The Last Dance is a ten part episodic documentary that details Michael Jordan and his NBA career spanning multiple accolades and the two three-peats he accomplished. I felt it was very compelling as a documentary, as a learning piece, and had many great takeaways from the series. Here are my short thoughts on the pivotal moments.
When MJ was in high school he did not make the team as a sophmore.
“When I got home I told my mother I was cut. I was demoralized I didn’t want to play any more sports. Felt like the coach didn’t like me.”
“My words to him was if you really want it, you work hard over the summer. And he did that summer. He focused. He would practice all day. That basketball never left his hand”
“If you want to bring out the best in Michael tell him he can’t do something. Or he can’t do it as good as someone else. I think that he takes it as a personal challenge just to go out and prove you wrong.”
Michael was not a standout athlete in early on in high school. The coach does attribute his difference in playing ability to his height, but his work ethic shined in what made the difference in his play.
Michael Jordan on his sibling rivalry
“I want that appoval. I want that type of confidence. So my determination got even greater to be as good if not better than my brother.”
He was incredibly competitive. He needed to prove to others that he was as good if not better than his brother. You can view that as crazy or motivated.
Jordan versus the blazers.
“Clyde was a threat. I’m not saying he wasn’t a threat. But me being compared to him. I took offense to that.”
Jordan proceeds to hit 6 threes and just shrugs in the face of his opponents. He scored 35 points in the first half. There was nothing they could do. This iconic photo of him shrugging:
Jordan and his Atlantic City trip
“I think he was disgusted with what happened and Michael had to respond. And so he did”
- Phil Jackson
The Bulls are down 0-2 to the Knicks. Michael Jordan is being chastised by the media for his trip to Atlantic City. No team in NBA history has come back from being down 3-0. No team in NBA history at that point had come back from being down 3-1. They NEEDED this.
“Michael could make things up to motivate himself. He didn’t need to make anything up this time. This was real. This was the media scolding him. So he said I’ll show you. And he did.”
He ties it 2-2. Then they win in 6. He showed up in that moment when they needed im the most.
“After the season, usually there’s a time period where Michael takes some time off. The night they lost to Orlando, I said, “Michael, you know, I’m about to get out of here. Let me know when you want me to see you.”
“He says ‘I’ll see you tomorrow’”
“Michael had an obligation to himself, the fans, his teammates, the organization, his family, everybody. He said, if you’re gonna sit down and take 3 hours out of your day to watch me on TV, I have an obligation… to give you my best. To give you my best… all the time.”
It isn’t enough to put in work during the season you need to work in the offseason. In his case even someone as amazing as Michael Jordan couldn’t help them beat Orlando that year. He had played baseball for 21 months and was not in basketball shape.
He felt the failure of letting his team down. He was determined that it wouldn’t happen again.
“Most people struggle to be present. People go and sit in ashrams for 20 years in India, trying to be present. They do yoga, meditate… trying to get here, now. Most people live in fear because we project the past into the future. Michael’s a mystic. He was never anywhere else. His gift was not that he could jump high, run fast, shoot a basketball. His gift was that he was completely present, and that was the separator.”
“A big downfall for other players who are otherwise gifted is thinking about failure. Michael didn’t allow what he couldn’t control to get inside his head. He would say, ‘why would I think about missing a shot I haven’t taken yet?’”
Michael was present. Outworldly present in the moment. He didn’t think of future failure. He used previous failure to motivate him. To learn from his mistakes.