Reflections on The Last Dance

Last Sunday the 10-part ESPN series focusing on the Chicago Bulls’ 97-98 championship run ended and what an ending it was! For the last five Sunday nights, millions of people around the world tuned in to witness the greatness of Michael Jordan, and the greatness of Chicago. For those of us from Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, the Bulls dynasty run was a time out of time. For six springs we were part of a seismic global shift. Michael Jordan changed the cultural landscape. For six springs, to quote a famous Chicago hip-hop artist, no one could tell us nothing! As a young basketball fan coming of age during the ‘90s, my identity was very much tied to this team. They drove me to want to accomplish great feats. Watching The Last Dance brought back those familiar feelings of pride, joy, excitement, anticipation.

What made The Last Dance so captivating was the filmmaker’s ability to connect several timelines to the ’97-’98 season. Roland Lazenby’s Michael Jordan: The Life (ebook, eaudiobook) details the Jordan family history, particularly his relationship with his father James to explain Jordan’s insatiable drive and appetite to win at all costs. Another highlight of the series was the masterful use of music as a narration device. The series opened with the Bulls taking a trip to Paris for an exhibition game with “Been Around the World” by Puff Daddy and the Family’s 1997 album No Way Out playing in the background. Streams of The Alan Parson’s Project’s “Sirius,” the Bulls’ player introduction music have increased 335%.

“It’s Gotta Be The Shoes”

When the first Air Jordan sneaker was released in 1984, it started a new subculture, creating devotees known as “Sneakerheads.” Fans flocked to stores to purchase the shoes thought to give Jordan his ability to fly. The shoe’s popularity was further aided by the ban it received from the NBA because the distinct red-and-black colorway Jordan debuted (to match the red and black in the Bulls uniform) did not have enough white on them to meet the league’s uniform requirements. Nike used the ban to promote alternate colorway versions of the shoe, and the rest is, as they say, history. I can remember begging my mom to buy me a pair of Jordan 12’s, which was met with a quick and firm no. Eventually, I was able to convince her that I needed the shoes (I maintain to this day I needed those shoes!) for playing basketball. Today, Nike’s Jordan Brand is a billion-dollar industry due in large part to the desire of consumers to “be like Mike”, with resell value of some of the Air Jordan’s featured in the doc increasing among collectors.

Reflecting on The Last Dance in my Jordan 14sReflecting on The Last Dance in my Jordan 14’s

The Shot:

When Michael Jordan pulled up at the top of the key and drained “the shot” with seconds left on the game clock over a falling Bryon Russell, it marked the end of an era, a fitting conclusion to a career that changed the global landscape, culturally and in sports. What was so special about The Last Dance was the fact that for those two hours we weren’t thinking about Covid-19; we were caught up in the brilliance of Michael Jordan, just like we were during the ‘90s. Who else could have brought the world together the way The Last Dance did? The championship run ended, but we were left with the memories. What are some of your favorite memories of the Chicago Bulls and their championship run?

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