The world’s biggest sports legends live in a space very unfamiliar to the rest of the world. Very few humans will ever fully understand what it’s like to compete at the highest level in a particular sport, as well as to live in a continuous spotlight away from the game.
There simply isn’t a lot of support or relatable experiences for living a life in the superstar space. Maybe that’s why Washington Capitals’ captain Alex Ovechkin is such a big fan of a recent sports documentary.
Ovechkin, who’s favorite athlete is Michael Jordan, was very impressed by ESPN’s recent docuseries, “The Last Dance”, which details the career of Michael Jordan and his final season with the Chicago Bulls.
“I think this is one of the best sports projects… Every time a new episode came out, I closed myself in the room, because my wife was pregnant. My brother loves basketball, but for some reason he didn’t like the first episode. So I was closed in, sitting there. This is a story, especially when you are an athlete, you understand what this person has achieved, and he begins to talk about his life, how everything went, how he moved after failures. Very cool,” said Ovechkin in a recent interview for the Sychev podcast and Denis Kazansky YouTube channel.
Ovechkin is also well versed in the background and making of the Jordan series.
“Do you know the history, details? One fan was super obsessed with Jordan. He recorded every game and he gave all the documents, videotapes to ESPN. ESPN said that if we really knew how popular this show would be, they would do 30 episodes. Can you imagine what kind of material they had to further promote the series, but they did 10 episodes.”
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As for what he learned from the series, Ovechkin drew similarities and differences between Jordan and himself, particularly with regards to leadership and and their approach to demanding more out of his teammates.
“After all, basketball and hockey are different sports. In total, we have 22 players, and there are five, and 2-3 people come out as substitutes, just to give the main one a rest. Of course, you will demand if you are the best. LeBron also demanded that the people around him get better and the team get better. In hockey, I can only demand from my line.”
Jordan noted in the series that he was not liked. Ovechkin understands and can relate to some extent.
“They don’t like him because he demands. You have to demand from the player if he does nothing. You get money for it, you represent the club where you were drafted. If I see that the player doesn’t care, I’ll say, “Why did you come here?”
But Ovechkin’s leadership style may differ, and be a little less direct.
“No, I never said: “Take off your clothes and don’t play”. I just said: “You have to play better, I know your potential, I know how you can play.”
‘Ovechkin is humble when compared to Jordan. “Where is Michael, where am I?” He also hesitates when told he is told he is the greatest athlete in Russia. “No, no. When I finish, it will be possible to discuss then, but now why?”
As for making an Ovechkin docuseries similar to The Last Dance? The NHL is already trying to do just that. Back in May, Steve Mayer, NHL executive vice-president and chief content officer, spoke about the 10-part Michael Jordan documentary and how he’s trying to convince Alex Ovechkin to allow cameras to record his every move for the next few years.
“I’ll be honest with you, I’ve already started the conversation,” said Mayer in an interview with the Ottawa Sun. “I’ve got a guy who’s chasing one of the greatest records in hockey history. Can I follow him now all the way to him getting that record?”
Now THAT would be ratings gold.
By Jon Sorensen