ESPN’s latest documentary, The Last Dance, is a ten-part documentary series chronicling the 1997-1998 Chicago Bulls and their journey to their sixth championship. The Bulls gave the documentary team unprecedented coverage, giving us a truly immersive experience into what one of the greatest teams the NBA has ever had went through during their final season.
Growing up in a suburb of Chicago throughout the 90’s, this Bulls team was an essential part of my life growing up. To say I am excited about The Last Dance would be an understatement. It is one of my most anticipated movies of 2020 and a true event.
Here is a recap and my review of Episode One of The Last Dance.
It is no secret that the biggest draw of this documentary is Michael Jordan. Whether we want to see him in a more private, intimate light or we just want to watch old highlights from arguably the greatest player the NBA has ever seen. Episode One could be subtitled The M.J. Episode. After a few introductions from Jordan, teammates Scotty Pippen and Denis Rodman, and head coach Phil Jackson, we dive straight into Jordan and we don’t leave him the entire episode.
Throughout Episode One, we are shown two timelines in Jordan’s career: the beginning of the 1997 season and his time in college at North Carolina and getting drafted to the Chicago Bulls in 1984 as the third overall pick following Hakeem Olajuwon and Sam Bowie. The episode focuses mostly on Jordan’s time in college and his first year with the Bulls. At North Carolina, Jordan became an immediate sensation when he hit the game-winning shot in the 1982 National Championship game. From there, Jordan’s game improved to him being the best player in the country and going to the NBA after his junior year.
Before Jordan got to Chicago, the Bulls were not a very desirable team. Their record was poor and their attendance was even worse, having less fans than the Chicago indoor soccer team that I didn’t even know existed. When Jordan got to the team, they were in shambles, focusing more on partying and doing drugs than winning. Jordan wasn’t having any of it, separating himself from those who partook in bad habits and focused on being the best player on the team and the best in the league. Jordan led the Bulls in points, assists, rebounds, and steals his rookie season and ended up winning the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award. This was the beginning of Jordan-mania, something that would still be stronger than ever thirteen years later.
Coming off their championship win in the 1996-1997 season, the Chicago Bulls faced a lot of turmoil, something The Last Dance only scratched the surface of in this episode, but something that will be a continued storyline throughout the ten episode series. Jerry Krause, the Bulls General Manager, wanted to rebuild the franchise after the team just won their fifth championship in seven years. Krause stated that the 1997-1998 season would be the last year Phil Jackson would coach the Bulls, while a number of players were disgruntled with how Krause and owner Jerry Reinsdorf were running the team. Though only the first episode, I am excited to watch this turmoil come to a head throughout the series.
Episode One was a perfect beginning to this monumental documentary series. It sets up Jordan and shows how he became a superstar in the league and showed how incredible and impressive of a player he was. But it also sets up the 1997-1998 Bulls as a team that may have seemed to have it all figured out, but were really struggling with front office turmoil. It was a gripping episode and a great way to start.
The Last Dance airs Sunday nights on ESPN at 8pm CST.
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