With the finale of the ten-part documentary series The Last Dance airing on Sunday night, millions across the world got an inside look on the career of Michael Jordan as a Chicago Bull, specifically during the 1998 championship run. Now that The Last Dance is over, it's time to look at the series as a whole and how it depicted Michael Jordan.
The Chicago Bulls dynasty, led by Michael Jordan, won 6 NBA championships, including two three-peats from 1991 to 1998. The Last Dance didn’t only highlight Jordan through the documentary. Key parts of that ‘98 Bulls team were focused on, including Scottie Pippen, Phil Jackson, Dennis Rodman, Jerry Crause and Steve Kerr.
For the people who grew up during the Bulls dominance and for the ones like myself who just missed out on seeing possibly the greatest dynasty in professional sports, The Last Dance took us into the life of Michael Jordan and between the lines of the Chicago Bulls team. How has this documentary changed the image of Jordan and does it solidify his status as the greatest basketball player of all time?
The Last Dance may be one of the greatest documentaries ever. People who grew up in the Lebron era like myself never saw the pure dominance of MJ. This series gave everyone a glimpse of that greatness.
A big challenge Jordan and the Bulls needed to overcome before winning their first championship was to defeat the Bad Boy Pistons, led by Isiah Thomas. The Pistons played aggressive, agitating, and nasty. Before he could reach the NBA Finals, Jordan needed to beat the Pistons. After losing in the playoffs to the Pistons, Jordan went straight to work. The documentary showed how he elevated his game during that off-season following the 1990 playoffs. Jordan lost three straight years to Detroit and he wasn’t going down again. Jordan knew he needed to get to the next level if he wanted to beat Detroit and that is exactly what he did. Summer workouts replaced a vacation for MJ and the Bulls, which eventually saw them taking the Eastern Conference away from the defending champions and the Bulls never looked back. The Last Dance showed the hatred between the two teams, and between their star players, Jordan and Thomas.
Jordan revolutionized the game of basketball, on and off the court. When he wasn’t winning championships, he was an international icon. It was rare to be as popular as Jordan was in a time before social media, yet he could still sell out arenas in Europe just because of who he was. At the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, he was the star of the Dream Team and rightfully so. The performance he put on at those games helped globalize the game of basketball to people outside of North America.
MJ now has one of the most known and successful shoe brands in the entire world, the Jordan Brand. I found it shocking that this shoe deal Jordan signed with Nike almost didn’t happen. If it wasn’t for Jordan’s mom telling him to get on a plane to Oregon and meet with Nike reps, we wouldn’t have the most iconic shoe of all-time, the Air Jordan. Also, Converse didn’t think Jordan was a big enough star to wear their brand. Good call Converse.
Space Jam is one of my favourite movies and Jordan is the star of it. The Last Dance showed that after filming Space Jam for the whole day, MJ would play pickup across the street from the studio with NBA players to get back into gameshape. That specific part of the series added to his legacy of being a hard worker. Jordan didn’t stop grinding, even when he was making Hollywood movies.
What The Last Dance executed perfectly was the backstories of the players. MJ was the star but his supporting cast played a huge part in building the dynasty. Most basketball fans knew Dennis Rodman as the colourful haired rebounder and enforcer on the Bulls team. The Last Dance showed how he became an NBA player and how he was so successful in his role on the team. We also saw some crazy things from Rodman, like when he left in the midst of a season to go party in Vegas or how he skipped an NBA Finals practice to wrestle with Hulk Hogan.
Steve Kerr was highlighted in the later episodes. Kerr went from getting punched in the face by Jordan to hitting a shot that would seal an NBA championship for the Bulls. His backstory was a sad one and The Last Dance knew how to tug at one’s emotions. We saw Kerr, Pippen and Jordan all lose loved ones throughout their basketball career and how they had to overcome the grief to become what they are today.
A scene that will live on forever is when Jordan won a championship on Father’s Day after losing his father. He was on the floor of the training room crying with the game ball clutched to his body. We saw that Jordan was human. He went through pain and suffering. He missed shots, he lost series. Michael Jordan wasn’t invincible, but he continued to work and overcome his challenges.
The Last Dance has so many things that's worth going back to watch. Finding out that the infamous “Flu Game” was due to food poisoning (potential sabotage), seeing the tension Michael Jordan has with Isiah Thomas to this day, all the clutch shots Jordan hit, and the inevitable end to one of the greatest dynasties in sports history.
Jordan is already one of the most known athletes of all-time, but now that the whole world saw the ins and outs of his time in Chicago, his legacy will continue to reach even greater heights. For the past five weeks everyone has been talking about The Last Dance and Michael Jordan. People who couldn’t see him play now know how much of an icon Jordan was and why he is called the GOAT by so many of his peers. The Last Dance showed how much of a star Jordan was and with the response the series has gotten, I don’t see that legacy dying out anytime soon.