The Last Dance is a 10-part documentary series co-produced by ESPN Films and Netflix. Have you watched it? If not yet, I think you are missing a lot. It is a binge-worthy show that I did not want it to end. Here are the 8 lessons I learned from The Last Dance.
Growing up with two older brothers who play and love basketball, I would hear from them the names of basketball players of either local or international professional leagues, one of which was “Michael Jordan”. I didn’t know and care much about him until I had the chance to watch his games and understand the technicalities of the sport.
I am not a hardcore fan, I only watch, appreciate and understand the rules of the sport, and know that there are other players who are beasts on the basketball court, but Michael Jordan has always been my GOAT. So, I was ecstatic when I learned that a story about how the Chicago Bulls became a dynasty is available on Netflix.
You don’t need to be a basketball fan, or Chicago Bull’s or Michael Jordan’s buff for that matter, to watch it. This 10-part miniseries is packed with great lessons that can be applied to the professional and personal lives of both fans and non-fans alike. I only picked some of these lessons, so without further ado, here are the 8 lessons I learned from The Last Dance:
1. WIN HUMBLY, LOSE GRACIOUSLY
In the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals, Detroit Pistons lost to Chicago Bulls and they left the court without shaking hands with the Bulls. This irked Michael Jordan, he took it personally and he hasn’t forgotten it ever since. He said:
“All you have to do is go back to us losing in Game 7. I shook everybody’s hands,” Jordan said. “Two years in a row, we shook their hands when they beat us. There was a certain respect for the game that we paid to them. That’s sportsmanship, no matter how much it hurts. Believe me, it hurt.”
I figured that Michael is a human being after all—hurting and sensitive.
One of the harshest truths about life is we cannot always win. There are days when we are better than anyone else and there are days that someone does it better than we do. The true measure of our characters is how we handle defeats and failures. The first of 8 lessons I learned from The Last Dance is whether we are as great as Michael Jordan or as ordinary as we can be, in life we will win some, we will lose some. It is as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, but the most important thing is we know how to celebrate our wins humbly and accept our losses graciously.
2. FIGHT NO BATTLE UNPREPARED
After losing to the Detroit Pistons in the playoffs for the third time, Michael Jordan decided to add pounds of muscle to handle the physical abuse he was getting from Pistons. He said:
“I was getting brutally beaten up,” Jordan said. “And I wanted to administer pain. I wanted to start fighting back.”
In 1991, Chicago Bulls has finally got past the Pistons and won their first championship.
For me, the message is simple and clear: Never go to a battle unprepared and no two wars are exactly the same. So, in every war, we have to plan, strategize, and, most importantly, evolve into a better version of ourselves.
3. BE FULLY PRESENT
One of the quotes that really struck me was from Mark Vancil, the author of Rare Air. He said:
“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.“
We have neither control over what already happened nor the things that have not happened yet but how many times did we mourn for the past and worry about the future? Innumerable. This is one of the traits that I hope I can get from Michael Jordan.
4. FIND THAT SOMEONE WHO WILL COMPLEMENT YOU
Michael Jordan believes that Scottie Pippen complemented him best. He said:
“I didn’t win without Scottie Pippen, and that’s why I consider him my best teammate of all time. He helped me so much in the way I approached the game, in the way I played the game. Whenever they speak Michael Jordan, they should speak Scottie Pippen.”
Every great NBA player is complemented by another great player: Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird and Kevin McHale, and Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.
They said that the duo of Pippen and Jordan was like the equivalent of forming into Voltron because it sure was going to take every fiber of your being to destroy them.
How great it is if we also find that someone, not necessarily a girlfriend or boyfriend, or husband or wife, that will complement us, like a partner in a field that we do best?
5. LEAD BY EXAMPLE
Michael Jordan did not tolerate ineffectiveness and weaknesses. He was very competitive and he always wanted to win at all costs. In fact, he was known for name-calling, trash-talking, and belittling his teammates. It was his form of motivating his teammates to become better, albeit dire. But as much of a bully and tyrant as he seemed to be, there was no denying that his leadership strategies took his team to a notch higher or two. Michael Jordan explained:
“You ask all my teammates, the one thing about Michael Jordan was he never asked me to do something that he didn’t [expletive] do. When people see this, they’re going to say ‘Well, he wasn’t really a nice guy, he may have been a tyrant,'” Jordan said. “Well that’s you, because you never won anything. I wanted to win, but I wanted them to win and be a part of that as well.”
If we are leaders by example, we create a picture of endless possibilities. People can look at us and confidently say, “Well, if he can do it, I can do it, too.” I am not saying that you cuss and put your team down. That strategy might have worked for Jordan’s Chicago Bulls, but might not work for your team. All I am saying is, you don’t ask anything from your team that you, yourself, cannot give.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 11, 2020
6. HARD WORK ALWAYS PAYS OFF
The docuseries show how Michael Jordan worked his arse off to become what he is now. It showed how he maintained his strong desire to learn, to soak up new information, and to become a better player. It was amaaaazing to see how his tireless work ethic and hunger would always fuel him to win. One of the most memorable things he said was:
“I don’t do things half-heartedly. Because I know if I do, then I can expect half-hearted results.”
Sometimes, our years and years of hard work may seem futile. When I am on the brink of giving up, I will always remember that even Michael Jordan, who is widely considered as one of the greatest athletes of all time, also needed to work harder each day because he understands that greatness and success do not happen overnight.
7. WE ARE WHAT WE ARE DESTINED TO BECOME
One most poignant of 8 lessons I learned from The Last Dance was when Michael decided to retire for the first time after a three-peat with Chicago Bulls and the death of his father. He decided to pursue a childhood dream, a dream that both he and his dad shared an appreciation for—baseball.
“I’m doing something that I choose to do,” Jordan said in a 1994 press conference, “and that’s to follow one of the dreams I had as a kid.”
I don’t know much about baseball but if there is one thing that I am certain of is his baseball performance was forgettable. He was not as good as when he was playing basketball because I believe he was not destined for baseball. His DNA and his whole being were fated to be great in basketball.
Like him, we are also destined for greatness, not necessarily for playing any sports. Maybe we are called to become great leaders, speakers, scientists, writers, singers, teachers, or to be great at anything we love to do. It is not about what our parents dreamt for us, it is all about what we are destined to become.
8. ALL WE NEED IS ONE LITTLE MATCH TO START A WHOLE FIRE
Just before the last episode concluded, Michael Jordan said one of the most important and profound 8 lessons I learned from The Last Dance:
“We went from a shitty team to one of the best all-time dynasties. All we needed was one little match to start that whole fire.”
We may be keeping that one match to ourselves—passion, dreams, yearning—just waiting to be lit. This little match will help us to overcome adversities, to illuminate what we can offer to the world, and to set ourselves off to the greatness that we are meant to become.
The Chicago Bulls grew from being a nobody on the basketball court to being one of the best, if not the greatest, NBA teams that America and the rest of the world have, and possibly, will ever know. It all started with a man’s hunger to turn Bulls into a respected and successful organization—a tiny spark that ignited a vast, unfathomable fire that is still celebrated and remembered after 22 years and for the decades to come.
The Last Dance is more than a story of Chicago Bull’s and Michael Jordan’s Swan Song, it is rather a gift to humanity and a lift for people whose lights are already flickering. This is a testament that with hard work, patience, courage, persistence, and God’s grace, one day, you and I, too, will arrive.
Needless to say, The Last Dance will go down in history as one of the best stories of dreaming, hoping, failing, trying again, and, eventually, winning, and winning, and winning, and winning, and winning, and winning.
So, let’s go back to working on our dreams, shall we?
What time is it? — Game time!