Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

The Final Dance: ‘The Last Dance’ Was A Party For Those That Missed The Jordan Era

Illustration for article titled The Final Dance: ‘The Last Dance’ Was A Party For Those That Missed The Jordan Era
Screenshot: ESPN

509 days.

That’s how long it took for us to get to Sunday night’s finale of The Last Dance.

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Christmas Day of 2018 was when ESPN put us on notice. A 10-part documentary event on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls was coming sometime in 2020. Now at the time, no one knew that a global pandemic would speed up the process, leading to a premiere that was earlier than expected.

But, 509 days is still a long time, and now viewers will have to decide if The Last Dance was worth the wait, as only the future knows if context will be given when the documentary is discussed years from now.

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For instance, were the high ratings because of people’s love of Jordan and the Bulls, or did the coronavirus’ stay-at-home orders influence people to tune in because this was the only thing that resembled sports on TV?

Because in case you forgot, the documentary debuted before the final episodes were completed. The public’s outcry was that intense.

But the one thing that should be agreed on is that while “The Last Dance” was a look at who many consider the best player, and team, of all time, it was created for the generation of people that never got to live it.

Be clear, The Last Dance was good. But if you’re over 30, or consider yourself a basketball historian, this series was a song for you to enjoy. You were never the target audience, though.

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In a time in which social media and technology have given us access to athletes in ways that never existed before, The Last Dance took a generation of people back to a moment in which the competitors of that day had a veil of mystery about them.

You couldn’t tweet them.

There were no videos or photos for them to post on Instagram.

And “going live” meant being filmed on a VHS camcorder.

Access was limited, which added to the allure. There’s a huge difference in knowing that LeBron James eats tacos every Tuesday, and wondering if Jordan actually eats at his own steakhouse.

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I guarantee you there’s a 20-something who just read that last line and got on Google to see if Jordan actually has a restaurant.

The answer is yes.

But, back to my point.

The documentary had a very strong finish that answered every question, and featured high points along the way, like the importance of the Detroit Pistons and why Scottie Pippen was key. The apex came in episode seven when Jordan explained what makes him “Jordan.”

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“Winning has a price. And leadership has a price,” he said. “So I pulled people along when they didn’t want to be pulled. I challenged people when they didn’t want to be challenged. And I earned that right because [other] teammates came after me. They didn’t endure all the things that I endured. Once you joined the team, you lived at a certain standard that I played the game. And I wasn’t going to take anything less. Now if that means that I have to go in there and get in your ass a little bit, then I did that.

“You ask all my teammates, the one thing about Michael Jordan was, ‘He never asked me to do something that he didn’t fucking do. When people see this, they’ll say, ‘Well, he wasn’t really a nice guy. He may have been a tyrant.’ Well, that’s you. Because you never won anything. I wanted to win, but I wanted [my teammates] to win and be a part of that as well.

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“It is who I am. It’s how I played the game. That was my mentality. If you don’t want to play that way. Don’t play that way.”

By the end, Jordan was holding back tears. Because to him, he doesn’t get why others don’t operate the same way, or understand why his methodologies are foreign to most. That 2:20 seconds was why we waited 509 days. To understand why the game’s greatest competitor always gave 110 percent.

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Unfortunately, that peek behind the curtain was one of the few moments throughout the series in which viewers truly got to experience something fresh, as Jordan had final-cut privileges. It’s a part of sports documentaries that can get tricky at times when the subjects are also producers.

This is why, for some, The Last Dance was a really nice trip down memory lane. But in the end, there weren’t any new buildings on the old block.

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But, with the absence of sports and a forthcoming decision on if the NBA will return this season, maybe, just maybe, The Last Dance wound up being exactly what we needed.

Saginaw Native. Morehouse Man. Syracuse (Newhouse) Alum. 2019 NABJ Award Winner. 2016 PABJ Journalist of the Year. I only eat my wings lemon-peppered. And I like brown liquor & brown women.

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