A week ago my phone exploded as every one of my sports-minded friends was texting me, asking if I was watching ESPN’s Jordan Bulls documentary “The Last Dance.”
The truth is that I was not watching. The long-awaited look inside the last season of dominance for the Chicago Bulls attracted over 6.1 million viewers, the majority of whom were between the ages of 18-49. I’m right smack in the middle of that demographic, and there’s a reason it hit home with “millennials.” The Chicago Bulls were our 1950s Yankees, our 1960 Boston Celtics, our 1980s Edmonton Oilers, and our early 2000s Patriots. There is nothing better than this team.
And “The Last Dance” is the perfect retelling of their story.
Unlike the other ESPN documentaries, the majority of which reside in the 30 for 30 category, “The Last Dance” tells the story of the Jordan Bulls and their final season of glory by giving up the ending, one we already know.
By starting in the 1997-98 season, leading up to Jordan’s retirement and the Bulls 6th Championship in 8 years, you already know how it ends. I mean, we all know how it ended, but not like this. Perhaps we all blocked it out, but the writing was written on so many walls in 1997, and still, it felt like things might figure themselves out.
They didn’t. The glaring truth of this entire 10-part series is that Jerry Krause blew-up the greatest basketball team of all-time in order to rebuild it. Watching the 1997-98 Bulls before the end is like walking through the streets of Pompeii before it was decimated. You knew what’s going to happen, but you can’t help but take in the beauty.
The Chicago Bulls are perfect. Even in their early years and their tough years midway through their reign, the Bulls were tenacious and scrappy. A rag-tag group of grinders, all of whom were fighting for themselves, with their personal objectives perfectly intertwining with the team goals.
There was Michael, constantly pushing himself to new levels, straining to get his team to the mountaintop time and time again. Michael would push his teammates too, often calling out anyone who wasn’t striving for perfection and polish during practices. It didn’t have to be perfect for Michael, but it had to have purpose and drive.
Dennis Rodman was looking for a place to blossom and flourish. But above all that, he was looking for a place to belong. And he found that and more in Chicago.
Scottie Pippen, as the documentary points out, was criminally underpaid and undervalued by the front office. However, that was not the case on the court. Jordan even says so much when talking about how Pippen was his perfect teammate. For Pippen, that seemed to be enough.
How much do you actually know about the Chicago Bulls? Seriously. How much do you know about the Chicago Bulls that shaped a generation?
We held these men on a pedestal for years. All that time, instead of talking about their perfection, we should have been asking how they got to be that way. We never stopped to ask, how did we get so lucky?
At first, I didn’t want to go back to 1998. I didn’t want basketball I knew as a kid to come crashing down again. On the contrary, I found something I didn’t think I needed: closure.
And this documentary manages to do that, and it’s absolutely wonderful. Instead of offering us a chance to revisit the 1990s Chicago Bulls, The Last Dance gives us the chance to return to our youth. It allows us to see the most decorated players of all-time as if for the first time.
And maybe it’s because sports do not exist currently, but “The Last Dance” turned out to be exactly what I needed.
ESPN’s “The Last Dance” continues tonight at 9 PM.
- / 2 years ago
To me, Rachel Nichols is the personification of posting a black square on Instagram.