It’s a beautiful time to be a fan of Liverpool Football Club, a team standing on the precipice of its first-ever Premier League title. But backing the Reds comes with gut-rumbling anxiety. The coronavirus pandemic has suspended the season, postponing what felt like Liverpool’s clear run to victory. Even if the squad does return to see out the 2019-2020 season, their final result will come with a big, fat asterisk.
Here’s what I’m getting at: I know jack shit about basketball, but I’m pretty good at revisiting historic victories to duck out of the unknowable present. I crave the insane, ever-evolving human drama of professional sports. I also like red jerseys.
For these reasons, I reckon The Last Dance, the huge new documentary series cataloguing Michael Jordan‘s 1997-1998 season with the Chicago Bulls, came at just the right time.
The Last Dance, which debuted yesterday on ESPN and was fast-tracked to Netflix, showcases never-before-seen footage from the Bull’s tumultuous year, plus modern interviews with the team’s key personnel.
This includes Jordan, widely regarded as the best to ever do it, and a man whose hyper-competitive streak propels the show’s first two episodes. You don’t need to know basketball to understand what his presence means.
Helpfully, director Jason Hehir doesn’t take Jordan’s greatness, or the events of that season, as prior knowledge. Each success and setback has been contextualised within the grand personal battles within Jordan’s team, which is handy for someone who still doesn’t quite know what a triple-double is.
At one point, Jordan is described as the best person to ever do their job. Watching the guy charge through seasoned pros for bucket after bucket makes that case. It’s footage which doesn’t get old. If you actually like the sport, it’s probably worth your Netflix subscription alone.
It’s not exactly a spoiler to recap events which occurred more than 20 years ago, but I won’t do so here, short of saying The Last Dance underpins the Bull’s reliance, or over-reliance, on Jordan. I left the first batch of episodes struck by Jordan’s talent and, even in his modern interviews, his absurd compulsion to win at all costs.
Is basketball the sport for me? Look, probably not. But there’s something to be said for an dominant talent like Jordan permitting his story to unfold, alongside his NBA nemeses and the mortals he frequently dragged to victory.
I’ll catch the next episodes of The Last Dance as they drop. Beats staring at the wall waiting for Liverpool to play again, anyway.Image: John Swart / AP