“The Last Dance” is a must-see for all sports fans

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Courtesy of mccarmona23 for Flickr

Michael Jordan joined the Chicago Bulls in 1984 and is considered one of the best basketball players of all time.

Ethan Myers, Opinions Editor

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For athletes and fans all over the world sports consume many aspects of everyday life. It’s what we do. It’s what we love. It’s what we talk about. It captivates social media. It builds communities and creates passion. Sports have helped us overcome tragedies and spark revolutions.

When all sports were cancelled indefinitely in February and March, a void remained in its place. But for many of us diehard sports fans “The Last Dance” has been a temporary band-aid on the wound.

In 1997, Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls gave a film crew unlimited access to the team as they went for their sixth championship in eight seasons. This behind-the-scenes footage was turned into a documentary series by ESPN, but could not be released until Jordan gave his stamp of approval, which was finally given in 2016. “The Last Dance” is a 10-part series that covers Jordan’s final season in Chicago, but also touches on many aspects of his life, as well as other moving parts within the Bull’s dynasty during the 90’s.

For fans during that era, the series is a reminder of the incessant competitiveness that drove Jordan to dominate during a period of many NBA superstars. For those, such as myself, who weren’t alive during Jordan’s reign, it’s a intriguing look at a game of basketball that dramatically differs from today’s era.

Dozens of interviews are scattered across the series, ranging from recently-passed NBA legend Kobe Bryant to former President Barack Obama. Whether they were a teammate, friend, family member or associate, each interviewee adds a unique perspective to the life and career of Michael Jordan.

Anticipation for the release of the series grew when Jordan said that “The Last Dance” would make people think he’s “a horrible guy.” That may have been an embellishment, considering that the series certainly portrays Michael Jordan in a mostly positive light, but “The Last Dance” does not shy away from exhibiting why many people disliked him. He was an obsessive gambler and sat out of social activism in favor of selling shoes and building his brand. Many accused Jordan of being selfish by not using his platform for good like Muhammad Ali did during his career.

Jordan defended himself during the series by saying, “I do commend Muhammad Ali for standing up for what he believed in but I never thought of myself as an activist, I thought of myself as a basketball player… Was that selfish? Probably. But that was my energy. That’s where my energy was.”

To call Michael Jordan’s personality “Type A” is an understatement. Jordan prioritized winning at any cost, and did not play basketball to make friends or have a good time. Even the smallest slight or criticism made towards Jordan fueled his desire for winning in a dominant fashion. He got in fights with teammates, held lifelong grudges against opponents and talked endless amounts of trash.

But what’s even more interesting are the lesser known storylines of that era such as Dennis Rodman’s mid-season vacation to Vegas, Jordan’s dislike for Bull’s general manager Jerry Krause, his short stint in minor league baseball, and the tragic death of his father.

Although “The Last Dance” has taken over social media and given sports fans a new debate topic, it has not gone without criticism. Critically-acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns made headlines when he accused the series of not being “good journalism” for allowing Jordan to control much of the narrative. Others have criticized the series for its non-linear storytelling that can become confusing if you aren’t paying close attention.

While those critiques are certainly not unfounded, I think the show ultimately functions as a fun look back at an exciting era of basketball and a fascinating portrait of a once-in-a-lifetime athlete who dominated the game and the culture surrounding it.