The Last Dance is one of the most intimate documentaries ever released. Director Jason Hehir, who most will remember gained notoriety for his work on HBO’s Andre The Giant documentary, has managed to give fans an unfiltered look at the last title run for the Chicago Bulls. What’s compelling about Hehir’s subject matter isn’t the subject matter but how he manages to bring out the flaws and idiosyncrasies which made each member of this team unique. Anyone who is expecting to see a polished version of Jordan, Pippen, or even Phil Jackson would be better off avoiding this documentary altogether. The Last Dance is one of those rare documentaries which gives audiences a truly authentic experience allowing each of us to make their judgments.
One thing which initially struck me was how Jordan came across. One would think that with all of his accomplishments that the greatest player of all time would enjoy reminiscing about his sixth championship run. What we saw was a man who seems lost without the game of basketball and bitter about many moments in his career. If something wasn’t done “his” way, Jordan certainly has something to say about it during this series. Perhaps, that stems from being so driven at an early age, but the picture this series paints is less than flattering.
Fans will undoubtedly enjoy the more intimate moments from Jordan’s college days. Jordan’s mother shares a letter Michael wrote to her during the first episode, which will have everyone in stitches. The film takes a deep dive into how driven he was while playing at Chapel Hill. Hehir masterfully weaves in footage of the late Coach Dean Smith mixed with clips of his discussion with current Tar Heel coach Roy Williams which provided early insight into his growth as a player and a young man. While Jordan was the focal point of those Chicago Bull championship teams, The Last Dance dedicates equal time to many of his teammates, coaches, and Bulls executives.
Scottie Pippen seems to look back on his time with Chicago through a scornful lense. He comes across as someone who feels underappreciated for the role he played in their six title wins. The documentary does get into why Pippen signed such a lengthy contract at the beginning of his career and how that decision morphed into a deep hatred of General Manager Jerry Krause. While Jordan seems to despise him for ending what could have been an even longer championship run, Pippen loathed him for paying him what he perceived as pennies on the dollar. Does that make Pippen a terrible person? The Hall of Famer also gets into how that hatred impacted the decision to delay getting surgery on his ruptured tendon right before the 97-98 championship season. Hehir indeed allows many of the Bulls team members and coaches to paint Krause as the villain but, for some reason, allows owner Jerry Reinsdorf to escape blame for the eventual dismantling of the club.
Overall, whether you are an NBA fan or even a casual fan of Jordan’s, they don’t get much better than Hehir’s deep dive into one of the greatest teams ever assembled.