Show Name: The Last Dance
Director: Jason Hehir
Producer: Michael Tollin and Jon Weinbach
Platform: ESPN (US) and Netflix (International)
Number of Seasons: 1
Number of Episodes: 10
Original Release Date: April 19, 2020 to May 17, 2020
When I was growing up as a high school kid, I would love hockey and basketball. I fell in love in part because I actually loved playing the sport. I would play with my brother in the park and I always found the sport intriguing. As a consequence, I started following basketball. I seriously started watching in the early 90's, 1992 or 1993.
For me, and this is strictly my opinion, the golden age of basketball is the 1990's. Although the 1980's had Larry Bird, Dr. J (Julius Irving) and Magic Johnson, I thought that the 1990's brought awesome players such as Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Charles Barkley and Hakeem Olajuwon just to name a few. I realized that most of the players were drafted in the 1980's but they were in their prime in the 1990's. I agree that Jordan dominated the field, but if this was any other era, the other players mentioned would have been very popular.
So when this documentary came out, I was really interested and I was hoping to get tid bits of information that would have been previously unknown. Let us see if this was the case.
Story / Background
The name of the documentary actually comes from Phil Jackson himself. Before the 1997-1998 season, Jackson was trying to find a theme for the year. Knowing that this was to be the last year with him as coach, he came out with what would be the title of this documentary, The Last Dance.
This documentary is about documenting the last year of the championship season of 1997-1998 of the Chicago Bulls. There would be rare footage from back then and some behind the scenes stuff that the fans would not have known about until today.
Every episode is structured pretty much the same. There is an intro based on previous episode, followed by a few interviews. Then there is a flashback sequence and then footage from the 1998 season.
This documentary was a long time coming. A lot of the footage came from the 1997-1998 season of the Chicago Bulls, and until now Jordan had never given the ok to produce this documentary. In 2016, Mike Tollin finally was able to meet Michael Jordan to outline how the documentary would be laid out. MJ finally agreed to move forward with this and the process was started.
Initially this documentary was supposed to air during the NBA finals. However, due to the pandemic, it was moved up. It gave something sports related that people can watch during this time.
I truly enjoyed seeing players from the 1998 Chicago Bulls team like Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and Phil Jackson. For me personally, this is the same as seeing the 1994, Montreal Expos roster It gets me excited and gives me goosebumps every time.
I did like the format of flashbacks, mixed in with current interviews. The format is addictive and wants you to come back to watch the rest. I watched this while binge watching the series. I waited for the last 2 episodes to be released before I watched the full documentary. I think this is how it should be viewed. Viewers can view it at their own pace. I am becoming more and more of a fan of binge watching.
Now, the question that I always have after watching a documentary is, did I learn anything new? Was there new information brought to light? The answer is yes and no. Let me explain.
The flashback sequences during the series were cool, but it did not really bring anything new to the table. You could have probably gotten the same information from a wikipedia page. Yes it was nice to see the old pictures and footage but in the end, in terms of informing the public, nothing new was really learned.
The aspect of the documentary where I learned the most was the relationship between Jerry Krause and the rest of the team. Jerry Krause was the General Manager of the Chicago Bulls from 1986 to 2003. I always knew through news reports and articles that there was a lot hatred between the players, coaches and Krause. However, this documentary did shine a light on how much. There were times where even Michael Jordan had to take back some of his comments because he first was very critical of certain moves that Krause did.
Having said that, although I appreciated the extra knowledge about this situation, I felt this was very one sided. You also have to understand that Jerry Krause did pass away in 2017 and getting an interview with him would have been difficult. There were parts in the documentary where I actually felt bad for the guy. I know that fans, such as myself, were never a huge fan of him, mainly due to his dismantling of the Bulls team after the 1998 championship and how he handled the situation. However, the documentary showed me something that I was not previously aware, how bad the tension was for a lot of those winning seasons.
When you watch the documentary, it is great and you are fully invested in it. However, after I finished watching it, I found that this documentary was heavily focused on Michael Jordan. I understand that MJ was a big piece of the team and yes they did give some light to Scottie Pippen, Steve Kerr and others, but it felt a lot of it was about how MJ was dealing with stuff. It just seemed like they talk about the team as a whole, but a lot of it was focused on MJ.
One last comment, that I have seen floating around is he fact that Michael Jordan had the last say as to what made it in and what did not. Part of me is disappointed about learning about this. The reason is that, now I want to know more about the interviews that were conducted or what old footage did not make it in. What did MJ not want to tell us or show us. May be it is nothing, but there will always be part of me that will want to know more. I hope that in the future they release the full individual interviews so that we can view them in their entirety.
Although, I had some gripes with the documentary, I think that it is very well done. Since this was made in accordance with ESPN films, it felt to me like their 30 in 30 documentary series' that they release every year. I love those and this was no different.
I enjoyed this simply because I was a fan of the team back in the day. However, even if you were a Knicks fan or a Pistons fan back then, this will still be an enjoyable watch. It gives you glimpses as to what happens behind the scenes of a basketball team. It provides insight at the drama that can occur. You can see the egos and personalities and how they can effect a team.
I honestly, hope to see more of these in the future. ESPN have also announced that they are thinking about doing one with Tom Brady. I think personally this is too early. They should wait for him to retire, but that is a conversation for another day.
I recommend this documentary if you are a sports fan and especially if you are a basketball fan.
What do you think? Was I on the mark or did I miss it? Let us know at the coordinates below.