ESPN documentary gives inside look at Michael Jordan’s career

Matthew Chaves, Sports Editor

ESPN has aired six episodes of “The Last Dance,” a 10-part documentary series about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls teams of the 1990s. The documentary follows the story of Michael Jordan from his rookie year in the league to his second retirement from basketball in 1998, as well as showing the trials and tribulations that plagued the Bulls’ championship teams from 1991-1993 and 1995-1998.

One thing that becomes obvious early on in the series is that Jordan was the best player in the NBA by his second year in the league. As a rookie, Jordan developed his skills quickly and had no issue adjusting to the league, calling the transition from college basketball to the NBA “pretty easy.” Jordan led a struggling Bulls franchise back into the playoffs in his sophomore season and earned a reputation as being virtually un-guardable.

Outside of basketball, the series shows the egos that were at play in the Bulls’ front office. During their title run in 1997, former Bulls’ general manager Jerry Krause made it clear to his team and his staff that this would be the final title run for the current Bulls squad. He was eager to get rid of hall of fame coach Phil Jackson, who had led the team to five titles in the 90s alone. This was frowned upon by the Bulls players, particularly Jordan, who claimed that he would not play for any other coach besides Jackson.

Krause’s actions caused a rift between Bulls’ star forward Scottie Pippen and the team’s management, as Pippen demanded a trade halfway through the 1997 season after sitting out most of the season with an injury. Pippen was integral to the Bulls, as he was the perfect complimentary player next to Jordan. His hustle, defense and selflessness led the way for the rest of the team.

The documentary also shows Jordan during his college years at the University of North Carolina and showcases his rapid development as a basketball player. NBA legend James Worthy, who was a part of Jordan’s UNC team, said that when Jordan got to college, he became the best player on the team in a matter of two weeks. After Jordan nailed a championship-winning jump shot in the national title game against Georgetown, he stated, “That was the day I went from ‘Mike’ to ‘Michael Jordan.’”

Off the court, Jordan was flooded with sponsorship offers from many companies, such as McDonald’s, Gatorade and almost every company that produced basketball shoes. Everybody wanted to sponsor Jordan, and soon he became one of the most recognizable faces on earth. After landing a shoe deal with Nike, the company soon produced Jordan’s first signature shoe. The shoe shattered the expectations that Nike had for sales, selling over $100 million worth of Air Jordan sneakers in the first year. The influence of his shoe took over pop and urban culture, bringing Jordan’s legacy to even larger heights.

“The Last Dance” does an excellent job of showcasing the success and struggles of the Bulls franchise during Jordan’s legendary career. The series continues Sunday nights at 9 p.m. on ESPN and ESPN2, with two episodes airing each time.