After five weeks of championships, cliffhangers that we already knew the results of yet made eager to find out again, and unforgettable flashbacks down basketball memory lane, we are left wishing there was more story to be told in The Last Dance.
Michael Jordan and the 1990s Chicago Bulls gave us front row seats to their memorable championship run in their final season as a championship contender in 1997 - 1998. The Last Dance documentary allowed us to take a look at what it takes to be champion and how much work it takes behind the scenes. Whether you were a devoted Bulls or basketball fan in the 90's, or missed out watching him live and stuck with watching Jordan highlights, The Last Dance taught us all endless lessons about what it takes to fulfill one's true potential as a basketball player, both on and off the court.
Practice does not make Perfect - Perfect practice makes Perfect.
We all knew how dominant of a player Jordan was on the court in games, but what truly made him one of the best to play the game was his tenacity and will-to-win during practice. It didn't matter if it was a game of cards, a two-on-two drill in practice, or a deciding Game 6 in the Finals, Jordan always wanted to hold the number one spot.
The Bulls’ practices were competitive, with Jordan’s passion for constant improvement rubbing off on his teammates. It taught us that if you want to be the best at what you do, you need to treat practice like it’s the last time you’ll ever do what you love.
Talent wins games, but Teamwork and Intelligence win Championships.
Jordan and the Bulls are best known for their dominance in the 90s. The documentary allowed us to take a look at the struggles Jordan and the Bulls went through during his early years with the organization.
Jordan showed his greatness from the moment he entered the league, but he needed a complete team around him to show his true greatness. The added talent, Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, and Dennis Rodman, to name a few, and a Hall of Fame coach like Phil Jackson gave Jordan just what he needed to take the Bulls to unprecedented heights.
He needed to experience failure to reach success - and success came for Jordan and the Bulls with six titles in an eight-year run.
Mental Toughness is the Key to Success
As we saw throughout The Last Dance, Jordan is easily motivated by actions made by his opponents. Whether it be an act of showboating when they had the Bulls on the ropes or a talking point from the media about how there may be someone ready to take over Jordan’s throne, Jordan didn’t need much to give him that extra boost in big-time moments.
We all have our routine when we're on the court, but as an athlete, you must stay focused, and as we say, staying "mentally tough" is crucial to seeing success both on and off the court. Developing self-confidence has to do with maintaining a positive mental game and attitude that keeps athletes 100% focused, regardless of whether they fail.
In The Last Dance, a former teammate mentioned that Michael Jordan didn't allow what he couldn't control to get inside his head. He would say, "why would I think about a shot that I haven't taken yet." With a mentality like that, how can you not be successful?
Know your Role - Play your Role
Everyone has a different role on a team, and in order for that team to be successful, each individual needs to focus on their part and play it to their best ability. Not everyone gets to take the last shot with a championship on the line; there’s only one ball for five individuals on the court, so it’s crucial to figure out how you can help the team win by perfecting your role.
We saw this in The Last Dance from players like Dennis Rodman, who became one of the best rebounders in the league because it helped his team dominate on both ends of the floor. Steve Kerr also played his role perfectly, as he focused on the few shots he got a game and capitalized on them when it was winning time. While we all wish to be the number-one option on the best team, it is more gratifying to help that team reach the mountain-top by succeeding in your role and winning as a team.
Learn to Adapt in the Biggest Moments
You might get hit with what seems like an insurmountable challenge in the worst moments, but it is crucial to take a second to analyze the situation and figure out how you will get through it on top. The Bulls had obstacles to overcome when it mattered most, but they found a way to work as a team and come through as champions time-and-time again.
Some obstacles the bulls faced were Jordan suffering from flu-like symptoms (which turned out to be a result of some bad pizza) in Game 5 of the Finals in 1998, and Scottie Pippen missing the beginning of The Last Dance season. Let's not forget that Pippen suffered back pains in Game 6 of the 1998 Finals, and yet, the Bulls still found a way to adapt to the situation and figured out a way to overcome the challenge.
We are all going to miss waiting for the clock to hit 9:00 PM (EST) on Sunday nights, but the lessons The Last Dance provided its viewers will help us become better basketball players on the court, and people off of it.