HomeTelevisionThe Last Dance Review: ESPN's Michael Jordan Docuseries Was Worth the Wait 

The Last Dance Review: ESPN’s Michael Jordan Docuseries Was Worth the Wait 

The long-awaited sports documentary The Last Dance, which chronicles the 1997-1998 Chicago Bulls season, has finally begun to air on ESPN. With two episodes a night, viewers will finally get a glimpse at never before seen, all-access footage of star Michael Jordan and the Bulls from twenty-two years ago. For a long time, it seemed that the over 500 hours of footage would never see the light of day, but finally that day has come, and an average of 6.1 million people watched the first two episodes when they aired last Sunday. With the world largely devoid of sports at the moment, there has never been a better opportunity to remind people of the dominance of Michael Jordan, and show how one of the greatest sports dynasties in history came to an end. 

The Last Dance blends interviews, both old and new, with footage shot by the crew during the season as well as other media, including home movies, to paint a more detailed and complete picture of what was happening both on and off the court leading up to, and during, that tumultuous final season. It is full of remarkable anecdotes from the players and coaches who lived it, people close to them, media members who covered it, and even a couple of US presidents for good measure. Some of the stories are just fun to relive, but others have never been heard before (or at least not told in such an honest way). 

With Michael Jordan having final say as to if the documentary would ever go forward, it took producers Michael Tollin and Connor Schell to convince him that the time was right and Director Jason Hehir to show him that he had a vision for the story that went beyond Michael himself. This vision would also encompass the team and what they were able to accomplish with Michael as the center of the story. High profile teammates Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman are each set to get their turn as a focal point as well, to highlight their contributions on the court and complications off it. 

In order to properly do that, they need to show how everyone arrived at that particular point in time, what motivated them, and what fueled the distractions. Jumping back and forth on the timeline to show their individual basketball stories is a cool narrative choice that allows a window into their backstories while still giving you big chunks of the ultimate focus of the documentary, which, of course, is that last season. It is all so masterfully edited together that you would almost think they had been working on it this whole time. 

Through the first two episodes, Hehir doesn’t appear to have any desire to water-down, or give Michael the Space Jam treatment. Michael was, and still is, one of the most competitive people on the planet, and that competitive nature sometimes manifests itself as the kind of abrasiveness that it takes to win at the highest level. Hehir takes the same approach to each important subject of the documentary, and it helps build a gradual understanding of how things got so ugly, and the adversity that the team would have to persevere in pursuit of the organization’s sixth championship. 

Clearly there is a measure of blame that could be attributed to everyone, but, at least early on, it seems that the late former General Manager Jerry Krause is being saddled with much of it. While Krause was heavily involved in building the successful roster, it was the crassness with which he talked about dealing players and replacing Head Coach Phil Jackson that caused tension. It seems unfathomable that an organization at the height of their success would be looking to blow things up and start a rebuild, but that was the thought process being heavily floated prior to the start of a season that Jackson would deem The Last Dance

It is admittedly fun to watch Michael Jordan highlights again, and it’s even more entertaining to hear the greats that came before him like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird discuss their stories of competing against him. Bird referring to Jordan’s performance against the Celtics in a playoff loss as, “God disguised as Michael Jordan” is always a standout, but the greatness of Michael Jordan has never been questioned. Hopefully as the documentary moves forward and the full cast of characters has been introduced, more of the dynamic of the team will be central, and we will gain more perspective on how things came together one more time before falling apart for good. With only two new episodes available each week, it’s hard not to be impatient and want to see the rest of the captivating drama you know is coming, but having waited decades, what’s a few more weeks? 

The Last Dance airs Sunday nights on ESPN

Ben Murchison
Ben Murchison
Ben Murchison is a regular contributor for TV and Movies. He’s that guy that spends an hour in an IMDb black hole of research about every film and show he watches. Strongly believes Buffy the Vampire Slayer to be the best show to ever exist, and that Peaky Blinders needs more than 6 episodes per series. East Carolina grad, follow on Twitter and IG @bdmurchison.


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