Want to find out if “The Last Dance”, the ESPN documentary about the ’90s Chicago Bulls, is appropriate for your kids? You’ve come to the right place!
Sports fans needed this. We needed something other than Korean baseball, video game sporting tournaments, and H-O-R-S-E to ignite our fandom.
We needed something to get excited for more than a crazy cult of tiger-controlling crazies living a life that seems chaotic and … just why?!
Granted, Dennis Rodman could probably fit in better with that other documentary we were all obsessed with during quarantine, but thanks to Michael Jordan, ESPN and Netflix films The Last Dance provided us sports fans a relief from the drought we’re all currently living in.
I watched this series with my 15-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter. My wife was hit-or-miss on some of the episodes. Our 9-year-old son wasn’t having any of it.
NOTE: When it came out it had an edited and unedited version. For the sake of my kids, we watched the edited version. It was basically a bleeped out version of the unedited, so you weren’t missing much.
In a tribute to the Bulls’
six championships in eight years, I thought I’d give you all my six Michael Jordan, I thought I’d give you my 23 takeaways from the Chicago Bulls dynasty documentary, The Last Dance. You know, since I had more than six to share!
1 – The Nostalgic NBA
I became a sports fan in 1986, when baseball became my first true love. The NBA wrestled baseball away from me temporarily during the early ’90s (thanks baseball strike!), and I fell in love with the Phoenix Suns. The Suns had an incredibly underrated point guard by the name of Kevin Johnson (cool name right?!). Watching this documentary took me back to my teens, when life was simple, innocent, and my weekends were filled with basketball from 8-midnight, NBA Jam with my buddies from midnight to 3 a.m., and the NBA on NBC on Sunday. Cue the music …
2 – Passing the Torch
I was happy my daughter watched. It’ll bode well for me and my eldest if my future son-in-law is a sports fan, so introducing her to Jordan and ’90s basketball will help her talk shop. Does that make sense?
I really enjoyed watching with my eldest. He’s 15-1/2, the same age I was during the Phoenix Suns run in 1993 (more on that in a bit). He’s an avid NBA fan now, so being able to watch the ’90s NBA unfold with him through this documentary was a joy for me. He knows these teams and players well, recently winning back-to-back basketball trivia ZOOM calls with his teammates, has a love for old-school sneakers, and a respect for the era, but having him see the teams I watched, and the players I rooted for and against, was a lot of fun, and likely my most favorite takeaway.
3 – Maybe Jordan is the GOAT
Let’s get this over with. MJ hurt my teams (I’m getting to it!). I was not a fan. I also tend to lean towards the less popular choices. Give me Ralph T over Bobby B. Sayid over Jack and Sawyer. Mike Cameron over Griffey. Benito over Gwynn. Michael was immensely beloved. He was incredibly talented, and if your team thought they were better, he’d make it known they were not.
I’ve long been on Team LeBron in the Greatest of All-Time conversation, but after watching this documentary I’m going to lean more towards Mike. He changed the sport. He dominated the sport. He is the GOAT.
4 – 1993 Still Hurts
Jordan to Pippen to Grant to Paxson is still my least favorite sports memory of all-time. It was my first heartbreak. It sucked. It still sucks. Still every time I see a replay there’s a glimmer of hope thinking maybe this is the time he misses it. Maybe they don’t allow Jordan to just drive in for an uncontested lay-in with 40 seconds remaining, slicing the lead to 98-96. Maybe Dan Majerle doesn’t air ball with 14.4 second remaining allowing the Bulls to have one more shot. Maybe Barkley doesn’t go for the steal, and they don’t let Scottie Pippen dribble into the key collapsing the defense. Maybe they don’t attack Horace Grant allowing Paxson to be WIDE open. Nope, it all happened, and it still hurts 27 years later.
5 – Barkley, Ewing, Malone and Stockton were good!
One of my son’s biggest takeaways was realizing that overweight Charles from the NBA on TNT was actually pretty darn good. I mean, he knew he was good, but that good? Yah he was! And so was Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone and Spokane’s own John Stockton. The latter three are three players that are often not spoken about since we don’t see them on sports shows. Found an article on The Washington Post about Stockton deserving better from The Last Dance. I thought his portrayal was fine, but the article gets into how great Stockton was. There’s a reason these four were all first-ballot Hall of Famers, and on the Dream Team. It was also nice to see these four in action. After all, rarely do we get excited to pull up Ewing, Malone and Stockton highlights on YouTube.
6 – Oh Yah! I Loved that 1995 Orlando Magic team!
After the Suns, the Magic were my next favorite team. I was a big Shaq fan. I had at least three Shaq t-shirts, his Reebok pumps (which my NBA 2k20 character wears in the Neighborhood), a poster, his jersey, a bunch of his cards, and yes, even his debut album “Shaq Diesel“. Their jerseys are still my all-time favorite, the colors are a mix of my three favorite (blue, black and white), they had exciting players like Shaq, Penny, Nick Anderson, Dennis Scott and … Jordan swept them out of the playoffs.
7 – That Father-Son Bond
Despite my dislike for Jordan on the court, I’ve always respected, and loved, the relationship Jordan had with his father. The story of Mr. James Jordan’s death is tragic, and hard to hear two decades later, but hearing the story of the bond Mr. Jordan and MJ had was emotional – especially as I sat next to my own son. Like Mr. Jordan, I battle my son in one-on-one contests in the driveway, am by his side for all his games, I wait after the game so we can talk about his disappointments, success, what we can work on, what went well, and for any emotional support. MJ said that his dad became his best friend … I hope my son was not just watching but listening.
8 – Mother Knows Best
“My mother said, ‘You’re going to go listen. You may not like it, but you’re going to go listen,'” Jordan said. “She made me get on that plane and go listen.”
The above quote was Jordan referencing a conversation his mom had with him about a meeting with a little sneaker company called Nike. He wanted Adidas, Mom pushed him to go to Oregon and listen, the rest is history.
Mom also recommended North Carolina. Mom also recommended putting down the cigar and drink during The Last Dance interviews.
Listen to Mom, kids. Mother always knows best.
9 – R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Two of my favorite snippets came late in the series when Larry Bird, now head coach of the Indiana Pacers, meets up with Michael after Jordan’s Bulls defeated Bird’s Pacers. The language isn’t safe to put here, but Jordan had fun, parting words for Larry Legend. Just love the respect Jordan had for the players before him – though he wanted to beat them badly – and the respect they have for him.
I also loved seeing Karl Malone, in defeat, walk into the Bulls’ bus and offer his congratulations to a few of the Bulls and MJ. Class act from a dude that wasn’t always the best on-court personality, but clearly is off-the-court.
By the way, all teammates on the Dream Team.
10 – The Music Was On Point!
LL Cool J, Prince, Lauryn Hill and Nas, Naughty by Nature, Coolio and many more highlighted the music in the documentary. These were songs I grew up loving, and the selection fit perfectly with the clips that they played over. None were better than LL’s “I’m Bad” playing over Jordan’s coming out party in the 1986 Playoffs versus the Celtics. Yes, Boston swept the Bulls, but Jordan averaged an unfathomable 43.7 points-per-game, and a NBA single game record of 63.
11 – That Bulls Intro …
… still gives me chills. Alan Parsons’ “Sirius” was also the Suns introduction, but the Bulls popularized it, and it still gets me pumped.
12 – Three Pointers …
… just didn’t happen! It was one of the first things I noticed and pointed out to my son. These dudes are not standing behind the arc waiting to launch. Nope, they took two steps in and took 20-foot jumpers, or just drove to the basket where they found beastly shot blockers waiting for them. They don’t do that anymore. The ’93 Suns were known for their 3-point prowess. They led the NBA that season with 13.4 attempts-per-contest. This season the Pacers were last, putting up 27.5 heaves a game. James Harden alone shoots 12.6 a contest. In ’93 my man Majerle led the NBA with 5.3. It’s just silly! Today’s NBA is vastly different, so thinking about Jordan, who is the all-time leader in career scoring average at 30.1, having a 3-point shot (cause he did and he would’ve), is just insane.
13 – The Glove …
… and the Seattle SuperSonics made a cameo appearance also. I have a love/hate relationship with the Sonics. I lived in the rural Seattle area during the ’90s so I watched a lot of Sonics games via pay-per-view (cause that’s what you had to do). I secretly liked them. I also unsecretly disliked them because they were the Suns’ prime rivals during the ’90s. I had someone sign my yearbook calling me “Desert Princess” in tribute to Kevin Johnson. Still, it was nice to see the Sonics and KeyArena rocking. Now do I believe Gary Payton could’ve changed the ’96 NBA Finals if he guarded MJ the entire series? Uh, pretty sure that team went 72-10 for a reason.
14 – Dennis Rodman …
… could’ve fit in with that other beloved quarantine documentary, Tiger King: Murder Mayhem and Madness.
15 – “Republicans buy sneakers, too.”
16 – Scott Burell …
… seems like a cool dude. Jordan tried to fight him, tattled on him on the plane, teased him, basically everything we’d consider ‘bullied’ these days. But Jordan also pushed him to be a better player and he took it all in stride. And he played only one season with him.
17 – Jerry Krause …
… is made to look like the bad guy because he decided to blow up the dynasty before it was all over. Bruh, why you blowing up the dynasty before it’s truly over, and if you’re blowing it up, why aren’t you getting assets for the players that you are trading? However, six titles in eight years, the dude did build the dynasty I’m writing about now.
18 – Phil Jackson …
… six titles with the Bulls, five with the Lakers, three different threepeats?! Sure he had Michael, Scottie, Shaq and Kobe, but what an amazing run!
19 – Hard Work …
… pays off! I hope my son understood that portion of the series as well. Jordan never stopped working hard just because he was the best ever. The Pistons bullied him so he beefed up. He filmed Space Jam, but continued to sharpen his skills. Got cut his sophomore season, came back better (a possibility for my son as he enters his sophomore season).
20 – The Best and Worst …
… teammate you could have. Watch the Burrell clip above and he’ll basically say the same thing. He was ‘bullied’ by Jordan, but it also pushed him to be better. For years I’ve told my eldest that Jordan tops the list of the teammates you’d both love and hate playing alongside. Add Kobe, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning to that list. All-time great players, winners, and jerks to their teammates.
“When people see this, they’re going to say ‘Well, he wasn’t really a nice guy, he may have been a tyrant,'” Jordan said. “Well, that’s you, because you never won anything. I wanted to win, but I wanted them to win and be a part of that as well.”
“I don’t have to do this. I’m only doing it because it is who I am,” Jordan said, getting choked up. “That’s how I played the game. That was my mentality. If you don’t want to play that way, don’t play that way.”
21 – So the flu game …
… was actually the food poison game? Guess he wasn’t faking after all.
22 – Petty Competitiveness
The dude liked to create drama, hold a grudge, and have a reason to work harder. Washington Bullets’ rookie LaBradford Smith, Clyde Drexler, Karl Malone winning MVP, and George Karl not wanting to shake his hand, “”That’s all I needed for him to do that, and it became personal.” When you’re at the top of the game you need new ways to motivate yourself. It might have been petty, but it sure did work!
23 – I Miss Sports
That’s it. Plain and simple.
Have a favorite moment from the series, from the ’90s NBA, your own Jordan memory, your own basketball memory? Let me know in the comments below, or follow us on Facebook here.
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