Picture Courtesy: Honza Nedoma / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

I was 18 years when I first held a basketball in my hand. I was in my graduation years when I got a chance to learn the amazing sport. My friends Abhishek and Lakshman, who had previous exposure to the game, used to demonstrate superb skills. Then I invested some time in learning and understanding the game. Finally, when I graduated in 2003, I loved the sport and used to be a decent small forward who could shoot some 3 pointers. Since then, basketball has remained one of my favorite sports and obviously, I follow the NBA for getting my dose of adrenaline rush. 

So recently when Netflix announced the arrival of the series by the name “The Last Dance” featuring the journey of The Chicago Bulls in the 1990s, I was thrilled. Even though the content on the platform is amazing, I always have stayed away from Netflix due to the costs involved. But I did renew my membership to watch this docuseries. 

The Last Dance – Trailer

The 1990s Chicago Bulls team was always a favorite of mine because my friend (Lakshman) used to tell me stories of the partnership between MJ and Scottie Pippen. When you think of sportsmen, there are very few names that come running into your mind. Michael Jordan or MJ is one of them for me along with Muhammad Ali and Sachin Tendulkar. Michael Jordan, for me, was always a representation of what a sportsperson should be. The ethics, hard work, poise, and energy of a real sportsperson were demonstrated by him always (even during his baseball days).

So I watched the entire Season 1 of The Last Dance over last weekend. I was entertained, made to ponder, emotional, and excited during the entire series. If you haven’t watched the series, I highly recommend the same. 

So here are the 6 life lessons I picked up from Michael Jordan and The Last Dance throughout 10 episodes. 

Everyone Needs A Support System To Succeed

In every episode of The Last Dance, you can see MJ and The Chicago Bulls trying to beat the challenges, both internal and external. Whether it is facing Detroit Pistons for championships or the internal clashes with late GM Jerry Krause, MJ and the team supports each other to get through the same. So the first lesson from The Last Dance (for me) was everyone one of us needs a support system if we want to succeed. 

MJ had a pretty good one which propelled him to the success he had earned via hard work. MJ’s support system included his family especially his dad, his coaches, teammates, and even his fans. In the series, you can see the support he gets from his father, late Mr. James Raymond Jordan Sr. His dad was his ardent supporter and he used to attend almost every game MJ played. 

Another illustrated example of this support system was the combination of MJ and Scottie Pippen which worked like magic for the team. This combo was the driving force behind the team’s success and in the series, it is shown how the team struggles when this combo was unavailable. We cannot end the discussion of the support system for MJ without mentioning Mr. Gus Lett. He was part of MJ’s security team along with Mr. John Wozniak. The series shows how Gus was an important part of MJ’s life and career by his evolution into a father figure post his dad’s death.

Lesson: Every champion needs a strong support system to become successful and remain that way.

Your Mind Can Be Your Biggest Ally

Another biggest lesson for me from the series was the power of your mind. Every episode of this series reiterates the power of our mind and how we can harness the same. MJ was a champion of making the mind his biggest ally. He fell back on his mental strength to become the MVP across the 1990s seasons. He leveraged his mind to get over almost every challenge he faced in his playing career.

Some instances which highlight this lesson are:

  • MJ using construct scenarios in his mind to beat the best of his competitors like Horace Grant or Isiah Thomas or Karl Malone
  • MJ shutting the unnecessary distractions and performing like a champ on the court when things aren’t that great off the court
  • MJ leveraging his mind to get back to the top of the game after the hiatus from the game due to his foray into baseball 

There are innumerable instances in this 10 episode series where one can understand the power of the mind. 

Lesson: Make your mind your biggest ally to conquer your fears and conquer your quest.

Hard Work Always Pays

I know this is a given, but the amount of hard work and the dedication that has gone into the making of MJ and The Chicago Bulls makes it worth mentioning as a lesson. The Last Dance is probably the best series one can watch to realize that the real value of hard work. It shows that if you decide your goal and work hard with complete dedication and focus, you will achieve the same. 

The sole reason why the Chicago Bulls became 6-time champions between 1990 and 2000. Across the ten episodes, you will be able to see:

  • MJ putting in real hard work from his college days till his retirement
  • MJ working double hard to get his body back to basketball level after his baseball stint
  • The hard work Steve Kerr puts in to earn the respect of MJ and his teammates
  • The efforts put in by Dennis Rodman to stay focused on the court in midst of his antics off it
  • The hard work coach Phil Jackson puts in to develop his players to reach their next level

Lesson: Hard work is the only currency that always pays, irrespective of who you are and your profession

Teamwork Wins Almost Every Battle

One of the famous quotes of coach Phil Jackson says “The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” And this was the principle that made The Chicago Bulls team click in the 1990s. The Last Dance is a series that truly highlights the essence of teamwork.

Across the 10 episodes, you can see the camaraderie and connection between every member of the team. Be it the best combo of MJ-Pippen, the connection between MJ & Phil Jackson, the unspoken bond between MJ and Dennis Rodman, these are all excellent illustrations of teamwork. The team throughout the series show how they support each other even during moments of disconnect and discord. 

Lesson: Teamwork is the secret sauce behind every personal and professional accomplishment.

Care For The People Who Care 

Another important aspect of our lives which the series highlighted for me was the human connection and care. Respecting others and having empathy for others were the highlights of The Chicago Bulls team. There are several instances across the episodes where MJ’s care for his family, his friends, and his teammates is displayed. The entire team always cared for each other and backed one another whenever needed. 

Some of the best examples of care for each other were:

  • MJ’s care for his parents and especially his dad
  • MJ’s dad unconditional support for him and his game
  • Scottie Pippen & MJ relationship
  • MJ’s care for Dennis Rodman
  • Phil Jackson’s empathy for his players
  • MJ’s affection for his fans
  • And more. 

The bottom line is this – we cannot take the people who care for us for granted. We need to reciprocate the love and care people have for us. 

Lesson: Care for everyone who cares for you. Period.

Respect Everyone Including Your Competition

The biggest takeaway for me from The Last Dance was Respect. The respect players had for each other, for their coach, for their fans, and even their competition. As human beings, we need to be respectful and empathetic towards others, even our adversaries. 

There are several instances where respect for each other has been displayed by major NBA superstars in this series. Be it Magic Johnson sharing his respect for MJ or Scottie Pippen calling MJ the G.O.A.T or MJ sharing his immense adulation for Magic Johnson, this series is filled with mutual respect. 

It doesn’t matter whether it is your competition or fellow team members, you need to show respect, wherever it is due. That is what makes you a great human.

Lesson: Respect everyone irrespective of who they are.

Final Thoughts

I enjoyed being on this journey with the one and only Michael Jordan and The Chicago Bulls on their 1990s journey. The Last Dance is a series that made me laugh, smile, cry, and introspect across the 10 episodes. I highly recommend watching this series to see these lessons in action and maybe more for you.

You can watch The Last Dance here.

Stay Safe; Stay Healthy.