Live sports are on hold. The NBA is delayed indefinitely. No one is sure when anything will actually come back thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, and even when things do start to come back, they certainly won’t be the same.
The Last Dance, a documentary about Michael Jordan with a focus on his final season with the Chicago Bulls in 1997 and ’98, is here to help.
Part gift to sports fans with nothing to watch and part attempt to boost ratings during a content drought, The Last Dance has become a haven of normalcy to large swaths of the world who feel lost without sports. It’s an absolutely fantastic documentary about what it’s like to be one of the greatest athletes who has ever lived and everything that goes along with it.
The final two episodes of the 10-part docuseries air Sunday night on ESPN and the ESPN App in the U.S., and on Netflix outside the U.S. If you haven’t checked out The Last Dance yet, this is the time to go back and catch up.
The Last Dance centers around the final season of the Bulls with Michael Jordan. But in capturing the end of that era of basketball, the documentary delivers hours and hours of context, stretching back to Jordan’s childhood and career before the Bulls along with the histories of his key teammates, coaches, rivals, and culture as a whole.
Yes, this is the story of “the last dance” of the most iconic basketball squad in history, but it’s also a story of humanity, the things athletes go through to compete at the top level, how management and ego shape professional sports, and how Jordan’s electric popularity helped shape pop culture for years — decades, even.
The structure of The Last Dance is wonderfully eclectic, bouncing back and forth between the late ’90s and earlier years, temporarily narrowing in on single aspects of Jordan’s life or his team as it delivers the drama and excitement of basketball with highlight clips, news stories of the time, and the relationships shifting between the biggest names in basketball.
There are chunks that focus on Jordan’s time at the University of North Carolina and his move to the NBA in 1984, episodes that dive into his most famous teammates Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman, and their coach Phil Jackson. There’s attention given to Jordan’s gambling, his tension with Isaiah Thomas, and his deal with Nike to bring one of the most iconic sneakers to ever exist into the world: Air Jordans.
For those who feel like they already know a lot about Jordan and his career, there’s so much more beneath the surface to uncover, and some great ’90s footage to geek out at. For those who only know Jordan from Space Jam or pop culture osmosis, it’s incredible to see just how much this one man’s basketball career impacted. Nike was hardly a blip on the map and Gatorade was barely a thing before Michael’s face appeared alongside them.
The old footage (and music) is a splendid aspect of this series, but the modern interviews bring so much color to everything. With subjects including former teammates, old coaches, and even Barack Obama, it feels like everything is covered from every angle.
It almost sounds exhausting to watch 10 hours of something dedicated to Michael Jordan, but the way it’s handled and presented is just so interesting. The Last Dance is a slice of history viewed through the lens of Jordan, the Bulls, and basketball, complete with some of the most impressive highlights of dunks, breakaways, blocks, and plays you could hope to see.