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.