Shut Up and Dribble season 1, episode 2 recap: 102


After reviewing the history of some of basketball’s greats, Shut Up and Dribble starts to bring things to the modern era — starting with Michael Jordan.

The second episode of Shut Up and Dribble picks up where the first left off, in the United Center before a Chicago Bulls game. Jemele Hill in her voice over explains that to talk about the greatest to ever play, they aren’t showing highlights of him playing for the Bulls because they need his permission. Permission he doesn’t give easily.

She posits that maybe the best way to stay popular is to remain a mystery.

The next segment begins with people talking about what Jordan meant to them and the impact he had on them and their careers. Included are former NBA players Stephen Jackson and Kenny Smith, Kendrick Lamar, Sway Calloway, among others.

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They discuss how it was more than what Jordan did on the court, it was how he carried himself. Some would even think WWMJD before making decisions. Justin Timberlake points out that swagger, like what Jordan brought to the table, is very marketable.

Over clips of Jordan’s time for Team USA when he was coming out of college, Hill says to imagine seeing Michael Jordan for the first time.

The discussion turns to how Jordan just played the game differently — sportswriter Jackie McMullen put it simply: everyone else was running, he was gliding. Over shots of Team USA on the medal stand as the anthem is played and the banner raised, Hill explains that this was a turning point.

In 1984, black athletes were supposedly not marketable to corporate America. Jordan’s agent, David Falk, talks through how he (at only 33) went about marketing Jordan, including them going to Nike. Falk tells a great anecdote of Jordan in meetings with Nike that shows just how savvy Jordan was at a young age.

Atmosphere during Air Jordan XXI Launch Event in Houston, Texas, United States. (Photo by Dave Rossman/Getty Images for Bragman Nyman Cafarelli)

As the episode moves forward, it shows the multitude of endorsements Jordan racked up. Hill calls him a chameleon, able to be whatever is necessary. In an interview, Jordan says he doesn’t want to be thought of as black or white, just as a person.

As Jordan’s story transitions from endorsements to race, the episode focuses in on the 1990 Senate race in North Carolina, Jordan’s home state, where the state would potentially elect an African American — a definite rarity. After Republican Jesse Helms released a racist ad in an attempt to distance himself from his opponent Harvey Gantt, questions grew on whether Jordan would help Gantt.

In an interview, Jordan, off-handedly, said that “Republicans buy sneakers too” which went like wildfire through the media. Helms won the election. The next responses from those in the episode discuss whether or not Jordan was obligated to take a stance in that instance.

The next transition takes the episode to 1991 and the footage of Rodney King being beaten. Former Bulls player (and Jordan teammate) Craig Hodges speaks about Jordan’s reluctance to speak on what happened with King. Hodges wanted the players to boycott the NBA finals (between Magic Johnson’s Lakers and Jordan’s Bulls), but Magic and Jordan thought that’d be too extreme. That NBA Finals was Jordan’s first NBA Championship.

Cutting to a Jordan-less White House visit by the Bulls, Hodges attends wearing a white dashiki, paying homage to his heritage. He also slipped the president a letter which he reads over footage of inner-city struggles. This leads into the not guilty verdict for the police officers indicted for beating Rodney King and the subsequent riots.

This is juxtaposed with the perceived silence coming from NBA players at the time, according to Bob Costas. After a brief look at how the riots affected the NBA playoffs (forcing a Lakers home game to be played in Las Vegas), the episode talks about the repercussions Hodges faced for standing up — including being cut from the Bulls.

The next segment takes a look at the 1992 Olympic basketball “Dream Team” and how it brought the nation together and grew basketball on a global scale. Included is a discussion about the decision by the Nike players on the team to cover up the Reebok logo with draped American flags during the national anthem on the podium stand.

22 Jul 1996: The Dream Team poses with Desmond Tutu and his grandson at a Dream Team practice at the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. Mandatory Credit: Al Bello /Allsport

Brand before politics became more common in the early 90’s. The episode next looks at the pressure that brings and how expectations that black athletes should be role models grew. This rejection of being a role model is shown through some of Charles Barkley’s career. Barkley talks about the responsibility black parents needed to take.

This transitions into 1995’s Million Man March in Washington, D.C and the NBA season that follows. There’s a brief look in on the Denver Nuggets’ Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf who (as the team’s leading scorer) was suspended for refusing to stand for the national anthem. (20 years later and the rhetoric shown from upset fans is still used in cases like Colin Kaepernick’s.)

For sticking to his beliefs as a Muslim, Abdul-Rauf’s suspension became unpaid, but he stuck with it. When he eventually did return, he agreed to stand, but on his own terms. The documentary shows him standing for the anthem with his hands cupped in front of his face in a traditional Muslim prayer stance. It then shows the forced decline of his career.

Following this is a segment on Allen Iverson, starting with his arrest after a fight at a bowling alley when he was in high school. Going through his career, it looks at hip-hop and Iverson’s cornrows as ways people were able to connect to and identify with him.

6 Jun 2001: Allen Iverson #3 of the Philadelphia 76ers in game one of the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. The 76ers won 107-101. DIGITAL IMAGE. Mandatory Credit: Jed Jacobsohn/Allsport.

Iverson is presented as an antithesis to Jordan’s clean-cut ways, but still completely marketable. But the episode also delves into how the media turned on Iverson for the way he dressed, preferring to look at him as a thug and a bad influence.

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The episode finishes by talking about Iverson as the bridge between Jordan and today’s NBA culture.

Does this change your perception of any of these 90’s stars? What are you looking forward to in the next episode of Shut Up and Dribble? Let us know in the comments.