Last week while in quarantine I watched the recently-released episodes of the TV documentary called “The Last Dance.” This is a documentary based on Michael Jordan’s last season with the Chicago Bulls in the NBA in 1998. Although this wasn’t Jordan’s last season as a professional basketball player (that being in 2003), it was one of the most memorable in his whole career.
The first episodes highlight the inner friction and drama that had been infecting the Bulls over the last few years. The main source of this conflict was between the players and the higher-ups of the Bulls organization, more specifically the feud between Michael Jordan and General Manager Jerry Krause. According to those interviewed in the documentary, such as Bulls President Jerry Reinsdorf, Krause felt that players like Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman were taking away all of the credit from the managers and staff behind the scenes who constructed the team. In a now infamous quote, Krause was quoted saying that “organizations win championships, not players.” This upset many players, including Jordan, who did give merit to those in office but said that at the end of the day “the players are the ones who step out on the court.” Things also got worse between Krause and Phil Jackson, the coach of the team. According to Jackson, Krause had been planning on rebuilding the team: a process in which teams trade away aging starting players and staff, and bring in new draft picks to restart the team in a new direction. One of those key staff members was going to be Jackson, who stated that in a meeting with Krause he was told that he did not “care if you win 82 games, at the end of the season you are done.” This then set the stage for the 97-98 season, and according to the players, Jackson always had a name or theme for each season they played in.
He called this last one: “The Last Dance.”
The documentary then travels back in time between the periods of 1965 and 1985, from Jordan’s childhood to his first years in college and with the Bulls. In this part of the series, the origins of Jordan’s competitiveness and basketball gifts are explored. According to Jordan, his competitive spirit began with his siblings as they were also very competitive. One of the moments that defined Jordan was when he was left out of the high school squad for a tournament. He later went home and cried, feeling upset about the decision of the coach. It was at this moment that his mother told him to quit crying and to work hard throughout the summer so that next time the coach would choose him. This was the start of the Michael Jordan who would work harder than everyone else.
According to the then-head coach of the North Carolina University basketball team, Jordan told him “no one will ever work as hard as me.” The documentary then switches to Jordan’s first years in the NBA and how he was making headlines because of his extraordinary talent, which even managed to impress NBA legend Larry Bird, who compared his ability to God. The documentary ends by going forward to 1998 and dealing with the controversy surrounding Scottie Pippen and management when it came to his salary, and Pippen purposely missing games to force a renegotiation.
I have enjoyed the first two episodes of this series so far. One of the main reasons I wanted to watch the documentary is because I am an NBA fan, and ever since I became one, I have always heard about Michael Jordan and how he is the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time). Looking at the stats and championships I could deduce why and how logical the argument would be; however, I couldn’t say with full confidence because I never got to experience Jordan playing because I wasn’t alive when he did.
Seeing and hearing about a player are two different things, and can influence how one ranks that player. Knowing there was going to be a documentary providing insight into the mind of Jordan during his prime was very exciting to me, as I would be able to see why he is as great as he is considered to be. When I started watching many of the plays he made and how he moved around the court, I soon realized why he was considered the best. He could do just about anything there is to basketball: shoot, dribble, defend, etc. Soon, all of the arguments that I always heard about why Jordan was better than LeBron James (the most common comparison and debate in basketball) started to add up, and I came to the same conclusion as everybody else.
As a result, I would recommend this series to those that are basketball fans or sports fans in general, as well as those who have heard about Jordan and never understood why he is as popular or held to the standard many people hold him to. I also was influenced to watch this series because of what is going on in the real world, as over a month ago, the NBA suspended all games indefinitely to prevent the coronavirus from spreading. This series is a good TV show to distract myself from what is going on, so it is recommendable to watch it.