I hope I don’t appear late to the party, but the new ESPN/Netflix documentary, The Last Dance is awesome.
For those who don’t already know, it is the tale of the 1997-1998 Chicago Bulls of the NBA.
Growing up, I was a Utah Jazz fan as my dad was stationed at Hill Air Force Base near Salt Lake City, Utah.
Thus, I was all about the pick n’ roll game John Stockton and Karl Malone played. As a result of the Jazz losing to the Bulls in two consecutive NBA Finals (1997 & 1998), I hated Michael Jordan and company.
However, time has passed and I grew to appreciate other players and teams.
The last few weeks have seen the debut of The Last Dance.
The premise is simple, a camera crew was given unpresedented access to Jordan and the Bulls for that season.
The exclusive video and related interviews are fascinating to say the least.
As a long-time basketball, I knew some of the history of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and their teammates, but The Last Dance is something different.
As the viewer, you feel like you’re in the room. This is especially true if you watch the TV-MA version on either ESPN or the ESPN app.
Personally, I can handle the foul language that comes with the TV-MA version.
However, I did watch the TV-14 version of the first episode on the app. While it’s the same show, the way the producers bleeped out words was annoying. It was something about the tenor of the bleep that bothered me.
The series premiered on April 19 with episodes 1 and 2 followed by the remaining four episodes each of the past two Sundays.
There are four parts of the series yet to air.
I appreciate how each episode has picked a topic and gone back and forth between the 1997-1998 season and some other point in time; say Jordan’s rookie season.
Overall, it paints a strong narrative; not unlike Game of Thrones, Star Wars, or some other character-based epic.
Yes, there are the main characters who most basketball fans know: Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and coach Phil Jackson.
However, lesser-know teammates and coaches feature as well. These include BJ Armstrong, Horace Grant, Steve Kerr, Toni Kukoc and Bill Wennington.
In fact, in one of the early episodes, I thought I may be watching a Wennington documentary for a bit since he was interviewed or at least spoke many times. As a reporter, I’m guessing he just gave some great insight into what happened that the filmmakers simply had to use. Guess I was just surprised since he averaged 4.6 points per game over his career.
But the real surprise characters are former Bulls general manager, Jerry Krause, and the team’s long-time owner, Jerry Reinsdorf.
I vaguely recall their being anymosity between the players and the Bulls’ management, but I had no idea the depth of it as a kid growing up in the 90s.
Early in the documentary, we learn that Krause and Reinsdorf want to tear down the team following its fifth title because they think the players (Jordan included) are getting old.
What ensues over the next few episodes is plain great TV.
So far I’ve seen things that have challenged notions I had about the team and its players.
It also has the emotional depth to make the viewer want to take sides in the players versus management battle.
But at the end of the day, The Last Dance, is a celebration of basketball, hard work and a team that did not quit even in the face of challenges internal and external.