Last night, ESPN premiered The Last Dance, a new, behind-the-scenes look at the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls organization, and their quest to bring Chi-Town their sixth NBA championship in eight years. The heavily-anticipated docuseries is 22 years in the making, and two episodes—back to back like Jordan ’96, ’97—are being released every Sunday at 9pm EST for the next four weeks. Here are the 5 major takeaways from the first two episodes:
1. GM Jerry Krause is portrayed as a villain
As part of the introduction, The Last Dance makes it clear that the drama between the front office and the players plays an integral role in what made Chicago’s sixth ring miraculous. Krause is introduced as a man who suffers from a Napoleon complex—his short and beefy stature makes him appear minuscule next to 6’6″ Michael Jordan and 6’8″ Scottie Pippen. Both stars also publicly humiliate their GM, and Jordan even asks Kraus, “So those are the pill that keep you short… or are those diet pills?”
In addition to providing inspiration for Mr. Swackhammer in Space Jam, Jerry Kraus is no longer around to defend himself or his actions. There is no denying Kraus played a prominent role in assembling one of the greatest dynasties in American sports history; however, the lack of team chemistry and overall tension within Chicago’s organization ultimately led to its demise.
2. #TheLastDance soundtrack was absolutely fire 🔥
As viewers witnessed never-seen-before highlights of Jordan annihilating his opponents across the league, the 1980 hip-hop themed soundtrack made it feel like one was watching Jordan highlights in real time. LL Cool J’s hit song “I’m Bad” reflects the dominance Jordan demonstrated on the court;
“No rapper can rap quite like I can / I’ll take a musclebound man and put his face in the sand”
3. Scottie Pippen’s influence and inspiration
We all knew that Scottie Pippen has long been considered one of the best “#2” and small forwards to ever play in the NBA. The Last Dance takes us back to Pippen’s childhood—growing up in Hamburg, Arkansas, where the current population is fewer than 3,000 people. Pippen moves the audience by looking back on his father’s stroke—which left him paralyzed—shortly before a gym class accident left his brother paralyzed as well. Pippen later explains how basketball acted as an outlet to escape his family’s adversity.
After Pippen’s egregious 7-year/$18 million contract made him the 122nd highest paid player in the NBA, Scottie ends episode two by demanding a trade, leaving viewers on the edge of their seat for what’s to come. Contract and business aside, Pippen’s inspirational story from hometown hero to the NBA was one of the greatest highlights from The Last Dance‘s premiere.
4. Michael Jordan’s relentlessness
This one may seem obvious—especially for people who believe MJ is the GOAT—but from someone who did not grow up watching Michael Jordan play, The Last Dance provided unseen footage of his rise to excellence as one of the greatest athletes ever.
As a young, raw UNC Tar Heel, Michael Jordan hitting the game-winning shot to win the 1982 NCAA National Championships proved one thing: he was different from the start. Playing on the biggest stage of his life thus far—along with the 62,000 fans packed in the New Orleans Superdome—didn’t seem to phase 19-year-old Michael.
“Load management” did not exist in the mind of Michael Jordan. He wanted to win, no matter the circumstance. After breaking his foot in the third game of his sophomore season, Jordan visibly opposed the front office’s decision to limit his minutes. With no supporting cast, Jordan and the 30-52 Bulls faced off against the 1984 Boston Celtics. The Celtics swept the Bulls, but not before Jordan dropped 49 and 63 in Game 1 and 2, respectively. Different.
5. The greatest supporting cast?
As Scottie Pippen, Steve Kerr, and Dennis Rodman highlighted Michael Jordan’s supporting cast, several legendary figures contributed to The Last Dance‘s supporting cast.
A young Bob Costas reporting for WGN, a local Chicago news network. PTI’s Michael Wilbon, a Chicago native and prominent sports journalist. A young David Stern (RIP) makes several appearances across the course of Jordan’s career. Former president and Arkansas native Bill Clinton. And of course, “former Chicago resident” Barack Obama.
These iconic figures not only added to the entertainment of the viewers, but also demonstrated the national and everlasting impact that Jordan both during and after his professional career. Jordan not only changed the way we view basketball and the NBA, but how we view the impact of athletes and sports in today’s world.
Defying expectations, The Last Dance gave the sports world exactly what we needed during this unprecedented time. Chicago born NBA legend Dwyane Wade tweeted he would ask for The Last Dance footage if he “had 3 wishes in life”. Life without sports hasn’t been easy, but the MJ docuseries will have to act as the NBA Finals for the next four weeks.
As episode two ends with Pippen demanding a trade from the Bulls, the premiere ends with viewers demanding the final eight episodes immediately.