‘Last Dance’ documentary continues to shine worldwide

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(AP Photo/Beth A. Keiser)

Chicago Bulls’ Michael Jordan pauses in the third quarter in Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Seattle SuperSonics Friday, June 14, 1996 in Seattle. The Sonics beat the Bulls, 89-78. (AP Photo/Beth A. Keiser)

Luke Hippler, Special to the Carroll News

For the third week in a row, ‘The Last Dance’ documentary, starring Michael Jordan and supporting cast of athletes, continues to blow audiences out of the water.

According to CNN, it has already become the most viewed ESPN documentary ever, with over five million viewers per episode. The documentary has aired two episodes every Sunday night since April 19 and follows the Chicago Bulls basketball team during their 1997-1998 championship season. Audiences get a look behind the scenes at never-before-seen footage of this historical sports run in when the Bulls win six NBA titles in eight years. 

Episodes 1-4 laid the groundwork for the key members of the teams. Those members include MVP Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen (the under-appreciated sidekick), Dennis Rodman (the tenacious rebounder with an unpredictable personality), and head coach Phil Jackson. Audiences get to see into the backgrounds of these individuals, where they came from, and the journeys that led them to the Chicago Bulls. 

“I have loved every second of ‘The Last Dance’ so far, but episodes one through three were my favorite because I loved learning about the background and early days that I had never seen before or known about,” said documentary watcher Ben Gleason, 23-year-old sports studies graduate.

Episodes 5 and 6 continued the narrative structure of the first episodes, where the story bounced between the early days of the dynasty and the actual final season together in which the title ‘The Last Dance’ comes from. 

These episodes focus more specifically on a foreign player named Toni Kukoc, a youngster from Croatia. The Bulls upper management was especially keen on this player and made it known to everyone in the organization.

FRED JEWELL / Associated Press
Michael Jordan (left) points at Toni Kukoc (right) during a game for the Chicago Bulls.

Ironically, the USA was competing in the Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain. In their first matchup, Jordan and Pippen face off against Kukoc in an intense battle where the two current NBA superstars shut down the young Croatian. In the end, this rivalry only made them stronger teammates when the time came for them to be together and created a strong bond between players.

In addition, the episodes also go into detail about Jordan’s treatment of his fellow teammates during their reign of terror over the NBA. In fact, Jud Buechler, Chicago Bulls forward from 1994-1998, said, “We were his teammates and we were afraid of him.” 

Jordan had an incredible passion for the game in which he pushed his teammates to their limits in order to get the most out of them and win championships. His tactics worked very well, as the documentary shows.

One of the most popular moments from last Sunday’s episodes is a snippet of Jordan and security playing a game of coins, seeing who can get their quarter closest to the wall. The security guard wins and does the famous ‘Jordan Shrug’ to celebrate the victory. The documentary shows these little moments from Jordan’s life that make fans, and even haters, appreciate him more. We see that he’s a human just like us and facing real-world problems. On the court, he is viewed as a superhero, but off the court, he deals with things just like everyone does. 

Overall, ‘The Last Dance’ has been a tremendous success thus far, with four more episodes still to air. Jordan fan James Gilmore, a current college athlete at the University of Cincinnati, said: “It is the greatest documentary I have ever seen and cannot wait for the rest!”

Sports fans around the globe need this documentary now more than ever because living without sports has been painful for many. Only a few more days before the next episode, the countdown begins.