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The Last Dance

How One Little Man Destroyed America's Greatest Dynasty

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by Rene Williams, for outsideleft.com
102 is the winning temperature...
by Rene Williams, for outsideleft.com
102 is the winning temperature...

The Last Dance, the 10-part documentary that chronicles the Chicago Bulls’ 1997-1998 run at their sixth NBA Finals championship, debuted on ESPN Sunday night and it absolutely lived up to the hype. The first two episodes caused such a cultural stir, the Top 10 US trending topics on Twitter were all related to the series for 16 hours. No mean feat considering the country is currently being torn apart by Donald Trump, and Twitter usually has one anti-Trump hashtag in the Top 5.

That said, there are a lot of similarities with The Last Dance and Trump's presidency. The Last Dance shows us how Jerry Krause, the Bulls’ then general manager allowed his ego to destroy the greatest sports dynasty in the world. And like Krause, ego is the catalyst that pushes Trump to systematically dismantle America everytime he opens his mouth or fires off a tweet.

Krause, the protagonist of The Last Dance, lucked into assembling a team that went on to win five championships in seven years. When he didn’t get credit or respect for his work, he decided to destroy the monster that he created because he could no longer control it. 

Likewise, Trump stumbled into a White House that was poised for smooth sailing in the wake of the relatively solid foundation President Obama laid out over eight years prior. When Trump didn’t get the credit or respect he thought he deserved, he created chaos and disorder. In pitting America against each other, Trump assumed he could then fix his mess, thus making America great again. 

Krause soon realized after the ‘97-’98 season that his slash-and-burn method of management backfired on him. The Chicago Bulls would then go on to become one of the worst teams in the NBA until he retired. Trump realizes that his divide-and-conquer method of running America is backfiring, and like Krause, he’s doubled down. We'll see how that pans out for him over the next few months.

While Krause gave Bulls' Coach Phil Jackson early warning that he wouldn’t be returning to the team, even if he won all 82 games of the ‘97-’98 season, Trump has given the green light to American militias and white supremacists, commanding them through a series of dog-whistle tweets to overtake their local governments.

We know how The Last Dance ends -- Chicago won the 1998 NBA Finals anyway despite every grenade Krause threw at the team, but what does it all mean? In the grand scheme of things, sports is just sports. A diversion, but a diversion just like music, film, books, and other artistic pursuits. 

But The Last Dance is more than a sports documentary. It illustrates how much further Jordan elevated the game, and more impressively himself. The documentary shows us how he willed himself and his hobbled team to win its sixth championship amidst treacherous management. You feel lighter after watching it -- almost as if you can do anything. This alone is the sign of true art.

Is The Last Dance the greatest sports documentary ever made? It’s too early to tell. We’ve only seen the first two episodes and it’s going to take a lot to best When We Were Kings. It’s also been said that the next eight episodes don’t paint Jordan in a very favorable light so there’s a good chance Jordan could walk away from this series as a villain.

But we know how the Bulls’ dynasty ended, even without seeing The Last Dance’s final eight episodes. When the dust settled and Krause was left with nothing after his team won its sixth NBA championship, Chicago limped through six years at the bottom of the league standings.

We’ll see how Trump’s plan works out for the US. Will it take six years for American’s to recover? Six years would be an optimistic guess.

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