All good things must come to an end and unfortunately that’s the case for Netflix’s outstanding sports documentary series The Last Dance, which is the centered on the trials and tribulations of the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan.
Set in the 1990’s, we are taken on a nostalgia filled ride alongside the team as the Bulls dominate the NBA, spearheaded by Michael ‘Air’ Jordan, the finest athlete to ever grace the court.
I have found this series to be a truly fascinating journey as we follow Jordan as a young rookie finding his pathway into the game, fuelled by his unrelentess desire for competition, which as we found out in later episodes can sometimes be to his detriment.
Michael’s road to immortality was not forged alone as we are given extensive behind the scenes access to the running of the franchise as a whole, with telling contributions from fellow team mates, head coach Phil Jackson, and general manager Jerry Krause.
This is where the series itself has created such a stir amongst sports fanatics and the general public itself, as we see another side to Jordan’s multifaceted personality, as many of his former team mates have derided his questionable attitude on the road to their six NBA championships.
The show doesn’t hold back as we gain the inside track on locker room discussions and training sessions that have never been seen before by the public. Head coach Phil Jackson is on hand to keep super sized ego’s in check in order to maintain harmony in a winning team. On many occasions Jordan is seen to castrate his team mates for any slight misdemeanour or mistake in training, in a show of almost bully boy tactics.
However, his fellow professionals were also in agreement that his ruthless attitude and gut wrenching desire to be the best was the force that drove them towards greatness, and without it they would probably not have reached such unprecedented heights.
I personally cannot condone such behaviour, but lest we forget that Jordan is simply the greatest of all time and he had set sky high standards for himself and his team over a number of years. So for anyone to not pull their weight and perform at the highest level with a one hundred percent committed attitude was deemed unacceptable.
Michael was thrust into the leadership role at a young age with his gravity defying displays and in the words of the great man himself you had to hold onto superman’s cape if championships were to be captured, and his record breaking statistics will lay testament to that fact, but by his own admission leadership would come at a cost.
Eventually Jordan’s coach and mentor Phil Jackson would convince Michael to have more faith in his team mates, as his propensity to do it alone would sometimes lead to the teams downfall and in interview excerpts he acknowledges so himself.
Enter the supporting cast of Basketball icons in their own right, as we get to meet the likes of Scottie Pippen, Steve Kerr, and the notorious Dennis Rodman. As the incredible drama unfolds through the series it is clear to see that they were also vital cogs in the creation of the Chicago Bulls dynasty.
With an episode dedicated to each of them it is heartening to see that these mens contributions were not overlooked, and Jordan’s admiration for them shine through on screen as he remembers fondly the men who stood beside him in battle on the court.
There were some truly titanic battles along the way, as we bear witness to action footage from the various showdowns that the Bulls were embroiled in on the way to the famous double three-peat, which is three championships in a row on two separate occasions. An achievement that has never be accomplished by any other franchise in the sport.
Off the court is where we delve deeper into what makes the man himself tick and this is where I believe the show comes into its own, as his personal struggles and foibles are laid bare for all to see in captivating footage.
His addiction to competition is overwhelmingly evident throughout the show, as money begins to change hands over the most mundane competitons created by Michael himself. This would sometimes cause friction amongst his peers, as stories of his love for casino’s and gambling would often create controversy and outrage amongst the press. Who themselves had cultivated an image of Michael that he had never felt completely at ease with.
Jordan’s fame in the 90’s had ballooned into something akin to a movie star as his image and name seeped into pop culture, turning his Basketball career into headline making theatre. His various endorsements would be found almost everywhere and none were more bigger than the creation of the trainer ‘Air’ Jordan’s, which sent Michael’s name and earning potential into the stratosphere as the shoe sold hundreds of millions around the globe and still remain popular today.
Starring in the movie Space Jam, a film primarily aimed at youngsters, Jordan found himself typecast as a role model for children whilst also being burdened with the expectation of being a political activist as a black athlete, which by his own admission he did not want to partake in.
Thus, any news of Michael enjoying the fruits of his hard earned labour would be scrutinised extensively by the media and this would routinely be a source of great frustration as he only ever wished to be a great basketball player and nothing else.
The twisting of the facts by news outlets and tabloids is prevelant throughout the show and truly gives food for thought, as even the murder of his beloved father is somehow manufactured into a news piece linking it to Jordan’s own failings. Which seems brutally unjust to a man that had given his blood, sweat, and tears to entertain Basketball fans all over the planet.
For the media to handle these events in such a manner presents us the viewer with a interesting conundrum.
Do we simply absorb what the media present to us as fact or do we reserve judgement on matters until we have heard the story from each persons perspective?
A difficult choice to make in a time where we rely so much on mainstream media outlets to keep us connected both mentally and socially.
Michael’s willing to sign autographs and cater to the fans needs is seen throughout the show and it is easy to forget that underneath the harsh exterior lies a man who was always willing to go the extra mile to keep his adoring fanbase happy, and for the media to attempt to consistently assassinate his character left this viewer perplexed.
For that reason Jordan himself should be given even greater kudos in regards to the hardship and pressure placed on his shoulders over such a such a prolonged period of time with his performances never wavering at game time.
Throughout the show’s narrative we are also treated to testimonies from his former rivals within the game as they desperately attempt to dethrone the king of the court. The ill tempered rivalry with the Detroit Pistons and the courtside battles with the Utah Jazz take centre stage, while the likes of the legendary ‘Magic’ Johnson are on hand to offer their own analysis on the matter, which I found both engaging and compelling at the same time.
The highlight of each episode would always come with the sit down interviews with Jordan himself as he is pressed on subjects that may have been perceived as off limits in the past. Finally he is able to tell his side of the story after years of media and press intrusion into his personal life and this becomes the crux of the show throughout.
As the show headed towards its thrilling final quarter I found myself disappointed that the journey was set to come to an end, as the show had captured my imagination from the offset, with its story covering every aspect of what makes up the DNA of a championship winning phenomenon like the Chicago Bulls.
The legacy left behind by Jordan cannot be tainted in my view as his stardom and unique ability on the court attracted millions of fans to game and his success has never been repeated. His unbelievable determination to succeed in life must not be ignored and only now can the man who was addicted to winning sit back and enjoy life somewhat out of the limelight, as he had always wanted to.
If this shows critical triumph is anything to go by however, it may not last forever.
I would say that in conclusion this ten part mini-series is much like Michael Jordan himself.
Thanks for reading!