Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The Last Dance, Episodes I-X

I finished watching The Last Dance today. As a huge NBA fan, I have a lot of thoughts. As someone born in 1987, whose hometown got its NBA franchise in 1995, I have a lot of thoughts. (Full post on Quora, linked below.)

I wore my Mitchell and Ness Bulls shirt while watching Episodes IV-VI.

The format is perfect: a chronicle of the 1997–1998 Chicago Bulls season, in which they finished 62–20 en route to their sixth NBA championship in eight years, interspersed with a chronological account from Michael Jordan’s youth until the season right before. The prominent Jordan interviews combine with interviews of Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Phil Jackson, Jerry Reinsdorf, Horace Grant, and many of the other protagonists. The back-and-forth was easy to follow thanks to a number line-style segue whenever the documentary changed time periods.
The first topic that comes to mind for as fan who’s watched over two decades of basketball since the Bulls’ last championship is how close most of the games were. The Bulls frequently won and lost multiple games in the same playoff series by 1, 2, 5, 8 points. (Watch Episode IX, about the epic 1998 Bulls/Pacers Eastern Conference Final, for the best example.)
The second topic that comes to mind is that the Bulls never won a Finals in four games or in seven. There’s a uniquely “never in doubt, but never a complete blowout” about the team.
My favourite moments (basketball) were the early contending and championship years, from about 1988–1992.
  • The Bulls/Pistons rivalry
  • The first championship: Jordan over Magic
My favourite moments (other) were the sports business aspects behind Jordan’s rise to stardom and the Bulls’ near fall from grace.
  • The development of the first Air Jordan shoe
  • The inside material on the Scottie Pippen contract dispute
What I thought the series needed more of was detail on the 1996 and 1997 seasons. Only four teams have won 69 or more games in an NBA season; the Bulls won 72 and 69 games in those consecutive seasons. At the time, a couple decades before the 73–9 Warriors, you had to go back to the 1971–1972 Lakers in order to see that kind of production.
Although there was a great discussion about the 1996 NBA Finals (against the 64–18 SuperSonics, who in many other seasons would have had the best record in the league), most of the 72–10 flies by. The 1996–1997 season, in which the Bulls went a blistering 69–13, appears as a glossed-over prelude to the first Jazz Finals. The Bulls/Heat Eastern Conference Finals is not even mentioned, or else was so briefly I missed it entirely while getting up for a drink of water.
What I didn't enjoy as much was when the biopic sections on Michael Jordan steered too far away from the team’s story. The section on the rumour of David Stern suspending Jordan for 18 months(!) could have been shorter. I didn’t need to hear from Barack Obama, although he’s always good for ratings. Some of the praise toward Jordan felt obvious more than anything.
A final, mischievous thought: Neither the Rockets nor the Spurs ever played against the Bulls in the Finals. To win it all, Jordan never had to knock off Hakeem Olajuwon or David Robinson when it mattered most. We’ll never know what would have happened.

See my full post on Quora here.

No comments:

Post a Comment