QuaranTV: The Last Dance a chance to learn and remember
I was 2 years old when Michael Jordan won his sixth and final championship for the Chicago Bulls. Like many people my age, we never got the chance to see the best player in NBA history play at the top of his game. However, over the next five Sundays, ESPN gives us that chance.
The Last Dance is an ESPN 30 for 30 miniseries documenting the Bulls’ 1997-98 championship season. It’s a 10-episode saga filled with the best moments from over 500 hours of unseen footage from the 1997-98 Bulls’ season.
While the footage had been around for over 20 years, Jordan refused the making of the docuseries several times before agreeing to let ESPN produce it in 2016.
ESPN’s 30 for 30 films and series are not just the best sports documentaries over the last decade, but some of the best I’ve ever seen. And I expect The Last Dance to be the best project the studio has ever released.
In journalism, we aren’t supposed to use absolute statements unless they are a fact. Typically, a comment like, “Everybody knows who Michael Jordan is” wouldn’t fly, but I think everybody knows who he is. He’s not just a superstar; he’s the greatest winner in the history of sports.
Pros are the 1% of athletes that have what it takes to play at the highest level. Competitors like Jordan are 1% of the 1%. If we are lucky, we get one of them in every generation. Athletes like Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Wayne Gretzky and Mohammad Ali are just different. There’s no explaining it because it’s just something different in their DNA that separates themselves from the rest of the best athletes in the world.
As someone who obsesses over sports, I’ve seen the major clips and replays from Jordan’s career. What I haven’t seen is the stuff that doesn’t make the highlight tapes. After Jordan dropped 63 points (without a three-point line) in game two of the Bulls’ 1986 playoff series against the Celtics, Larry Bird said in his press conference, “I think he’s God disguised as Michael Jordan.”
Last Sunday, we saw episodes one and two of The Last Dance and got a glimpse of what’s to come over the next four weeks. Despite a luxurious career, Jordan is a controversial figure on and off the court.
It’s believed by many that the reason he rejected the documentary so many times is that he doesn’t want his perception changed because of who he was in the locker room. Jordan is known for his gambling addiction as well. For me, this is what intrigues me about guys like him.
The Last Dance showed a few clips of Jordan berating teammates in practice in the first two episodes, and I can understand why that would turn people off. But I don’t see that as him being a bad teammate, I think of it as him getting the most out of his guys so they can win. We are getting a first-hand look at how he elevated a team with comments from the biggest names in sports, pop culture and politics.
Not only is The Last Dance going to give us an in-depth look at Jordan, but the demise of one of the greatest teams in sports history.
It’s called The Last Dance because before the 1997-98 season started, Bulls general manager Jerry Krause told head coach Phil Jackson that he wouldn’t be the head coach after the season. Petty differences and financial disagreements dismantled a team that won six titles in seven years. I’m excited to dissect the demise of the Chicago Bulls.
If you missed the first two episodes, there’s still a chance for you to catch up. Because there aren’t live sports, ESPN is rerunning the first two episodes daily on their numerous channels. They plan on rerunning them before episodes three and four drops on Sunday at 8 p.m.
Netflix bought rights to the series and will release all 10 episodes in July.
ESPN had over 6 million concurrent viewers on Sunday night in a time the sports world needed. Sunday night was the first time in weeks it felt like people came together to watch the same thing at the same time collectively. Even though The Last Dance airs only two hours a week, it felt like we had sports back for a night.