Docuseries Review: The Last Dance

Details: More information can be found at https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8420184/ and https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/28973557/the-last-dance-updates-untold-story-michael-jordan-chicago-bulls

Score: 7.5/10

I am not a big sports fan, but even I remember watching Michael Jordan play on the Chicago Bulls. It’s kind of like how so many people loved Mike Tyson or the New England Patriots. There’s just something about watching a champion absolutely dominate their field. While this story is about the Chicago Bulls at arguably their greatest, it is primarily a documentary about Michael Jordan at the height of his popularity and dominance.

The show is a ten episode documentary primarily focused on the very last championship that Michael Jordan and his generation of the Chicago Bulls won. Throughout the documentary, the series jumps back and forth through time to significant events in the Bulls and mostly in Michael Jordan’s life. Some of these events include past championship games. Others are more personal, such as the murder and death of Michael Jordan’s father.

The time jumping is likely the biggest weakness of this series. I understand why they did it though. This series is named “The Last Dance,” primarily because it’s a look at Michael Jordan’s last championship. However, it really is a look at Michael Jordan’s entire basketball career. If only they’d change the title and their focus away from that premise, they could’ve just gone in chronological order instead of the confusing back and forth through time that they did. If you were otherwise unfamiliar with Michael Jordan and his era of the Chicago Bulls, I imagine that the structure of the story could be very confusing.

What’s most amazing about this series is simply the amount of behind the scenes and historical footage they use. A lot of this footage is being seen by the public for the first time ever. I vaguely recall reading that the deal Michael Jordan signed withe the NBA is that he retained all ownership over use of his likeness and footage of him, so that you could never see a piece of film or an old basketball game unless he okayed it. And he never okayed the footage in this series… at least until now. And it is some incredible footage.

I don’t know what they were thinking back in the 1990’s, but someone in the NBA had the foresight to give someone a camera and follow Michael Jordan around through the entirety of his basketball career. You see a lot of footage of them just hanging out or messing around. You hear a lot of the chatter, whispers and strategic basketball comments they make that confirm a lot of the suspicions fans had throughout that time period. It’s some really great stuff and perfect B roll for a documentary.

Then there are the interviews that help narrate the story. They got everyone for this series. It seems like once Michael Jordan signed on, everyone else also wanted to join in. They have almost all the former basketball players connected to Michael, both on the team and on the opposing teams. They even got some celebrities like Carmen Elektra and Barack Obama. The late Kobe Bryant even makes an appearance in an interview obviously recorded before his death. It’s a little morbid, but reverent given his connection to Jordan. There’s just a ton of interesting voices giving their opinions and takes on events and that color commentary really helps tell the story.

Most importantly, you get to hear Michael Jordan’s take on a lot of what happened at that time. I’ve read various accounts of what Michael Jordan is like in real life and generally, a lot of people find him to be one of those heroes you never want to meet. He’s not that nice of a guy in real life and says a lot of abrasive things. The same is true in this documentary. You get a real sense that he is a bully who harasses people. Then again, there are not that many other human beings in this world who have lived the kind of life that he has, so it’s expected that his personality and perception of himself are going to be different from others. In any case, he doesn’t hold back. If he doesn’t like someone, he says it in the series. If he has a grudge against someone, he say it straight away. It’s fascinating to get honest, blunt takes from Jordan about the biggest controversies that occurred during his career.

Overall, this was a fun watch and will likely be so whether you’re a basketball fan or not. All you need to know is that Michael Jordan is still considered by many to be the greatest basketball player who ever lived. There’s something mythological about that and watching the story behind this legend will be fascinating for just about anyone. This is also an incredible chance for nostalgic fans to relive one of the greatest eras in basketball.

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