Best to watch ‘Last Dance’ as fan, not journalist

Robert Scoop Jackson
Courtesy of Haymarket Books

I admit I watched in real time all 10 episodes of “The Last Dance.” I didn’t, however, watch any repeats, nor any post-film comments either, and I probably won’t watch it again.

My opinion on Michael Jordan as a selfish superstar hasn’t changed. Basketball didn’t begin with Jordan, a more recent generation’s perception heightened by madness over his shoe brands. He did help elevate the marketing of individual stars rather than teams to unprecedented heights.

Author and longtime sports journalist Robert Scoop Jackson and this columnist, during a recent hour-plus phone conversation cooped up in the house, shared our post-film views on “The Last Dance.” The film, although there were parts I found interesting, otherwise served more or less as an MJ retrospective. Jackson saw it as “bad filmmaking and bad storytelling” and agreed that there was too much focus on a few individuals such as Jordan and Scottie Pippen.

“There were other individuals that I thought should have been given prominence in the documentary that got glossed over that helped them win the championship,” said Jackson. “I’m talking about those players who were on the team during that last year.

“There are a lot of things in ‘The Last Dance’ that were omitted, that was not included,” Jackson continued. “I don’t want to say omitted because omitted means they did it purposely. Not included means it wasn’t deemed important.”

Some of Jordan’s teammates complained in numerous post-film reports about his recounting of events, even some “fibs and fabrications” by him. Pippen and Horace Grant in particular reportedly expressed how they were unfavorably portrayed.

“I think Scottie Pippen deserves a documentary of his own because of so much stuff that went unsaid about his story besides the story they brought out about him,” added Jackson. “I think they treated him fair, but they were incomplete. I think at times they were purposely incomplete.”

There were other aspects of Pippen’s story, however, “that needed to be fleshed out or put in some kind of context so that the general public could understand where he was coming from,” he said.

Jackson admitted, “I really, really enjoyed it, but I had to find a way to separate the journalist side of me and be a fan. It took me a couple of episodes to be able to do that. But once I was able to do that, and just look at it as a fan, I was able to really enjoy it.”

Jackson called Jordan “a petty genius, a mad scientist” who used faux motivational means on several occasions. Why, I asked, if he is so great.

“It works for him. He creates some kind of scenario that forces him to go to a level that he probably could not normally go,” the author-journalist explained. “He was good enough not to do it but…it was not just about winning for him. It is about separation.”

“‘The Last Dance confirmed it for me’” on who’s better, MJ or LeBron James, Jackson said. “If LeBron and Jordan get in a room and have that conversation, who’s winning that conversation? LeBron is not going to win the argument,” he stressed.

Our conversation continues next week as Jackson and I discuss his third book released in March.