Michael Jordan and The Best have become synonymous. If you're the best at what you do in any given field then you are THE Michael Jordan of that field. For example: Michael Phelps is the Michael Jordan of swimming or Aaron Peck is the Michael Jordan of movie reviewing. See how it works now?
Kidding aside, Jordan is quite possibly still the most recognizable athlete in the world, still. At one time he was definitely the most popular athlete on the globe. Wherever he went he was mobbed. He is widely considered by just about everyone who has at least a basic understanding of the game of basketball, to be the greatest player to ever play the game. His talent was unparalleled and his competitive nature drove him to heights that no other player in the history of basketball has ever reached. It's that competitive spirit that really defines the persona of Michael Jordan. Many people don't know exactly how competitive he was. He took just about everything personally, and used his game to do the talking.
A year or so before he came back to the NBA from his stint playing baseball, Michael Jordan met up with Bryon Russell formerly of the Utah Jazz. Russell asked Jordan why he quit, and challenged him saying that if Jordan was wearing a pair of shorts, he could guard him. When Jordan finally came back he stepped up to Russell during the first game they played against the Jazz. He reminded them of their conversation, and then said, "Remember when you said you thought you could guard me? Here's your chance." As a die-hard Utah Jazz fan, I know all too well how that eventually turned out.
The 'Ultimate Jordan' set put out by Image Entertainment is a fantastic collection of the greatest moments in Jordan's career. From biopics, to highlight reels, to historical NBA games, this collection has just about everything you'd want in a Jordan collection.
Since the set covers so many different pieces of footage, TV specials, and games, I'll list everything that's included here.
'Above and Beyond' (53 min.) – An introspective look at Jordan's career. Jordan talks about his stint in minor league baseball and how it was actually therapeutic for him. He talks about the death of his father and how much that affected him. This is a great documentary focusing on the way basketball made Jordan feel. He's very candid about his feelings and he doesn't leave anything out.
'His Airness' (54 min.) – Another introspective look, but this time the documentary is more focused on Jordan's ultra-competitive nature. Buoyed up by a seemingly endless amount of highlight reels, this is an exciting documentary for anyone who wants to relive Jordan's glory days on the court.
'Airtime' (48 min.) – Starting with his winning shot at North Carolina that sealed the National Championship for the Tar Heels, this is another documentary that spans the career of the greatest basketball player ever. Jordan talks about his drive to be the best player ever. This has more of a 'Rocky' montage-like feel with exciting music playing as Jordan navigates us through his illustrious career.
'Come Fly with Me' (39 min.) – This all-inclusive documentary starts at Jordan's childhood and continues through the trials and tribulations he had growing up to the man he became. He played every sport he could play. Got to love these early 90s documentaries. Cheesy music and all.
'Michael Jordan's Playground' (43 min.) – Jordan narrates another documentary about his life and career. By this time these docs become pretty redundant. Same footage, same stories, but it's still fun to watch some of these historical plays over and over. People like Danny Ainge and Chirs Mullin talk about what it was like to play against Jordan. There are also a few moments where Jordan helps a young player realize his dreams and go after them no matter how impossible they seem.
'The Making of Michael Jordan's Playground' (24 min.) – Narrated by Amhad Rashad, this is promotional behind the scenes look at 'Michael Jordan's Playground' which was a home video release.
'Michael Jordan's Induction into the Hall of Fame' (30 min.) – This is simply one of the best inclusions on this disc. Jordan's Hall of Fame speech was fantastic, and also a giant "eff you" to quite a few people, including the management of the Bulls ("[They] said organizations win championships. That's not right, players do."), and a special shout-out to Bryon Russell of the Utah Jazz who gave Jordan more than enough motivation to vaporize everyone when he came back to the game. It's amazing to see the man that basketball fans have idolized over the years, a man that has shown he's one of the most competitive athletes to ever live, reduced to tears at a few points as he reminisces about his time with the Bulls. Great stuff.
'Michael's Memories & Dunk Contest Highlights' (10 min.) – Most of these highlights we already saw on the first disc. Although this short featurette covers, in-depth, the war that Jordan had with Dominique Wilkins when it came to the NBA Slam Dunk Contest. That's when the Dunk Contest was fun to watch.
'Jill Scott Tribute' (6 min.) – A collection of highlights put to R&B music performed by musician Jill Scott.
'It's Gotta Be the Shoes' (6 min.) – Spike Lee joins Jordan talking about the Air Jordan shoes. There's a series of quickly edited highlights followed by Spike Lee gawking at the camera after Jordan dunks.
'Michael's Great 8' (40 min.) – Another documentary where sports professionals and talking heads cover the career of Jordan. They talk about his final performances in Utah and refer to The Flu Game. Time shifts back and forth between future and past showing how Jordan was able to come back to the game without missing a step.
'MJ's Best Dunks, Moves, Clutch Plays, and Assists' (15 min.) – A Sports Center-like rundown of Jordan's most memorable dunks, game winning shots, and assists.
'1986 Chicago vs. Boston, Game 2: MJ Scores 63' (2 hr. 20 min.) – This historical game from 1986 is reproduced here in its entirety as Jordan goes on to score 63 points on a Celtics team that featured Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parrish.
'1990 Chicago vs. Cleveland MJ Scores 69' (2 hr. 9 min.) – Another historical game, this time Jordan drops on Cleveland.
'1993 NBA Finals Chicago vs. Phoenix, Game 4: MJ Scores 55' (1 hr. 56 min.) – Going up against Charles Barkley and the Phoenix Suns, Jordan scores 55 in a crazy display of aerial acrobatics.
'1997 NBA Finals Chicago vs. Utah, Game 5: The Flu Game' (1 hr. 45 min.) – Hampered by the flu Jordan took to the court in Utah and completely demolished the Jazz. I remember sitting there watching as Jordan would walk out onto the court, light it up, and then limp back to the bench buoyed by his teammates looking like he was going to collapse at any second. Even though I desperately wanted the Jazz to win that game, it's still an amazing performance by Jordan.
'1998 NBA Finals Chicago vs. Utah, Game 6: The Sixth Title' (2 hr. 9 min.) – Another heart-breaking loss as a Jazz fan. I mean, seriously heart-breaking. Still, how many players can end their careers sinking the final shot to win an NBA championship? It's a magical game, no matter how you look at it. Yes, even if you are like me and wished it would have turned out differently.
If you're a fan of Michael Jordan or if you're just a fan of basketball this is a great set for you. It covers, from beginning to end, the career of the greatest basketball player ever. It is a look back at the man who reinvented the game of basketball and now defines it. Pick this one up if you like Mike or wanna be like Mike.
This video presentation is a peculiar one because it relies heavily out out-dated television video tapes for its footage. Due to its aged source material, and the fact that sporting events aren't shot on film, there's been a lot of degradation when it comes to the visuals of this set. It's a shame Jordan's game didn't exist in a world of HD cameras and television sets.
Softness is a primary hindrance to the overall quality of the visuals. Each and every segment presented on the set has its own quirks because of the different time periods the footage is coming from. Obviously the Finals footage from the late 90s looks the best, but even that's before the introduction of HD recording equipment.
Colors lack pop, for the same reason the picture lacks intricate detail. There just wasn't the technology at that time to capture the beauty of Jordan's acrobatics. Many of the segments features errant video tape noise in the form of long lines of light bleeding into the picture and faces on screen. You can tell all of this film and these specials were produced in the late 80s and early 90s.
Jordan's Hall of Fame Speech is by far the best looking featurette. It's 2009 and high-definition is in full effect. Detail is superb, as you can see the tiny tears welling up in his eyes. The enormous crowd is distinct and detailed as you can make out familiar faces like John Stockton, Charles Barkely, Jerry Sloan, and Larry Brown sitting in the audience.
Even though each of the segments are shown in 1080i you wouldn't be able to tell, really. The 'Ultimate Jordan' set suffers from the drawbacks of sports recording technology from the 80s and 90s. There just isn't much to work with here, so much of the time it's like you're watching these Blu-rays on an old 4:3 washed out CDR tube TV.
Like the video the audio is limited to the capabilities of the recording equipment of the time. Featuring a DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo audio presentation, this is a straight forward mix without any frills.
Everything is piped through the front two speakers; dialogue, sound effects, music, everything. Dialogue is fine, but has a static sound every once and a while especially during the older game recordings. The commercial with Spike Lee pops and crackles like it's an especially bad recording.
All of the announcing for the games that are presented has that ever-so-slightly muffled sound to them. Again, it's just that we're not dealing with the most well-preserved source material here so much of this can be forgiven.
Like the video presentation we're restricted by the technology that was around when Jordan played.
Now this is kind of weird. On the disc menus there are no special designations for what are considered bonus features and what aren't. There's just a big list of different videos that are available to watch. I listed all those above. However, the back of the case indicates that the Hall of Fame Speech, Slam Dunk Highlights, 'Michael's Great 8,' and 'The Making of Michael Jordan's Playground' are all considered bonus features.
I'm making an executive decision here and saying everything I listed above makes up the complete set of 'Ultimate Jordan.' Nothing on the discs has been segregated into a bonus feature section. Everything is given a similar looking title, like they are all main parts of the whole. There are actually no bonus features such as commentaries or anything like that. There's just a list of different videos you can watch an enjoy, and that's it.
This is a basketball fan's dream. Watching these historic moments, reliving these historic games is something that will never get old. I know that I got on the case of Image after they released a set that depicted last year's Lakers vs. Celtics 7 game series and noted that if that was all the release was then it was sort of a waste. I stand by that. Here in the 'Ultimate Jordan' collection we're not only given copious amounts of stunning highlights, we also get a small collection of Jordan's most famous performances.
Sadly the video and audio are crippled by the source material they had to create this collection. That's to be expected, but still it's sad that Jordan didn't play in a time where HD cameras and recording equipment could have caught his every move in 1080p glory. 'Space Jam' doesn't count. The special features are strange because they aren't actually listed as special features on the disc. I say that there are really no special features, because everything on the disc is treated exactly the same that it's impossible to tell what was intended to be a bonus. Eitherway, I'll round the final score up just a smidge. Still, this set comes recommended for any basketball fan out there. Watch how Jordan single-handedly changed basketball.