2020, TV

The Last Dance (2020)

This is an engaging but somewhat skin-deep documentary about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, based in part upon never-before-seen footage of the 1997-98 team, which won their sixth championship.

This is a super in-depth miniseries chronicling the Bulls’ final championship, but using that as the lens through which to tell Jordan’s entire Bulls career, with limited stuff about Scottie Pippen, Phil Jackson and Dennis Rodman…and Steve Kerr for some reason. I’d say it’s mostly for fans of basketball and maybe sports in general but Jenn feels it’s accessible to anybody – and that seems apparent given how many people seem to have watched it. (Some of that is due to boredom, and for want of some kind of collective cultural event during the pandemic.) There are definitely 30 for 30s which are a little more universal, I’d say. (And much shorter.)

On the whole, I really enjoyed it. It was nice to not only see clips of old games but to listen to the players and the odd coach talk about some of these games and challenges. I have a real interest in basketball history and I was not a fan when this was happening, so I enjoyed it as history and as a chance to experience some of this for the first time.

But this is a pretty surface-level examination of Jordan, his career and his legacy. That is the prices of access in many cases and it is true here too. Jordan not only gave permission to use footage from 22 years ago which he had never allowed before but he also participated in the documentary. That’s essential but it was also a coup as it’s been notoriously difficult to get his cooperation for these types of things. The problem is it’s clear he influenced the production and it feels like he basically always gets the last word. I don’t know enough about the stories they glossed over to tell you what they omitted, but there is plenty of stuff online. (May I direct you to Tom Ziller’s commentary?) Anyway, that’s is the price of access: to get Jordan, Jordan got some level of final cut. The result is that certain topics are not examined they way they should be.

It’s still worth watching especially if, like me, you didn’t start watching the NBA until the 21st century. And it’s a breezy 600 minutes.

7/10

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