Michael Jordan Documentary “The Last Dance” Is a Slam Dunk

Michael+Jordan+Documentary+%22The+Last+Dance%22+Is+a+Slam+Dunk

Augie Oppenheimer

Austin Guest, Food & Culture Editor

Rating: 4.5/5 Falcons

After the 2016 NBA Finals in which LeBron James miraculously willed the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 3-1 comeback against the seemingly unstoppable Golden State Warriors, NBA legend Michael Jordan, feeling that his title as the greatest of all time was under siege, partnered with ESPN and Netflix to bring us The Last Dance, a story that delves deep into the Chicago Bulls’ dominance of the ‘90s.  The 10-episode documentary miniseries begins by starting at the end of the Bulls’ dynasty—the ‘97-’98 season, famously nicknamed “The Last Dance” by head coach Phil Jackson.  Following countless disputes between Phil Jackson and Bulls’ general manager Jerry Krause, Krause vowed that “no matter what,” Phil Jackson would not be returning for another season. The city of Chicago was outraged and many dubbed  Krause as “the guy that broke up the championship dynasty.”  The Last Dance documents the events of that season, starting with a preseason tour in Paris all the way to the championship celebrations. The series also features crazy behind-the-scenes footage chronicling Jordan’s journey from a player cut from his high school’s varsity team to one of the greatest to ever play.  

This series thrives because of everyone’s love and devotion to the NBA. It is so enthralling to watch because each player interviewed is so passionate in how they talk about every play, every grudge, and every foul when reminiscing about that era. For example, when talking about a particular 1992 Dream Team practice, the sequence transitions between many players who tell the story of how Jordan earned all their respect on the court that day, and how Magic Johnson and Larry Bird realized that the league was no longer theirs.  It was the charisma and great storytelling of the players that truly made this series spectacular, as the mix between the exciting on-and-off court footage and the players’ perspectives made the series incredibly captivating.  

When watching an NBA game on TV, you feel like a fan—the on-screen plays are exciting and you are invested in the end result—but ultimately, you feel slightly disconnected from the game.  After all, you are just a spectator.  However, in these ten episodes, the series is able to break down the wall between the spectator’s mind and the game, and you feel as if you truly lived through these experiences with the players. A last-second buzzer-beater by Jordan feels like a massive victory, and a hard foul to Jordan’s rib cage only fuels your desire to see Jordan dominate even more.  Every second of the show has the viewer on the edge of their seat, entirely invested. 

This series thrives because of everyone’s love and devotion to the NBA. It is so enthralling to watch because each player interviewed is so passionate in how they talk about every play, every grudge, and every foul when reminiscing about that era.”

In the end, regardless of how great all of the Bulls’ supporting cast is in the series, the focal point is Michael Jordan: he is what brought viewers back for more episodes. In the show, Jordan opens up to the camera in ways that he never has before, talking about his personal struggles while in the NBA.  Jordan goes over his close relationship with his father, and what his father’s death, right after his first three-peat (three championships in a row), meant to him—it caused Jordan, in part, to retire from basketball and play baseball. The series balances the personal lives of players and the actual game of basketball beautifully, showing viewers that these players do not just play basketball, but are, in fact, complex people with real issues, often aggravated by the pressure of the media.  

All in all, the series is sheer genius for its portrayal of one of the greatest sports dynasties of all time.  It gives insight into some of the most iconic plays with commentary by all of the players and analysts involved, brings in celebrities and fans to talk about the impact that these Bulls teams have not just had on the game, but on the entire world, and humanizes the players with stories of their hardships in the NBA.  Even if someone is not usually the biggest fan of sports, they should still give this series a shot (pun intended).