GRAPHIC BY DENISE THUONG
By JACOB RAMOS
All hail Air Jordan, the King of Flight.
After years of anticipation, Entertainment and Sports Programming Network (ESPN) has finally released their long awaited documentary, The Last Dance. The film is centered around the iconic Chicago Bulls’ 1997-98 National Basketball Association (NBA) championship run and provides an all exclusive look into the highs and lows of the season. Most notably, the video diary illustrates the season’s contribution to the legacies of not only Michael Jordan, but his teammates, executives and of course his coach, Phil Jackson.
While it was Jordan, also known as MJ, who catapulted the Bulls to worldwide fame, Jackson is considered to have tipped the Bulls over the edge. What is not disputed is the fact that the documentary was essentially created for Phil.
The entire debacle began when prior to the 1997-98 season, Jackson was alerted by Bulls general manager Jerry Krause that MJ would not be returning for the 1998-99 season. Soon after, Jordan unexpectedly expressed to the media that if Jackson would not be his coach he would simply retire. Of course, this was not a shocking reality since Jordan had won five championships with Jackson as his coach before the announcement was made. Upon realization, an unprecedented decision was made by Jackson and other team executives to grant the media access to their season, and it was a complete ride.
As of April 30, only four episodes have been aired and are some of the greatest segments I have ever watched. The Last Dance accounts for a total of six hour-long chapters that illustrate the authenticity behind the scenes of one of the NBA’s biggest stars.
As a 2004 baby, I grew up in the Kobe Bryant/Lebron James era of basketball. As I familiarized myself with the sport I love today, I also learned of the legendary Michael Jeffrey Jordan.
Everything from the clutch shots, the win-at-all-cost mentality and the basketball icon that was MJ in the nineties has been embedded in my memories for years. And, by itself, the documentary is truly spectacular. It has offered audiences an entire new level of appreciation for the Bulls, the game, MJ’s legacy and personally, an overall reinvention of how the world and I view basketball.
All at once, the documentary explores MJ’s upbringing, college career—which is legendary in itself—his time on the Bulls and even his relationship with teammates. Undoubtedly, all who watch will be held in sheer amazement at how well the film was put together and how influential one’s legacy can be.
For instance, the documentary takes time to bring audience’s back to the player’s roots. Born into poverty, Jordan grew up playing against rough competition and eventually was able to earn a scholarship to North Carolina. From there, Jordan was a game winner in his freshman year National Championship Game and went on to average nearly 20 points each year before entering the NBA Draft.
These incredible, never before seen highlights are only some of the groundbreaking content that the documentary covers. While this is not the first time a sports documentary has been made, not once has a film of this type ever created such a vast impact on the sports industry. Since its release, the basketball world has been thrown for a complete loop on social media, with an overwhelmingly positive reaction to the doc as fans around the world behold the universe behind the Bulls.
Before the documentary, I would always put Los Angeles Lakers megastar, Lebron James, above MJ in my debates for who the greatest of all time is. My cousins and I have spent hours on end debating who truly is the greatest to ever grace the basketball court. Michael Jordan is a sort of foreign object for me, as I never got to see him play as he retired in 2003. This documentary is so special to me because I can feel him as if he still played today, which is not something I expected even before I began watching the first episode.
To ESPN, the NBA and Michael Jordan, thank you for giving 2000’s babies this deep look into the Chicago Bulls; it truly is an extraordinary experience.