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Remember the scene in ESPN’s “The Last Dance” in which Chicago Bulls superstar Michael Jordan lost a game tossing quarters against a wall to bodyguard John Michael Wozniak, who celebrated with a Jordan-esque shrug?
“Saturday Night Live” and guest host Keegan-Michael Key certainly did.
Roughly a year removed from the final episode of ESPN’s 10-part ode to MJ and the 1990s Bulls — and an earlier “SNL” digital parody of it — the NBC late-night mainstay returned to the well.
With Key as Jordan and a sensational turn by Heidi Gardner as Wozniak, “SNL” lampooned the Hall of Famer’s cutthroat competitive nature, love of gambling and penchant for feeding off perceived affronts that the ESPN docuseries showcased.
“Even though it was 10 hours long, there was so much left on the cutting room floor,” “Last Dance” director Jason Hehir (Mikey Day) explains, setting up the supposedly extended scene, which begins with Key’s Jordan losing a $5 bet on the quarters game and quickly devolves into a total debasement of Gardner’s Wozniak.
“The thing about Michael is he didn’t just want to beat you,” teammate Dennis Rodman (Chris Redd) says, echoing a well-tread “Last Dance” theme. “He wanted to dominate you.”
By the time it’s over, the bodyguard has lost more than money, all while good-naturedly trying to playing along.
The Phoenix Suns’ Charles Barkley (Kenan Thompson) joins in the game, and Bulls coach Phil Jackson (Alex Moffat) recalls Jordan’s determination to win, detached from the cold-blooded way it plays out in the scene.
Says Key’s Jordan: “He won. I was happy for him. But then he did that little shrug, and I took that personally.”
Last May, “SNL” took its first swing at “The Last Dance” with a faux promo that included interview clips with Bulls fan and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un (Bowen Yang). The sketch didn’t air but was made available online.