10 Life Lessons From The Last Dance
Updated: Sep 3
With COVID-19 canceling nearly all sports, ESPN's The Last Dance served sports fans as an adequate substitute. The 10-episode documentary starring Michael Jordan — the G.O.A.T. — followed him throughout his career from the day he entered the league in '84 to his retirement in '98. In this article, we'll explore my major takeaways from the series and discover how these lessons can be applied to our own lives.
Episode 1: Don't let your ego get you in trouble.
At the start of the 97-98 season, Bulls GM Jerry Krause announced that head coach Phil Jackson would not be invited back for another season. Despite leading the team to win five rings, Krause's need to be recognized and worshipped prevented the growth of a dynasty just as they were getting started.
Episode 2: Know your worth.
There's no doubt that MJ was extraordinary, but he couldn't get a ring until his teammate Scottie Pippen was drafted. Today, many consider Pippen to be the second best NBA player right after Jordan and he was actually advised not to sign his contract as it didn't align with his worth. Out of fear of not receiving any other contracts, he signed a 7-year $18-million contract. If that sounds like a sweet deal to you, consider the fact that Jordan was making close to $25 million a season. Pippen made only $2.5 million a season.
For us, the question becomes will we settle out of fear or trust God when we know we are being undervalued? God knows our worth and if people don't, understand God will provide. Settling out of fear tells others that it's okay for them to take advantage of you. When your gut says no, follow it.
Episode 3: You can only do the best you can do.
Before the Bulls won their first championship in 1991, they had to beat their arch-nemesis: the "bad boy" Detroit Pistons. For two years, Chicago lost to the Pistons in the playoffs — a talented team that wasn't afraid of getting a little rough when necessary. Despite giving his all, Jordan's best just wasn't enough to seal the deal and, if we're being honest, sometimes our best isn't enough, either.
When it comes to getting the results we want, our best may not do the trick the first time around. The secret is recognizing that it's not the result that determines our worth, but the effort we give and the drive to improve.
Episode 4: Meet people where they are.
Phil Jackson was a free-spirited, unorthodox coach who brought success to many teams he coached in basketball. When Phil Jackson coached rebel player, Dennis Rodman for the Chicago Bulls, he knew how to meet Dennis where he was a person. While Dennis did things that would get him fined or released from other teams, Phil knew how to make sure he connected with Dennis as a person and made sure Dennis met the expectations of the Bulls. When we encounter people, we have to learn how to meet them where they are and love them for their authentic selves.
Episode 5: Get a Mentor
When Kobe Bryant played Michael Jordan in the 1998 All-Star game, he asked Jordan about his fadeaway shot and Jordan gave him a detailed answer. From that day, MJ mentored Kobe and they referred to each other as brothers. Kobe acknowledged that his talent and gameplay that helped the Lakers get 5 rings was credited to the mentorship he received from Jordan. As I watched this episode, I pondered on how much wisdom I received from my own mentors and how taking heed to such valua le information shaped my life.
The right mentor will help you succeed and become better. If Kobe would have ignored the advice from MJ, how would that have impacted his legacy?
Rest in Peace, Mamba.
Episode 6: Consider your reputation.
Michael Jordan had a controversial hobby: gambling. People who knew him were aware and though it wasn't an addiction or an issue, the media attacked him for it. As a result, his reputation was negatively impacted.
In situations like this, it's important to remember the words of apostle Paul: Just because it's permissible doesn't mean it's profitable. In other words, just because you're allowed to do something doesn't mean you should. When you do something well, haters are on the prowl looking for whatever crumbs they can find in attempts of bringing you down. Don't give them a bone to chew on.
Episode 7: Family first.
Michael Jordan's father James was killed in July, 1993. When this happened, MJ retired to grieve, spend time with family, and to chase another dream: playing in the MLB. An endeavor of his father's, MJ played for the Chicago White Sox during his 18-month hiatus from the NBA and gave a lot of time and attention to his family. Doing so helped him remember that family is what mattered most.
Episode 8: Lead and empower others.
When the strike came in the Major Leagues in 1995, MJ decided he wanted to go back to basketball and to the Bulls. When he returned, his teammates said he was very hard on them in terms of leadership and agreed he empowered them to be better.
As leaders, if we can't empower othrr to be great, then you're not a leader, you're just good at something. Use your short time on this earth to make and empower leaders.
Episode 9: Having a team is always better than being by yourself.
When the Bulls played the Indiana Pacers and Utah Jazz, they needed each other to win those games. Jordan couldn't beat these teams by himself and needed to trust his coach and teammates. In life, we have to trust that God will send people to help further his agenda in our lives for his glory. You don't have to try to do everything on your own. God wants us to succeed together.
Episode 10: Finish on top.
When MJ retired in 1998, he went out winning his sixth championship with a game-winning shot against the Utah Jazz. He wanted to play for a seventh ring, but the team was dismantled by Jerry Krause and Jerry Reinsdorf.
As a Christian, I believe we should live every day at the top of our game because God has the victory over everything. There's no need to walk in fear or worry about your legacy when you're following the creator of the universe. Jordan solidified his purpose and so will we under God's leadership and direction.