« The Last Dance » Review: Michael Jordan’s Greatness

Every once in a generation emerges a world class talent that will dominate his competition for years, however few are those who transcend their field to inspire people around the globe and become godlike figures.

The Last Dance, co-produced by Michael Jordan himself, not only aims to tell the story of a man turning into the best player of the generation, but into the best player of all time. What does it look like to win a championship in the toughest basketball competition, with among the biggest egos in sports and a media pressure levelling the Beatles and Michael Jackson, for the sixth time in eight years? This documentary dives us into the backstage of the last championship run of the 90’s Chicago Bulls and the background policy in a franchise surrounded by internal feuds and ego conflicts.

This is the occasion to revive some of the best battles Michael Jordan has faced in his career, against strongly loaded teams still recognized to this day such as Reggie Miller’s Indiana Pacers, the Malone and Stockton’s Utah Jazz or the ferocious New York Knicks of Patrick Ewing. The back and forth timeline brings us to the beginning and rising of every piece of the puzzle that is part of that journey to NBA’s top. Through the Bulls’ struggles with cocaine before Jordan’s arrival, to his biggest teammate Scottie Pippen’s family issues, Rodman’s craziest off-limits experiences and more, the documentary carries us to what will be defining moments of the greatest team of all time. This team is like none other, and will never be topped as 2020’s society couldn’t accept such a dysfunctional and yet strong organisation, but they give us glimpses of the madness that social medias will initiate decades later.

Of course, on-court stories are tremendously executed, but the show really elevate itself with insights. It is now possible to skim Jordan’s daily life, the global frenzy following him in every public appearance, like on the ‘’Nulle part ailleurs’’ TV show, his addiction to competition, and his appetite for these small little moments, in his hotel room for example, where he is no longer Air Jordan but just Mike.

We can now see these moments, 20 years later, however that’s not what MJ is about, MJ is about winning. Not just competing, not just giving it all, he is about winning and he is the best to have ever done it. He was unbeatable for a decade, like a deus-ex-machina letting youngsters play for every ball while he plays for the win. Rare are those who approached MJ’s athletics’ abilities and mix of speed, power, balance and (of course) above the sky vertical trigger, but almost none of them could pretend to have made more sacrifices and dedication to his sports. Even after being raised to a semi god status after the 1992 Olympic journey with the Dream Team in Barcelona, he continued to find ways to motivate himself like no other. Capable of making up full stories about opponents trash talking him, he would give everybody’s that daring to contest his supremacy a basketball lesson. His killer instinct may have gotten him too far on gambling, but hey he’s Jordan, he’s winning.

So why has he not won 15 championships though? Because there is no I in win in the NBA. After putting sweat blood and tears for many years without success, his biggest achievement was to understand how to win: by elevating everybody to his level of competitiveness. Being focused on only the ring (the Championship Medal) is the mentality brought by Coach Phil Jackson. He created a tribe, built around MJ, in which each member lived his life as he wished as long as he was dedicated to winning at all costs. Michael’s way to do it was to push hard on his teammates. Always on the edge, that could have destroyed a lot of locker rooms, like after a fist fight with his teammate Steve Kerr, but these Bulls were another kind of relentless people, driven by their guru master Jackson and their chief Jordan.

Even if the climax on the game winning shot to earn the 6th championship by MJ is a Hollywood class happy ending, it is an ending, and it was decided by the very same person that initiated the story: Jerry Krause. Introduced as the major antagonist to the Bulls dynasty, the General Manager (financial and sportive executive) had the same will to win as Jordan and created the best team of all time around him, drafting Pippen in 1987, rebuilding entirely the team that won the first 3 championships when Jordan retired for the first time in 1993, then bringing MJ’s nemesis Rodman to win 3 more championships from 1996 to 1998.  However, he indeed decided to put an end to it, through lack of consideration. That’s the kind of egos this team was made off.

Thanks to hundreds of speakers from inside (Pippen, Rodman…) and outside Bulls’ circle (Obama, Beckham, Clinton…), but also insights of cameras filming the last year of Michael Jordan at the Chicago Bulls, we’ve witnessed greatness and the cost that goes with it. The whole new generation is recognizing the super human mental and physical capacities of the greatest player in basketball history and his tribe. The public passion surrounding every episode of The Last Dance has now freed the way for generational talents to produce high quality documentary showing the up and downs of these fascinating people. And as always, that’s Michael Jordan who did it first.

Formula One: motor of innovation

While the question: “is F1 a sport?” has become an internet meme, many people are considering it as a polluting, expensive and unnecessary show. Even if the foreground of every grand prix is a gathering of wealth, exuberance and noisy cars; F1 has been, and still is, a major driving force of today and tomorrow’s society in terms of performance, protection, management and environment.

Since 1950 and the first Grand Prix in Silverstone, UK, the F1 industry has never stopped searching for ways to improve every detail of racing, whether it’s on the engine, the car or the personnel. Obviously many technical breakthroughs have emerged and worked their ways to regular cars. The shape of every vehicle is the result of aerodynamics studies that have shown that a flattened and well-curved car is less impacted from wind and air flow. The composition and structure of tires has now improved grip and drag, and mechanically speaking, engines have been miniaturized and optimized as well as today’s V6 (6 cylinders) are more powerful than mid-2000’s V12 engines.

BMW-Sauber car air flow. (2006)

Although these breakthrough aren’t off the charts as we’re talking about a motorsport based on performance, other fields have been impacted too. For example, the F1 industry studied the carbon fiber which is a very light and resistant materials with great properties under strain and high temperatures. In order to lighten formula one cars, this fiber has been transformed to carbon shell which is now used in every modern aerodynamic vehicle (bikes, motorcycles, planes, rockets and more). It was on a F1 circuit for the first time in 1981, and developed by Mclaren Racing. Carbon fiber’s resistance is also a huge benefit for people safety as it is now used for technical clothing or military equipment to absorb chocks without overweighting. To improve driver’s safety even more, today’s F1 cars have retention cables holding wheels to the shell and side impact bodies, technologies which will surely be added to regular autos in a near future, like it happened for the ABS (anti-lock braking system).

1981’s McLaren carbon shell.

Human management improvements are also a huge part of racing sport research. Through qualification sessions and race day, winning is a matter of milliseconds and all means are good to earn them.  2020’s Mercedes Racing Team is composed of more than 500 employees, with a hundred of engineers and technicians working every race day on the paddock around the 2 star drivers. Dealing with every personality and making the process work perfectly, everybody knowing their role, has become a master piece in F1. Big companies are inspired by biggest team directors that have lead their teams to long term winning culture, such as Jean Todt, Toto Wolf, Ron Dennis or Christian Horner; indeed its efficiency has become a world class model.

Red Bull’s managing team on the paddock. (2015)

Oddly, F1 is starting to put its print on hospital and surgical block management too. Mortality rate in British health institutes in the 90’s was the spark for huge society debates, increased in 1994 by a study showing a lack of coordination from the hospital staff. Dr Elliott and Goodman has required the Formula one team Scuderria Ferrarri to share the principles and accuracy of its pit-stop team. Pit stop is a major part of racing, whether it’s changing tires or removing broken parts of the car, many seconds can be lost in its process. To optimize its efficiency, every crew member has a strictly defined role, and knows every other member’s function, allowing him or her to improvise and react on purpose. The improvement of team member’s coordination, confidence and well-being has led to an all-time quick pit stop of 1.82s to change every tires of the RedBull car in 2019, which is the average reaction time of a human being. Helped by a choreographer, the Ferrarri pit stop crew has helped initiate a three steps process for hospital staffs to optimize their movements and reactions. The first step is to predict issues and to carry out standardized procedures as answers, then the crew has to master these procedures by periodic training, to end up with everybody knowing perfectly each coworker’s job and be able to be in charge. Hosiptals have also bought F1 teams data processors in order to fasten and sort out the patients monitoring easily.

Ferrarri pit-stop crew at work. (2019)

Formula one is now in the front row of ecological research in the automobile field. Many devices created for F1 are now common equipment for every day’s car. The thermal energy produced by the racing car is gathered and transformed in kinetic energy which is reinjected in the engine by a system called KERS (kinetic energy recovery system). It allows them to reach a 50% thermal efficiency, meaning that a F1 car recycles more energy than it loses, which is a huge improvement for a 1000 horsepower racing vehicle.  It’s not the only device reducing gas consumption created by F1 search and development teams, however their main resources are dedicated to hybrid and electrical engines. Inspired by KERS, a hybrid engine collects thermic energy then transfers it to an electric battery which is afterward used to run its electrical part. This system allows recent hybrid cars to lengthen their autonomy up to hundreds of kilometers using only their electrical component. The FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, responsible for the evolution of F1 racing) is pushing towards the development of the newly born Formula E championship in which only fully electrical cars can compete.

Ahead of its time, F1’s research has improved performance, comfort and security of today’s cars, however this industry is now looking forward to create a less polluting way of travel. The whole automobile field benefits from the new policy of the FIA aiming to dominate motorsport racing with a non-polluting championship. The search and development budget of F1 teams  exceeds a billion dollars and will continue to grow. Formula E is meant to be the new Formula One and it’s the best thing that can happen to the car industry.

Extraordinary Conference at UGA: K. Thorne, the Physics Nobel Prize behind Interstellar and the gravitational waves discovery

Kip Thorne, 2017 Physics Nobel Prize winner.

Since 2012 the Université de Grenoble Alpes (UGA) is inviting first class scientists and personalities to expose their work to students of every field and school of the university through ‘’extraordinary conferences’’. As part of the science week 2019, an extraordinary conference was held by Kip Thorne, not only to explain his forty years of research on gravitational waves but also to present a new scientific price: the Cécile DeWitt-Morette award.

As a matter of fact, gravitational waves (GW), space bending and black holes are deeply linked to science fiction with many pieces of art like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stargate, Planet of the Apes or Startrek. These principles has been for a long time considered as ‘’Sci-Fi’’ culture myths, however on 14th of September 2015 gravitational waves were detected on earth for the first time in human history, confirming 50 years of theories and opening a full new display of our universe. These waves, particles moving back and forth, stretching and squeezing the space, aren’t emitting light, electricity nor magnetic fields, making their detection a lifetime challenge. This waves breakthrough has been directly led by K. Thorne, and thereby Cécile DeWitt-Morette.

« Conférences d’exceptions » 2019 at Amphi Weil, UGA .

Even though A. Einstein mentioned gravitational movements’ theory in 1916, it all started few years after World War 2 as Cécile decided to make the old and low french scientific field flourish again. Along with his husband and numerus acquaintances, she created the Ecole de Physique des Houches in the Alpes, a school bringing many scientists together for summer and winter sessions every year in order to discuss world’s future. Kip Thorne attended one of the first session, such as many other future Nobel Prize owner like famous Fermi, Pauli, Dyson, Hawking and many others. Gravitational theories started there, with discussions of the brightest minds of the world, in a tiny house lost in the Haute-Savoie Mountains. Many of these gathering sessions gave birth to highly theoretical and precursor books: Relativity (1963), High energy physics (1966), Black Holes (1972) and Gravitational Radiation (1982). It marked the beginning of the Golden Age of gravitational and quantum research, the 70’s concluding with the prototype of the first Gravitational Interferometer, not working yet.

Despite the lack of concrete observation (mostly due to the wavelength of GW: 10-21m), Les Houches studies convicted the scientific field of the possibility of gravitational movements and waves As much as half a dozen laboratories where built onto kilometres long interferometers (UIRGO Europe, PTA, LISA, Caltech), imagined by the 1980 model of K. Thorne and R. Sacks. All of these leading finally to the first ever gravitational waves detected in 2015.

Gravitional Waves bending space and time around two black holes.

1.3 billion years ago, two black holes circling around, items that aren’t made of matter, went colliding. As black holes are bending space and time around them, their collision created only ‘space-time’ gravitational waves. These waves travelled through space until reaching Earth on 14th September 2015, where the first ever gravitational distortion waves detections has been achieved, confirming all of K. Thorne’s life work. Since then, 10 other events creating gravitational waves have been detected, five of them being Black Hole-Black Hole collision, but also two Black Holes swallowing neutron star, two Black Holes swallowing something identified, and one collision between Neutron Star. This explosion was seen by over 20% of world’s astronomists making it the biggest energy blast calculated since Big Bang and the most observed event in space research history. Even though this explosion is detected due to X-Ray, UV, IR and electrical emissions, we have now found out that gravitational waves are also made in biggest physical explosions.

Recent year’s breakthrough, as well as future year’s science evolution, around black holes, time travel and space bending have been initiated 50 years before by Kip Thorne and many scientist at Les Houches School right in the middle of the Alpes. Today, these subjects are massively developed in the Pop/Sci-fi culture which is inspired by K. Thorne, who directed the scientific part of Interstellar about singularities, birth of galaxies and time travel. The Nolan’s super production is now an iconic movie and continue to show how much Sci-Fi culture is the greatest mean for scientist community to spread cultural knowledge, as much as this culture use them to make people dream.

The Interstellar scientific team has been led by K. Thorne, who created the accurate model giving birth to the famous Black Hole.

For her involve, hard work, brilliant mind and personality, Cécile DeWitt-Morette is now honoured by the ‘’Prix Cécile DeWitt-Morette, Ecole des Houches’’, a freshly new award rewarding a scientist aged less than 55 years old and still researching to promote him and give him visibility. This extraordinary conference has been greeting the first ‘’Prix Cécile DeWitt-Morette, Ecole des Houches’’ nominee: Francesca Ferlaino, from Patrick Levy and Kip Thorne hands.