Culture Crash: The Athlete, The Legend: Michael Jordan


“…forced me to grapple with the idea that in addition to being a brand, a cultural phenomenon, the greatest basketball player to ever live and everything else that MJ came to be, he was also just a person. Despite all the players who have been dubbed the “next” Michael Jordan, there will only ever be the one. The Last Dance gives audiences the closest look at that man that we’ve ever gotten.”


Michael Jordan has been dominating conversations and debates for decades, but that noise has grown a little louder over the past several weeks as ESPN has been airing The Last Dance, a 10-part documentary about MJ’s final season on the Chicago Bulls, and the path the team took to becoming the six-time World Champion dynasty that it became.


Jason Hehir, the docuseries’ director, is not new to the sports documentary game, having previously directed three installments of the 30 for 30 series on ESPN, as well as a documentary on Andre the Giant for HBO. Hehir and his team opted to tell the entire story of the 90s Bulls through the lens of their final season together, which spanned from 1997-1998, and ultimately culminated in the team’s sixth championship, but they also smartly use extensive flashbacks to give all the necessary context. The series tackles MJ’s roots, the backgrounds of teammates Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman, the first five titles MJ and the Bulls won, Michael-mania, the birth of Air Jordan shoes and so much more, which really contextualizes the career of perhaps the most famous athlete to ever live.

One thing that struck me, a kid who was born in the 90s and grew up in the Chicagoland area, was the idea that Michael Jordan is a person. That may sound foolish, but the interviews with MJ featured throughout the series really forced me to grapple with the idea that in addition to being a brand, a cultural phenomenon, the greatest basketball player to ever live and everything else that MJ came to be, he was also just a person. Despite all the players who have been dubbed the “next” Michael Jordan, there will only ever be the one. The Last Dance gives audiences the closest look at that man that we’ve ever gotten.

The Last Dance is available to stream on the ESPN App.

I’m Evan Rook.