that both might be overrated, uplifted by their supporting casts and genius coaches.
Brady related to Jordan’s vulnerability in The Last Dance
Jordan was incredibly open in The Last Dance, or at least as much as he could be given his personality. He’s a fierce competitor, who still appears to hold real grudges with people going back to the 1980s. This was a warts-and-all portrayal of a single-minded competitor, deep into retirement.
No surprise that Brady saw a lot to relate to there. In an interview with actor Dax Shepard for the Armchair Expert podcast, he didn’t hesitate to say how much he appreciated Jordan’s vulnerability. It revealed a side of being an athlete under the intense microscope of the public that is rarely seen.
“This is a real Tom Brady on the field, real emotion. I’m not playing a role; I’m playing myself,” Brady explained. “I think what you saw in that documentary was, ‘Wow, that’s really him.’ That’s what we saw. That’s really Michael.” Not the Jordan from Nike or McDonald’s ads, the one that was a media creation of the 1990s, but the retired athlete who no longer cares what anyone thinks of him.
How will the documentary series about Brady compare to The Last Dance?
Brady’s musings on The Last Dance aren’t exactly the idle observations of a fan. He’ll also get his own nine-episode ESPN docu-series — even though his career hasn’t wrapped up just yet. That alone will make for a very different experience, one closer to what we would’ve gotten had Jordan not kept all that archival footage in the vault for two decades.
It will be the differences between the two figures, rather than the similarities, that should allow Brady’s documentary to hold up to The Last Dance. For example, both grew up playing baseball, but only Brady got a serious draft offer when he was young. While, as CBS Sports reports, Jordan’s celebrity allowed him to field a straight-up major league offer as he neared middle age.
There’s also the differing nature of their celebrity. The middle portion of The Last Dance goes heavily into Jordan as a global multimedia sensation. Brady is limited to American fame, playing in a sport that is only popular in his home country. He doesn’t have an equivalent to Space Jam. For the former Patriots star, pop culture isn’t a huge part of the story beyond the gossip pages’ coverage of his wife. That focus on sports will be the core of Brady’s tale in contrast to Jordan’s.