ANCIENT GREEKS IMAGED gods in human form, capable of extraordinary feats while churning through perplexing irrationalities.
Zeus, meet Michael Jordan and your Chicago Bulls.
That's what ESPN is hoping much of America will do beginning Sunday night when it airs the first two episodes of the 10-part docuseries "The Last Dance" (8 p.m.).
The series will be presented in two-part installments on successive Sundays, concluding May 17.
For a nation paralyzed at the center, "The Last Dance" glides in somewhere on the compendium between enrapturing time tunnel and welcome diversion.
Director Jason Hehir told interviewers that, in the end, he had close to 10,000 hours of video to shape into slightly more than eight hours of flowing, narrative programming.
If the initial eight episodes that ESPN made available to reviewers this week are an accurate gauge, Hehir succeeds far more than he air-balls.
Technically, the linear of the series is the 1997-1998 NBA season, the sixth and final championship of Jordan and the Bulls.
Then the perplexed titlists were heinously vaporized by team chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and his bizarre hireling Jerry Krause.
In Hehir's work, it is not hard to identify the heroes, or the villains, or the dispassionate, or even the ones who remain on Reinsdorf's payroll.
And yes, almost half of the initial 15 minutes of Episode One is devoted to the manner in which ReinKrau set the stage for "The End."
Right on time, after an archived clip of Krause, Phil Jackson -- the designated first domino to be tipped -- is shown in contemporary circumstance saying:
"Jerry called me into his office and said, 'This is going to be your last year. I don't care if you win 82 games in a row. This is going to be your last year here.'
"So I said, 'Fine,' and I walked out of the room."
Jordan had made it clear he would play for no one other than Jackson.
ReinKrau were fully aware of that.
So that was that.
The Mona Lisa was defaced.
Mary's arm was hammered off Michelangelo's Pietà.
But "The Last Dance" expands far beyond the absurd that framed that 1997-1998 season.
As his true line poles, Hehir elects to template each episode as a month of that campaign -- beginning with the Bulls' trip to Paris in October 1997 -- followed by a flashback and then a concluding step forward.
Episode One is open, setup, Paris, the roots of Jordan and on toward the regular season.
Subsequent flashbacks focus on Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Jackson, the 1992 Dream Team, Jordan's 1993 gambling contretemps, the murder of his father and other things, all moving the series toward crescendo.
Much is included. Some is somewhat sanitized.
Hehir said he interviewed 110 people for the project. Many who made the final cut are enhancing.
His editing is confident and almost always crisp.
The star, of course, is Jordan.
But it is not so much the archived or "backstage" video that keeps "The Last Dance" aloft.
It is the fresh video of Jordan -- now age 57 and in a living room setting -- reflecting, explaining and more assertive in tone and spirit than ever.
No. 23 also lobs in casual F-bombs like a laid-off longshoreman.
Back in the days of "If I Could Be Like Mike," that was as anathema to his brand as Isiah Thomas turning up in a Nike commercial.
Some ultimate truisms about "The Last Dance?"
It will play with marked contrast to different age groups.
For now, it will serve as the most epic video ordering of the life and career of Michael Jordan ever produced.
The multiple intelligences that underpin and swirl around his tale were an extraordinary act of the gods.
STREET-BEATIN': In acknowledgment of "the strong adult language" in "The Last Dance," ESPN announced Wednesday that "an alternate option edited for language" will air simultaneously on ESPN2. ...
Charles Davis is in and Dan Fouts is out as analyst in CBS's No. 2 NFL booth. (Ex-Bear Greg Olsen could be movin' on up in Davis's wake at Fox; the bearded insouciance of Fouts will be missed.) ...
Many are taking the Blackhawks' announcement of the cancellation of their 2020 Fan Convention as all that needs to be known about any resumption of the NHL season. (Few are sharper at reading which way the ice is flowing than John McDonough and Jay Blunk.) ...
Health news about Mickey Johnson -- the Aurora College alum who soared as one of the great small-college "finds" in the history of the Bulls -- is not good. ...
Mike Thomas and staff at ESPN AM-1000 turned in a strong effort in covering the dissolution of GarPax this week. (WSCR 670-AM AM-670 management contributed to AM-1000's "win" via its stunning recent disconnect with Bulls authority David Schuster.) ...
And tee-eyed Dave Paul, long of Schaumburg, reports that golf courses in West Virginia, Georgia and his native Connecticut are open. "But one key is to keep the ball in state," Paul deadpanned.
•Jim O'Donnell's Sports & Media column appears Thursday and Sunday. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.