ESPN Films and Netflix brings us ‘The Last Dance,’ a ten-part documentary series directed by Jason Hehir. It discusses NBA pro-athlete Michael Jordan and his 1984 – 1998 career which saw them create a dynasty that is still discussed in sports media to this day.
The series begins with 1998 NBA season as they head toward a climactic showdown between the Chicago Bulls and the Utah Jazz. As Michael Jordan rallies his team, they have to deal with John Stockton’s determination and Dennis Rodman’s antics. Meanwhile, we flashback to Jordan’s rookie season in 1984 where we see his beginnings, his rise to fame, his friendship with coach Phil Jackson, rivalries within the NBA, and his own team, but also personal tragedies like his gambling debts and the tragic death of his father. As he rises to prominence, even going to the Olympics for their Dream Team, Jordan furthers his skill and becomes an American icon.
This is an incredibly well-shot and well-executed documentary film. You learn a lot about the behind-the-scenes of that NBA era and all of the players that were involved. Perhaps the most telling interviews were with Jordan’s teammates. Steve Kerr, Scottie Pippin, Toni Kukoč, and a whole host of others provide insight into what it was like to play during the season.
Moreson, I enjoyed the interviews with his rivals. Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, Rod Higgins, Magic Johnson, and several others discuss what it was like to play against the Chicago Bulls during that time period. They also interviewed some high profile individuals like former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. They examine what it was like to be a fan and how the Windy City had the team’s back.
Since it is told through the interviews and not through a narrator, it avoids placing blame on the many incidents that happened during the season. That is not to say, it does not touch on controversy or offer explanations, but the film lets its subjects tell the story.
That being said, its biggest indictment is on the media. Both sports and mainstream media behave incredibly badly, especially following the tragic death of Michael Jordan’s father. Only NBC sportscasters Ahmad Rashād and Bob Costas seemed to be on the level as they explained how conspiracy theories surrounded that horrible incident. It was very disturbing.
The only things I will say it was it would interview random people who offered nothing to the topics. I wish they would have cut out some of these interviews and instead focused on bigger subjects like John Stockton or Karl Malone, both of who barely get any screentime. It would have been nice to hear from him and learn what he was feeling during that 1998 showdown. I also wish they had done a “bleeped” version so you could enjoy it with your kids, but beggars cannot be choosers.
Aside from that, I found The Last Dance very compelling. I was nine when I watched the Finals that season. It was definitely a moment that I remember as Michael Jordan bounded down the court. It was so impressive and a true spectacle, one I will not forget.
Check out the trailer below:
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