In a world where live sport has become but a distant memory, ESPN and Netflix’s ‘The Last Dance’ has found itself in the unique position of being the only show in town.
The story of basketball’s greatest player and its greatest ever team, ‘The Last Dance’ documents the Chicago Bulls in their final season with Michael Jordan and co. and their quest for a sixth NBA Championship.
Netflix released the first two episodes on Sunday night with sports fans everywhere coming in their droves to discover so much more about the enigmatic Jordan and now iconic franchise.
Here are five highlights from episode one of ‘The Last Dance’.
The Look Back At Jordan’s College Career
For famed fans of Jordan, his college career is an integral part of the MJ legend, but for those unfamiliar, episode one gave a brilliant look at what was the making of Michael.
Jordan was highly touted when he arrived in North Carolina and burst onto the scene in his freshman year, making the winning jump shot to hand his college the NCAA Championship over Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown.
The footage of the shot is exceptional and acts almost as a *that’s it* moment, where a superstar is truly born, with Jordan himself quipping, ‘that was when I went from Mike Jordan to Micheal Jordan.’
From then on we listen to his college coaches outline how he continued to get better and better and improve every aspect of his game in the two further seasons he played at North Carolina eventually leading to him declaring for and being picked third in the 1984 NBA Draft.
“Micheal Jordan was the only player who could turn it on and off and he never frickin turned it off.”
Letters To His Mother
This was a short scene in the 50-minute episode but in understanding Jordan both on and off the court, it was crucial.
We see Jordan watching his mother read a letter he had sent her during his freshman year in college in which the now billionaire asks his mother to send him money as he only had ‘$20 left’ in addition to requiring stamps which he puts as a footnote at the end.
Both he and his mother laugh at the letter, Jordan, in particular, looking emotional as he watches the woman who raised him reminisce over her son’s early, yet now trivial, struggles.
The scene is a highlight as it shows what Jordan was before he became the cultural beacon, the quintessential sporting icon of the 1990s. Micheal Jordan was just a kid once. A broke kid who loved his mother and needed stamps.
As the episode goes on and he climbs the ladder of fame rung by rung we leave that scene to the side but in the context of telling the story of Jordan as a person, it’s exceptional.
MJ-Mania In Full Effect As The Bulls Visit France
Footage of the Chicago Bulls’ pre-season visit to Paris in 1997 is initially used in this episode as a modern-day buffer around the story of Jordan’s college career and his rookie season in the league with the last ten minutes dedicated solely to the trip.
The Bulls and in particular Jordan are shown being mobbed by fans as they walk through the airport, out of their hotel and onto the Parisian streets, with former NBA commissioner David Stern remarking that ‘Michael was like the pied-piper walking down the Champs-Elysees’
The hoards of crowds that flocked to see the Bulls and Jordan show just how transcendent the team were in the height of their popularity in the 1990s, unquestionably the most recognisable sports team in America and equally as iconic in Europe.
People’s God-like admiration for Jordan is also brilliantly distilled in one particular scene were an employee backstage on a show he is to appear on requests Jordan’s autograph after assisting him with his microphone.
His question sadly is met with the utmost disdain.
The Brilliant Wide Array Of Interview Subjects Used Throughout
This is a more generic highlight that will stand throughout the whole series rather than just one episode but you will be blown away by the sheer thoroughness and range of interview subjects in ‘The Last Dance’.
Jordan himself is of course interviewed, but from there, there’s former teammates, rivals, coaches from every journey of his career, journalists, even a certain former President of the United States features, however, he is only referred to as ‘former Chicago resident’ as opposed to any other title he may have gone by.
It is exceptional in the sense that there is nothing left to be desired, so far at least, in terms of perspective from figures throughout Jordan’s career.
It’s likely that this will continue but to be able to get almost every angle from so many involved in the story is rare and should be widely praised.
A Peek At The Disruption That Was Beginning Behind The Scenes
“We are entitled to defend what we have until we lose it.”
Episode one, begins with lingering dissension that had started behind the scenes at the Bulls, with the villain of the play, Chicago General Manager Jerry Krause keen to rebuild what he perceived as an ageing squad sooner rather than later.
Krause rarely received credit for what he had helped build at the Bulls and was keen to show the world that it was organisations that won championships, not just players.
The idea that a team who had managed to win five NBA Championships in the previous seven years could be torn down and rebuilt without having lost their title is a baffling suggestion but it’s one that flows throughout this episode.
There is tension there between Krause and Jordan, seen in little quips MJ takes at his GM, as well as between Krause and Phil Jackson, the head coach, something that is likely to continue throughout the remaining nine episodes of The Last Dance.
All gifs credit – https://www.netflix.com/watch/81002655?trackId=14277281&tctx=0%2C0%2Cde1f5406-5e9a-4c28-b7a1-2fb283189d0d-5383744%2C%2C