Few things grab the attention of 6.1 million viewers in today’s world, but as we learned the night of April 19th, one individual and team can do just that with a story from over 20 years ago: Michael Jordan and the 1990s Chicago Bulls.
The Last Dance, a 10 part, 10 hour documentary about the 1997-1998 Chicago Bulls season premiered on April 19th, giving the basketball world a reason to come together for the first time since the suspension of league play. Whether you were Michael Jordan’s biggest supporter during the 1990s, a diehard Utah Jazz fan watching Jordan and the Bulls end any hope of an NBA Title, or a LeBron James supporter fighting with critics about why you think LeBron is the GOAT, we all had a reason to tune in for a ride down memory lane (and for some of us, a first look at what it was like to fly through the air).
Modern-day NBA fans were not the only ones glued to ESPN watching the first two episodes of The Last Dance. It’s fair to say the 450 NBPA union members also couldn’t resist watching a team and player that inspired them to work day-in and day-out towards reaching their dreams too: to play on the same stage as the champions on their screen. Their reactions to the beginning of the documentary on their social media platforms included both support of witnessing the six-time champion Chicago Bulls, and a spirited debate about how current stars in the league would play during the reign of Jordan.
NBA All-Star Damian Lillard chimed in to support Jordan and all of his greatness that was shown in episode one and two.
Lillard is one for the on-court theatrics himself, having two series ending buzzer-beaters already on his resume. However, seeing someone like Michael Jordan dominate the greats of the game at such a young age stood out to not only the fans in the stands, but his fans who share the same knack for big shots in big moments too.
A famous story that many basketball players who struggled in their early years know is that Michael Jordan, who some consider the greatest player to ever play the game of basketball, did not make the varsity basketball team in high school as a sophomore. Yeah, you read that right - Michael Jeffrey Jordan didn’t make the varsity basketball team as a sophomore. However, that didn’t slow Jordan down, as he worked hard during his sophomore year and the summer into his junior year, coming back a better player and making the varsity roster as a junior. Mohamed Bamba, Center for the Orlando Magic, decided to chime in on what he thought of the now questionable decision to leave Michael Jordan off of the team.
Maybe Jordan needed that extra motivation to push himself over the top and help him become the historic player he was. Motivation is what fuels all athletes to become the best version of themselves both on and off the court, and sometimes players use the success of others to motivate them to become even better.
A player in today’s league that has been compared to the star of The Last Dance, Michael Jordan, is LeBron James. James has been the face of the league since he stepped foot on the Sacramento Kings' court back in 2003, and he hasn’t looked back during his ongoing 17-year career.
Some fans, and even players, are so involved in the GOAT debate, that they are using the documentary as a platform to spark the debate on a bigger stage. Mikal Bridges, a second-year player for the Phoenix Suns, seems to be taking LeBron’s side in the GOAT argument, with his opinion on how the Lakers forward would’ve performed during the era Jordan was playing in.
The debate for who is the greatest basketball player of all time will forever be an unanswerable and lively discussion, but we know one thing for sure: both Michael Jordan and LeBron James have the resumes to enter the discussion.
The story of The Last Dance, however, is not only about the 6’6” guard out of North Carolina; instead, the focus is on the cast of champions around Jordan that helped him deliver all six championships to the Chicago franchise. One individual in particular who more than helped Jordan was Scottie Pippen.
Pippen was the centerpiece of episode two, mainly focused around his controversial contract extension. For such a historic player, Pippen was severely underpaid throughout his Bulls tenure, and the current players around the league took notice of it.
Pippen is best known as one of the greatest defenders the game has ever seen, but in reality, he should be best known as being one of the best players to step foot on the court. CJ McCollum stands on Pippen’s side, proclaiming his belief that the Bulls’ “point-forward” at the time deserved a bigger payday. Tristen Thompson, who played with a different all-time great in LeBron James, was seen on social media giving praise to the player who paved the way for his former teammate to become the league’s greatest “point-forward.”
Want to find out more about what NBPA members think about The Last Dance? Take a look at some other Last Dance recaps in the NBPA Grassroots Blog!