Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls’ new documentary “The Last Dance” has come at the perfect time to fill the void of sports during the pandemic. The 10-part series highlights the Bulls 1997-98 basketball season, with the first two episodes emphasizing Michael Jordan’s career leading up to the championship season. What I found compelling about the series is that it shows the audience the sides of the players’ lives that we have never seen before, and it shows how the National Basketball Association has changed over the years. Sometimes, athletes are only seen for what they are; athletes. We can forget that they have relationships with players, coaches and family because we never see it. Usually, we only see player interviews that occur before, during or after the games.
One of the things that I found captivating about the first two episodes was Michael Jordan’s work ethic and his ability to not get distracted. MJ, Michael Jordan’s popular nickname, was one of the hardest workers to play the game, and that translated to him being one of the best. In times where there was no social media, professionals got away with a lot of things without scrutiny. Michael Jordan was a kid from a small town who had his head on straight. He was not into the party scene. CBS Sports highlights that in the ESPN documentary, Michael Jordan said, “I wasn’t going to the clubs, I don’t smoke, I don’t do [cocaine] lines, I didn’t drink at the time.” I think this speaks volumes to the younger athletes who want to be great. While some players want to enjoy the fame by partying and drinking, they won’t be as successful if they do that all the time. MJ shielded these indulgences out and only focused on basketball. It is worth noting that throughout his career, he did enjoy some of his off time playing golf or having a few drinks with friends, but he never prioritized these activities over basketball.
Another thing that I took from the first two parts of the documentary was the differences in Michael Jordan’s time in the NBA and now. Jordan loved to win, and did everything in his power to make sure his team did that. In today’s NBA, there is a big debate on whether players should take games off to rest. Some players and coaches believe that players need to have off days so they are healthy for the entire season. MJ believed that if you were healthy then you should suit up and play. As a fan, I agree with Michael Jordan. When I buy tickets to go see my favorite player play, I would expect him to be playing that night if he was healthy. I believe that players have an obligation to show up for work and try to win their game.
Another difference that I saw between the NBA now versus back then was the idea of tanking. Tanking is when a team is having a bad season, and then purposely continues to lose in order to get a better draft pick for the next season. People argue that if you are not going to make the playoffs, then why not try and lose more to get a better draft spot? But the series showed that MJ didn’t agree with this. After he missed part of the season with a leg injury, he was put on a tight minute restriction during games. He was healthy and wanted to play most of the game, but was not allowed. Towards the end of the season, the Bulls were close to getting into the playoffs, but MJ was still on a strict minute restriction. Upper management threatened to fire the head coach, Stan Auerbah, if he played MJ for more than 14 minutes. MJ thought this was absurd and gave it everything he had in those 14 minutes. I believe that Michael Jordan’s winning mindset speaks volumes. If you are being paid to go out there on the court to try and win every night, then that is what you should do. I have tremendous admiration for Michael Jordan’s motto of giving it everything that he’s got.
Millions of people were excited to watch the never-before-seen footage of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. I’m curious to see how the rest of the documentary unfolds and to see more unseen footage and untold stories. I think it’s a very cool idea to film teams so fans can get an inside look of the entire process. Since I am a big LeBron James fan, I would love to see a similar documentary with him and the Los Angeles Lakers. As long as the players don’t feel pressured and it doesn’t turn into a reality TV show, I think both fans and players enjoy a series like this.