REVIEW: In ‘The Last Dance’ final episodes, ‘it’s all about basketball’

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Courtesy of IMDB

The final two episodes of “The Last Dance” come crashing in like a bat out of hell, only this time, it’s all about basketball.

For weeks, the series gave us insight into the inner-turmoil of the Bulls’ final season together – the in-fighting, the clashing of personalities and all. The entire series has been astounding, but “The Last Dance” reached it apex in episodes nine and ten. 

We witness iconic moments recontextualized, like the famous “flu game.” While it has been established for years that Jordan’s symptoms were mostly likely due to food poisoning, we get a deliciously duplicitous bit of backstory from Tim Grover, Jordan’s longtime personal trainer. 

His account of the incident includes a group of three to five pizza delivery guys standing outside their hotel room. He claims the situation felt strange, which prompts the question in the back of viewers minds: “was the pizza poisoned?” 

It is little moments like these that give “The Last Dance” an edge over most sports documentaries. The filmmakers don’t make assertions, they let the subjects speak freely. Moments that seem fleeting as words are being uttered, but slip into public consciousness and spark debate among everyone from TV talking heads to the average basketball fan. 

But this also presents several issues from a documentary standpoint. Jordan needed to concede and give full approval to the filmmakers for every potential storyline. Are we as the audience getting a wholly objective viewpoint? Does it matter whether we are or not?

Jordan has been accused of stretching the truth more than a few things over the course of the series. The potential poisoning of the pizza, his role in keeping Isiah Thomas off the 1992 Dream Team, and maybe even his “issues” with gambling. We need to then consider truth versus perspective. 

It’s possible that Jordan believes what he is saying is the truth – perhaps it is the truth. Regardless of that, it’s also about the inclusion of various other perspectives, which to me, the series accomplishes rather beautifully. Part of the allure of Jordan is trying to decipher the history from the mythology. 

Obviously the two episodes aren’t entirely basketball footage, yet the game play is finally at the forefront. We’ve seen these games before, but the series reinvigorates the legend of Jordan, as if people could ever forget his power and charisma. 

The time-jumping narrative finally converges in the final episode, which depicts the entire series between the Bulls and the Jazz in the 1998 Finals. 

The final episode of The Last Dance feels like an episode of “Game of Thrones” or “Breaking Bad”: high-stakes television, imbued with energy and edited with furious intensity. It was hard for me to contain my joy while watching the game footage. 

The use of music was perfect (in particular, the use of Fatboy Slim’s “Right Here, Right Now,” a classic party song) and the way everything culminated through filmmaking can only be described as perfectly imperfect – just like Jordan. 

This series has been a journey, a comprehensive, in-depth character study. Jordan’s life always felt like a storybook, and the end result of this masterful vehicle through which to tell his story is oh, so satisfying. The world has finally been given a carefully cultivated piece of pop iconography that will keep Jordan’s legacy alive in our hearts forever. 

Jordan and the Bulls created a revolution that will never be duplicated in sports, no matter how great the next player or team may have been. Whether it was Kobe and the Lakers, Steph Curry and the Warriors or even LeBron, no single player will ever accomplish what Jordan did. Not only in terms of championships, but of cultural influence and widespread adoration. His Airness was one of kind, and this series encapsulated it beautifully.

But, like all good things, it must come to an end. With sports still gone and the pandemic surging, “The Last Dance” has been a refuge for many of us. It’s been a comfy blanket to keep us warm and the protective armor from the realities facing us at our doorsteps. 

There will be other sports documentaries, but this one felt different, it felt special. It entertained us, it broke us, forced us to reevaluate our pasts and reconsider our futures. It was the series we needed. This story did more than just keep us from boredom – it allowed us to come together, put aside our collective gripes and forget out the outside world for two hours a night. 

For a brief window of time, we were allowed to indulge in the spoils of one man’s incredible life story. Carefully assembled and calculated, yet raw and revealing, “The Last Dance” -– like the legend it’s retelling – will be remembered for what it meant to us in this unfortunate time in our lives. Jordan is the only man I can think of to shine a light of hope for us when the world seems at its darkest.