“I pulled people along when they didn’t want to be pulled, I challenged people when they didn’t want to be challenged. I earned that right.” Michael Jordan, The Last Dance
During this lockdown period I’ve strangely struggled with what to do with myself during the evening once the kids are in bed. In what seems to be an almost too perfect scenario for us, our world has slowed down to a shuffle where my wife and I have each and every evening to ourselves to finally binge on that Netflix show everyone’s talking about, or tackle that ridiculously tall pile of unread books sitting in the bookcase.
But strangely I’ve found myself completely unmotivated to do either. Instead I’ll take the dog for a walk, busy myself with cleaning the kitchen for the 10th time that day or really stretch out readying our youngest’s milk bottles for the next day. But really, there’s only so much you can do to prepare for another daily instalment of zoom calls and the inevitable “can I have a snack”-athon. The rest of the night seems to be swallowed whole as I engage my inner zombie flicking through social media and 24/7 news channels in an apparent attempt to raise my blood pressure just high enough to keep me awake to deal with another fun night of teething and calpol.
All of that was true until recently, when I discovered Netflix had dropped the 10 part docuseries, The Last Dance. Part Michael Jordan shrine, part peek behind the basketball curtain, The Last Dance follows the Chicago Bulls from the initial drafting of the worlds greatest ever basketball player (sorry Lebron, Rest in Peace to Kobe) through to his final tumultous season in the Windy City.
For me, The Last Dance is thee absolute perfect series. It covers a time when, from around the age of ten or so, I was completely obsessed with basketball and the Chicago Bulls. Watching it feels like someone has rummaged deep down inside my brain, into my box of memories and picked out something that they know is going to jump start my inner child.
“Hey, here you go” they’d say (who is this magical brain surgeon?) “is there a global pandemic on at the moment? well here, stay home, relax and watch some of your favourite things from when you were at your most impressionable. Don’t forget to clap at 8pm on a Thursday”.
Beyond the sentimental tour through my young susceptible mind, The Last Dance provides so much more.
Like most great documentaries the characters are far more intriguing and well-rounded than most binge-worthy fictional series.
I’m only half way through the ten part series but already I’ve taken away some potentially life-changing lessons:
- Head Coach Phil Jackson presents as a truly authentic co-leader of the team, demonstrating that you don’t need to be a chest-beating, megaphone-wielding drill sergeant stereotype to get the best out of a talented roster of players. He instead treats his players like adults, understanding that each has their own talents, values and in Dennis Rodman’s case, needs. His ability to gain the trust of Jordan, who at the time was hitting his peak as a worldwide superstar, and change his views on the way basketball could be played to better incorporate his team mates was monumental.
- Michael Jordan provides a masterclass in chasing greatness. Beyond the god-like basketball talent his two most impressive attributes seen throughout the series are his determination and perseverance. Far from the natural born winner you might expect, Jordan didn’t make his high school varsity basketball team. He worked on himself tirelessly to overcome his weaknesses. “If you want to bring out the best in Michael, tell him he can’t do something” his Father is quoted in one episode. He not only works tirelessly on himself but on his team-mates and coaches too. Elevating them, rather than carrying them, to greatness along with him.
- Dennis Rodman was truly a man before his time. Before mental health awareness and before just be yourself was an instagram hashtag, Rodman was a man who was completely comfortable in his own skin, knowing he was different from those around him. In a locker room with some of the worlds best athletes he was accepted as well as anyone else, with his painted nails, his pierced lips and laid back attitude. His approach towards his own mental health was incredibly self-aware for the time. Knowing himself well enough to talk to his coach and team-mates when things were getting on top of him and knowing what steps to take to remedy it (next time I load up the mindfulness app on my phone I might try heading to Vegas with Carmen Electra instead).
Since I began the series, I’ve almost been trying not to watch it. I’m worried about what will happen when it ends. I don’t think, no I know, that nothing will better this (it’s not hyperbole, Love Island is cancelled this year). I know that no other television series will shoot me back in time and slump me into my young teenage brain whilst literally covering me in goosebumps for 10, 20, 30 minutes at a time.
If you enjoy basketball, there’s absolutely no doubt you’ll love this show. But beyond that, if you enjoy stories about human beings, characters, compassion, love, empathy, competitiveness, absolute greatness, and much more, you’ll enjoy this show. Please watch it. But not too fast. Otherwise you’ll just have to go back to watching those god awful daily briefings and nobody wants that.
The Last Dance is now streaming on Netflix in the UK and US.