Jordan, Pippen’s allegations and … why it’s right to rethink The Last Dance

Scottie’s voyages to MJ authorize us to reconsider the documentary that last year delivered the Chicago Bulls of the 90s to the new generations

It was November 23, 1991, thirty years today. Michael Jordan had just won his first NBA title and was dominating so much that he even challenged Dikembe Mutombo. In the final of a Chicago-Denver, before going to the line, he called him and told him that the free throw was for him. Then he closed his eyes, performed his pre-shot routine and as if nothing had happened he slipped the ball into the basket. Without looking. It’s one of those amazing things that helped make MJ legendary, far beyond the incredible talent seen on the pitch. Legend handed back to the new generations by The Last Dance, the documentary co-produced by Espn and Netflix on his NBA epic and on 1997-98, the last season of his adventure at the Bulls.

worldwide success

The Last Dance it was an incredible success. Available on the streaming service from April 2020, in full pandemic, it has conquered the public in each of its 10 episodes, to become the example of the sports documentary: one in which the narration is intertwined in continuous jumps back and forth in time, that tell not only the epic of Jordan but of the other protagonists of that incredible adventure, from Phil Jackson to Scottie Pippen, from Dennis Rodman to Steve Kerr. An example to be imitated and adapted to other heroes who have thrilled millions of fans. The Last Dance he had his fill of ratings in the US, where it was broadcast by Espn; full of streaming on Netflix in the rest of the world, won an Emmy for Best Documentary. The interviews with Michael Jordan that enrich the narrative have become memes on social media, catchphrases to be released beyond the confines of basketball and the legend of the Bulls. Moments of the show, such as Dennis Rodman’s Las Vegas vacation in the middle of 1997-98, have become popular culture pieces.

the critics

Nevertheless The Last Dance not everyone liked it. Starting with MJ’s mates at the Bulls. The first to let off steam was Horace Grant, Chicago column of the first threepeat: “Lies, lies and more lies – he said -: if Jordan has felt a grudge against me, we can resolve the matter as men. We can discuss this or find another way to make things right. But once again, in front of a camera, he began to repeat a lie ”. Scottie Pippen went down harder on it. In May 2020, MJ’s former shoulder had leaked that he was “furious” at the image that emerged from the series. Pippen vented that anger in Unguarded, an autobiography released in early November in the US in which Scottie tears up his ex-partner. “How dare he treat me and our teammates like that at the time, after all we did for him and his precious brand?” wrote Pippen. It’s still: “The Last Dance it glorifies him and does not value us. Does it tell you how selfish I would have been to postpone a transaction and ask for an exchange? If anything, being selfish is retiring at the very beginning of the rally when it is too late for the franchise to reorganize itself on the market ”. Borders that authorize us to rethink the documentary: is it really a hagiography of MJ and does he paint his companions in a negative way?

In our opinion

It is right to rethink The Last Dance. From a product point of view, it is one of the best documentaries ever seen. The success it had, in terms of critics and audiences, says it all. The narrative keeps viewers glued from the first to the last episode. The use of images shot by a crew that followed those Bulls throughout the season, never seen before, gave an incredible added value. The jumps back and forth in the narrative are spectacular and increase the desire to know how it ends. The interviews are a sensational plus, especially those with Jordan. Who is the main protagonist, who had the power of veto on the documentary and who for obvious reasons comes out glorified. Not that he needed it. Jordan is practically recognized as the best basketball player of all time, a phenomenon that has marked a before and after, not only on the court but also off. From a sporting point of view, however, The Last Dance it must not be taken as a faithful chronicle of events: of course, it is difficult to change who has won a title or a playoff series, but it takes very little to give a truth a different light, to change the way a character is painted. Take for example Jerry Krause, the GM of those Bulls: in the series he is portrayed as the villain, the one responsible for the demolition of that incredible team, almost incompetent. Krause, who died in 2017 at the age of 77, was actually far from it: it is no coincidence that he is a hall of famer who was at the helm of the Bulls from 1985 to 2003. It is the most sensational example, but there are others. which lead to say that from the point of view of sports storytelling, The Last Dance has some shade. Those that led Pippen to let off steam in a book destined, also in the long wave of the success of that documentary, to become a best seller. For those who have not lived that epic for personal reasons, it is easy to get lost in the narration of The Last Dance, to think that what emerges from this incredible documentary is a faithful reconstruction of events. We must not forget that it is a television product, which tends to embellish some things and dramatize others. Even when he tells the career and life of the best basketball player ever.

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Jordan, Pippen’s allegations and … why it’s right to rethink The Last Dance