“The Last Dance” promotional advertisement. Photo Credit: @ESPN via twitter: https://bit.ly/3axe0KL

 

By Otis Odom

 

On April 19, 2020, ESPN and Netflix released “The Last Dance,” a 10-part sports documentary about Michael Jordan’s legendary basketball career. The documentary shows two sides of the sneaker mogul’s dynamic personality. When he is off the court, he is goofy, silly, and loves to have fun, but on the court, he is a beast who does not like to lose. Fans get an exclusive look into Jordan’s life through never seen before footage and anecdotes from his former coaches, teammates, and friends.   

Jordan’s story is entertaining to everyone, not just sports fans. It celebrates one of the greatest players and dynasties in NBA history. The series serves as a unifying experience that shows the important role that sports often plays in people’s lives.

Michael Jordan glides from the free-throw line. Photo Credit: Steve Lipofsky

The documentary was originally scheduled to air later in the year, but ESPN moved it up to satisfy the needs of basketball-deprived fans dealing with sports shutting down in the wake of COVID-19. To die-hard basketball fans, Jordan is one of the greatest NBA players of all time. They have followed his journey and kept up with his retirement. Former Miami Heat player Dwyane Wade tweeted, “Man MJ had it! He had that “IT” He was chosen to be the GOAT.”

The first two episodes set the stage for both Jordan’s career and the Bulls heading into the 1997-98 NBA season. Jordan stated that he was worried that the documentary would make him look like a “horrible guy.” He worried people would not understand how competitive he was. His win-at-all-cost approach and how he sometimes aggressively pushed his teammates to be their very best may come off wrong to people who don’t understand why he needed to be so intense.  

“When you see the footage of (me with Scott Burrell), you’re going to think that I’m a horrible guy. But you have to realize that the reason why I was treating him like that is because I needed him to be tough in the playoffs and we’re facing Indiana and Miami and New York in the Eastern Conference. He needed to be tough and I needed to know that I could count on him. And those are the kind of things where people see me acting the way I acted in practice, they’re not going to understand it,” Jordan said

Social media also couldn’t get enough of the juicy details and interactions between him and his teammate and former Bulls player Scottie Pippens. 

The second episode received a lot of feedback regarding their relationship. “Whenever they speak Michael Jordan, they should speak Scottie Pippen,” Jordan said in the documentary. “Everybody says I won all these championships. But I didn’t win without Scottie Pippen. That’s why I consider him my greatest teammate of all-time.” 

Pippen was considered one of the greatest small forwards of all time. He helped Jordan and the Bulls win six titles. He was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team eight consecutive times and the All-NBA First Team three times. He was a seven-time NBA All-Star and was the NBA All-Star Game MVP in 1994.  

In an interview, Pippen told a reporter that he was the best on the Bull’s team and in the NBA. But, Pippen never got the same respect, recognition, or pay. When the Bulls nabbed their 6th and final title, Pippen was the 122nd highest-paid player in the league. He only made $2.8 million that season. Pippen is undoubtedly the second-best player in the league but paid like a starter. Today, Andre Robertson is the 122nd highest-paid player in the NBA, making $10.7 million. Pippen’s bitterness led to his request to be traded because he couldn’t get out of his bad contract. He blamed former Bulls general manager Jerry Krause. Pippen said, “Couldn’t tolerate him anymore. I don’t see myself carrying on.” Many of his teammates, including Jordan, weren’t happy with that. Jordan responded, “I felt like Scottie was being selfish.” 

Fans really enjoyed the series. Sports Illustrated tweeted, “The Last Dance is already the most-watched documentary in ESPN history. Magic Johnson tweeted, “Michael Jordan’s Last Dance was fantastic and I loved all two hours of it!! Young fans that never got to see Michael play now understand why he’s the G.O.A.T. of basketball!” 

The series will air until May 17, 2020, with two episodes airing each Sunday. 


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