While the Bundesliga and NASCAR has returned, sports as we know it has changed dramatically since the outbreak of COVID-19. It has been about 10 weeks since we have seen basketball, hockey and English Premier League soccer. The college basketball season was canceled and the XFL suspended its operations. With the lack of sports content compared to the norm, sports fans were craving some new content to get them through this time.
Luckily, ESPN released a 10-part documentary called The Last Dance, a series that looked at the life and career of basketball legend Michael Jordan. The documentary aired two episodes every Sunday night for five weeks. After watching every episode, I can safely say it was a slam dunk and something much needed during this time.
The Last Dance revolved around Michael Jordan and his journey during the 1998 season. A film crew had unlimited access behind the scenes during the entirety of that season. As the series continued, the timeline of his career progressed until the final episode where it only took place during 1998. We got dozens of interview subjects to tell their sides on many different events discussed including Jordan’s first retirement, “The Flu Game” and his battles with the Bad Boy Detroit Pistons. The series delivered with amazing but fair storytelling and a cinematic-like experience.
Michael Jordan is a basketball legend and is considered by many to be the greatest player of all-time. Many people knew about the main events in his career such as him winning six championships, retiring in the prime of his career then coming back, and winning his final championship on a game-winning shot. However, there were many aspects of his career viewers got to get an inside look of and a more personal breakdown of these events. Some of these aspects included the feuds and disagreements Bulls’ star players had with ownership and general manager Jerry Krause, the exhausting 1993 championship, Jordan breaking his ankle in the second season of his career and his minutes restriction the next season. Even for those that knew a lot about his career prior to this documentary such as myself, there was still so much to learn and it was a joy to watch. Also, for the younger generation who didn’t see Jordan play, watching this really gave a fantastic look at who he truly was and why he is so revered.
Another strong aspect was that this series didn’t just praise Jordan as it also showed negative aspects of him. He went to the casinos in Atlantic City during the 1993 Easter Conference Finals. He was a very harsh and critical teammate, highlighted by the time he punched Steve Kerr in the face. The series wasn’t shy about pointing out some aspects that people were critical of. That made the events that much more impactful as it showed that Michael Jordan is human and that he made a lot of mistakes during his career. However, he overcame so much adversity and there is a lot to admire and learn from that.
The presentation and structure was fantastic. I loved the series going back and forth between the progression of his career and the 1998 season. It all built up to his most iconic moment in his career and with that structure, it maximized the impact of a moment many are familiar with. The timing made it possible to take a deep look at other important figures such as head coach Phil Jackson, winger Scottie Pippen and forward Dennis Rodman. They discussed those players when they became very important in the progression of Jordan and I think that was a brilliant move from a directing standpoint.
Overall, The Last Dance was a thrilling time for sports fans. It gave us something to look forward to every week and we got a tremendous look at the legend that was Michael Jordan. I cannot recommend this series enough, especially for those that aren’t very familiar with Jordan. You can watch the episodes that you missed on ESPN+. This was defintely what sports fans needed and I’m excited to watch more documentaries that ESPN will release in the coming weeks.