“The Last Dance” Review: A Documentary Done Right


Photo courtesy of the Creative Commons.

Michael Jordan celebrating his winning shot.

The Last Dance | Directed by Jason Hehir | Documentary | Ten Part Series | TV-MA and TV-14

The documentary series The Last Dance goes in depth into the life and career of global superstar Michael Jordan, presenting the ‘90s Bulls in a way that elevated both the Bull’s and Jordan’s fame in a good light.

The Last Dance, co-produced by ESPN Films and Netflix, presented the grandiose legacy of larger than life basketball star Michael Jordan and other members of the 1990’s Chicago Bulls Dynasty. The season-long series debuted on April 19, 2020. The series depicted Jordan’s life and career from high school up to the National Basketball Association (NBA), focusing on his determination, winning mindset, and global fame. Going into the 1997-98 NBA season, the Chicago Bulls, led by Jordan, along with Scottie Pippen, Denis Rodman, and their Coach Phil Jackson, were to be dismantled with the ages of the players and their salary becoming worrisome. This led that season of Chicago Bulls to be known as the “Last Dance” referring to Michael Jordan’s last year with coach Phil Jackson at the helm and longtime teammate Scottie Pippen at his side. The 4 time MVP at the time, was prompted to end his career with six championship rings and his second time winning three championships in a row.
Andy Thompson (lead producer) originally pitched the documentary to ESPN to film the last season of Michael Jordan’s career with an all access film crew. According to this article, he was scared that without the filming of the 1997-1998 Bulls season, there would not be an adequate amount of footage of the once in a lifetime player and team. The Last Dance was then produced with the footage of that season centered at the heart of it. With snippets of footage and interviews from across the years, they culminate into a documentary series that perfectly shows who Michael Jordan was as a player.
Through the ten part series, the viewers come to understand what drives Michael Jordan through accounts of what he did on and off the court. One of the best parts of the series was the depiction of Jordan’s work ethic. He will do anything to win. His determination is shown in the series through multiple accounts of Jordan making up stories about his opponents that set him off. The fake stories made him have something against the other team and gave him the edge in whatever game he was playing. The docu-series does a great job at capturing this aspect of Jordan. It could’ve been handled poorly, and made Jordan seem like a crazed maniac for making things up to such extremes, but The Last Dance makes it so authentic that an audience member strives to be able to do what Jordan does.
Another great thing about The Last Dance is the music soundtrack. It is a masterful example of how music can set the tone for a piece of creative work. The mix of different generational bops creates an atmosphere that keeps the viewer engaged in every episode. Most of the songs come from the 90s which really gives the perfect effect for the series that is set in the 90s. It is a throwback, presenting the story of Michael Jordan and the Bulls with the music that they would have been listening to during that time. The soundtrack connects the viewers to the series better than other documentaries because it pulls the viewers into the era with flowing raps and hip hop head bops.
The series also does a great job of juggling all the plot points of the decade and all the different interviews they compiled.The series somehow manages to combine 106 interviews seamlessly amongst ten episodes. The series not only got the old players from the Championship Chicago Bulls team, but rivals and opponents as well. Even former president Barack Obama was interviewed and other famous people and stars to get a vast variety of viewpoints, accounts of the period, and a deeper dive into Michaels Jordan’s and many others’ lives and careers.
The Last Dance is a masterpiece. All of its aspects, music, interviews, story, and footage culminate into a ten part series on Netflix that perfectly encapsulates the feeling of the 90s and shows Michael Jordan’s work ethic and character. This is how to do a documentary series right.