Sports fans everywhere are reaching for anything that will scratch their itch, and ESPN’s “The Last Dance” the past two Sundays have reminded us of what we are missing. The segmented docu-series features footage and interviews about the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls, the last season of Chicago’s mid-90s dynasty of six championship titles. This season was significant in that it was the final championship go-around for basketball greats Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen together before Jordan’s second and most-famous retirement.
While everyone knows about the six championships, the mystery of this series lies in the behind-the-scenes of Michael Jordan’s life on and off the court, such as Jordan’s feud with Isiah Thomas, his gambling addiction, and his complicated relationship with his own teammates and ownership. The series was originally slated to air this summer but the pandemic moved the release to this April. There are 10 total episodes with two new installments every Sunday at 9 p.m. on ESPN, granting sports fans something to look forward to every week. The documentary allows fans to immerse themselves in a world different from the present, and learn new information inside one of the greatest dynasties in professional sports history.
“MJ” was popular for his success in basketball during the 1990’s, but this was only the surface of his global celebrity and status. Jordan was also one of the most visible and marketable athletes in history, from his Jordan brand shoes to Space Jam to appearances on the Oprah Winfrey Show, it did not take a basketball die-hard to know of Michael Jordan. However, “The Last Dance” teaches that these images were not an accurate reflection of Michael Jordan’s true identity, for better and for worse. The series details his early life and reveals new secrets to stories told hundreds of times before, such as Jordan’s battle of egos with Chicago Bulls general manager Jerry Krause, and reasons for Jordan’s multiple retirements from the NBA. Other subjects include Michael Jordan’s drafting to the Chicago Bulls, disputes with longtime-teammate Scottie Pippen, and footage, information and storytelling previously unknown to basketball fans.
Missed the first four episodes? Don’t worry. Once all ten episodes finish airing, they will be available on Netflix for all to view. I know I plan to re-watch this series once it finishes. From tales of the late ’80s “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons to the craziness and character of Dennis Rodman, this series truly features exclusive interviews that provide new perspective. Guest interviews include Charles Barkley, President and Chicago resident Barack Obama, and Jordan’s lesser-known gambling buddies. ESPN captures the depth, connection and impact the Jordan years had on the time period.
It means a lot to sports fans to have something to look forward to in these times, and it speaks to the true impact that sports have on humanity. The virtual NFL Draft back in April and the weekly installments of “The Last Dance” provide short relief and excitement to Americans struggling through the development of the pandemic. I am beyond excited for episode five and six, that will dive into the personal lives of former Bulls coaches Doug Collins and Phil Jackson. After watching the first four episodes, it is hard not to have admiration for Jordan’s humor, intensity, and killer-instinct on the court. All the same, the docu-series teaches that Jordan’s character is more conflicted than outsiders could ever understand, from his personal struggles to feuds with teammates and friends. For the hope and entertainment that this docu-series provides, Sunday at 9 p.m. cannot come soon enough.