How Can We Learn From Michael Jordan in “The Last Dance”?
I believe many of us are already attached hook, line and sinker to the astonishing whirlwind of a masterpiece that is Michael Jordan’s docuseries — The Last Dance. My level of admiration for, who is arguably the biggest mastermind of the Chicago Bulls’ 2 times back-to-back-to-back championship runs, Phil Jackson skyrocketed when he coined the final championship run as The Last Dance. A couple of things were happening. It was Phil Jackson’s last year as the head coach of the Chicago Bulls. Michael Jordan only wanted to play with Phil Jackson as the head coach. Michael Jordan’s right hand man, Scottie Pippen’s contract was ending on that same year. Furthermore, the main players on the team were gradually slipping off their prime. Nevertheless, the game is still on. Only this time, it was induced with nostalgia from the start keeping in mind that with each game played and won, it was also one less game to dance to. If you’re familiar with V for Vendetta, you would agree with me that the Last Dance, the phrase and the TV series, is equivalent to V dancing with his blades and enemies under his favourite musical tune. Alternatively, it can be compared to Berlin’s death in Money Heist; beautiful and tragic both at the same time.
As the world comes to a screeching halt and rendered us all desperate for change, we can take a look at how Michael Jordan reinvented himself. Perhaps, his example of change is the catalysis that we need.
I believe progress comes in twofold: incremental and exponential. It goes the same for consistency and intensity. We’ve all witnessed throughout MJ’s legendary career that he has always been moving faster, jumping higher and shooting more accurate than previous years. These consistent incremental changes were instrumental to his success, but there were critical points when he had to take a leap of faith. The 1st critical point would be building muscle mass to take on the Bad Boy Pistons. Not only is there a change of emphasis in his training routine, it is also imperative to bear in mind that building muscle mass also means it may affect his speed, shooting form and style of play. In response to the Jordan Rules by the Bad Boy Pistons where they unleash unnecessary brash, flagrant-like contact on MJ whenever he had the ball, MJ had to go through a change to create a build that could take on Piston’s physical defence.
Dennis Rodman said it well, “Every time he go to the f — ing basket, put him on the ground. When he goes to the basket, he ain’t gonna dunk. We’re gonna hit you and you’re gonna be on the ground. We were trying to physically hurt Michael.”
The 2nd critical point would be accepting the Triangle Offence. On hindsight, it increased the intensity of the game tremendously and improved the team’s overall game play significantly. However, many things could have gone wrong with such an approach. The Triangle Offence requires the entire team to move in sync. If one man pillar falls, the other stumbles too. It should come off as no surprise that MJ wasn’t a fan of the Triangle Offence. Simply put, he trusted himself far more than his teammates. Before Phil Jackson, it was coach Doug Collins who brought a truckload of accolades to, not the team, but to MJ. In the final season of the Collins-Jordan partnership, Jordan’s single-year resume was: a scoring title, league MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, Slam Dunk title, and All-Star game MVP award. No wonder MJ bestowed an affectionate kiss on Collins’ cheek during a national television segment. Collins’ philosophy was simple, “Give Michael the ball and get the f- out of the way.” Phil Jackson appeared next and said things like, “Pass the ball to Paxton.” Guess what, MJ’s trust in his teammates led the team to clinch Game 5 win over the Lakers in the 1991 NBA finals.
The Triangle Offence effectively took away Jordan’s role as the primary ball-handler and in turn opened up a drive and cut system that allowed the free flow of offense by any players. Instead of teammates standing around and watching MJ engage in one-on-one isolation possessions, the system ensured that a player would always be in motion without the ball which creates more opportunity for scoring.
Our quarantine from the pandemic should not lead to us experiencing another of those moment when, absent of any external momentum, we simply let our life coast to a complete stop. Sure enough, there will be instances when we embrace the inessential half of humanity where we bank our time being a masterful couch potato, only to contend with more boredom and loneliness. On the bright side, the lack of structure and incentive imposed situation allows us to arrange our days the way we want it to be. As we wake up in the mornings and hesitate on the hazardous moment of uncertainty of the purpose and meaning of our life, let’s ask ourselves a very simple question — “What do I want?”
Michael Jordan wanted to win championships, which is why he did what he did.
I believe we’re all old (and hopefully matured) enough to understand by now that these episodes are cyclic. There will be an old end and a new start. Every crisis, be it a war, plague or recession, will eventually blow over. It sounds foolish to wait till the pandemic has run its course, the civilization been restored and the economy has recovered then we commence on the operation to improve ourselves. The change that we truly need to embrace is not the difference in the external environment, but coming to terms with how steadfast we are in reaching what we want. The world may have paused for a little while, but we will find within ourselves some incentive to resume and carry on learning and furthering our progress. Let’s be honest. Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant probably had a bit of rest here and there in between seasons. However, I believe how they set themselves apart from the others is that they are willing to work more, especially when others are resting.