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Column: ‘The Last Dance’ aims to tell Michael Jordan’s story to a new generation

The story of Michael Jordan and the 1990s Chicago Bulls is one of the most unique and legendary stories in the history of sports. 

We all know the Jumpman logo, Jordan basketball shoes, the tongue hanging out when driving toward the basket and his extremely competitive nature. But does it carry over to the modern-day Bulls organization?

The story of Air Jordan and the Bulls dynasty is only getting older, and those who tell the story are as well. The ESPN Films documentary “The Last Dance,” tells the story of the 1997-1998 Bulls’ season, Jordan’s final season with the team. It also documents Jordan’s rise to the face of a directionless franchise with an apathetic fanbase in 1984 to a global brand that won six NBA championships by 1998.

Our elder relatives can recall the Bulls’ heyday as a franchise when they were a model for organizational success. Those days are long gone, with the team failing to reach the same level of success since. Younger generations know the Bulls as a poorly-run organization that have remained frozen in time for the past 20 years–besides a few successful ones in the early 2010s. 

Chicago has always been a football town, with the Cubs in a close second. There was a point at which the Bulls were nipping at both of their heels. During the 1990s, you could have argued Chicago was a Bulls town. They were the greatest show in all of sports at the time, compared to the then-mediocre Bears and Cubs.

Three decades later, fans and outside observers have stopped being complacent with 1990s nostalgia and are starting to see the organization for what it is in the present: a dysfunctional, poorly run franchise that clings to the success of the past. The result is the decreasing attendance with a lackluster on-court product and a fanbase that is increasingly losing interest. After leading the league in attendance every year from 2010-2018, the team ranked 11th this season. If you were to say that Chicago is a Bulls town in 2020, you would probably be laughed out of the room.

It is no joke that the Bulls have become a shell of their former selves. Up until the recent hiring of Arturas Karnisovas as the team’s Executive VP of Basketball Operations, the team was a laughingstock of the NBA with a culture built on deception and survival. The hiring of Karnisovas could be considered a first step toward rebuilding a directionless franchise, but what publicity could the docu-series bring toward the organization?

Ideally, this should be considered a springboard into a new era of Bulls basketball. This documentary can be used to remind Bulls fans about what they were when they were the most popular team in sports. It can also be used as a structure for the new front office to build a team that can return to relevance.

“The Last Dance” is proving that the truth is bigger than the legend. The documentary gives the Bulls an opportunity to celebrate the history that they made while rebuilding their reputation within the league.

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