[4/20/20] – “The Last Dance” Documentary

Depending on your geographic location, age, and penchant for basketball, the legacy of the Chicago Bulls in the history of the National Basketball Association (NBA) is held quite closely in the hearts of fans across the globe. At the center of the fandom of the Chicago Bulls is Michael Jordan. Beginning in 1997, Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf and head coach Phil Jackson agreed to let a film crew follow the team with unlimited access to behind-the-scenes footage that, according to producers, reveals a tangled story of success, domination, and competition which rivals most Greek epics. What would be the final season of the Bulls athletic dynasty was nothing short of a tragic drama. At a time of sports deprivation, a look back at the Chicago Bulls dynasty will certainly satiate this Chicagoan’s thirst for basketball. This week, we look at the release of a documentary over 20 years in the making and discuss the social implications, sociology of sports, and fan experiences.

Download the PowerPoint Lecture Spark for “The Last Dance” Documentary

Learning Objectives

LO1: Explain the potential social impact of sports nostalgia during times of crisis and uncertainty.

LO2: Understand the argument for sports being a functional equivalent to religion.

LO3: Discuss the social construction of sports idols and mythologies.


‘The Last Dance’ exclusive trailer and footage: The untold story of Michael Jordan and the Bulls

Coming in June, The Last Dance is a 10-part documentary that chronicles the untold story of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls dynasty with rare, never-before-seen footage and sound from the 1997-98 championship season – plus over 100 interviews with famous figures and basketball’s biggest names, including Jordan himself, Phil Jackson, Scottie Pippen, Steve Kerr, Dennis Rodman, Pat Riley, Charles Barkley, Dikembe Mutombo, Patrick Ewing, Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, Kobe Bryant, Gary Payton, Adam Silver, Bob Costas, Barack Obama, Justin Timberlake, and more. The Last Dance will debut in June 2020 on ABC and ESPN.

Michael Jordan reflects on his final year with the Chicago Bulls | The Last Dance | Get Up

Michael Jordan joins Robin Roberts live on Good Morning America to discuss “The Last Dance” documentary on MJ’s final year with the Chicago Bulls.

Skip & Shannon react to Michael Jordan’s fears concerning his documentary | NBA | UNDISPUTED

Michael Jordan was quoted saying that he’s ‘terrified that he will come off as a bad guy’ in his upcoming documentary ‘The Last Dance’. Hear what Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe have to say about why they feel the documentary won’t affect the way they view MJ.

Discussion Questions

From a symbolic-interactionist perspective, what might the lived experience be like for other players on a team with a player like Michael Jordan? What factors might be intimidating? What factors might be motivating? What factors are responsible for the breeding of resentment? What factors are responsible for developing comradery?

What are the similarities between sports and religion? What are the differences? What does it mean to say that sports are a functional equivalent of religion? What elements of sports are sacred? What elements of the stadiums are reminiscent of cathedrals and temples around the world? Who are the deities, and how to they ascend to power?

From a functionalist perspective, how might the early release of this documentary provide stability for society? What are the potential impacts for family functioning? What about food delivery and small business support? How might the availability of sports nostalgia of this quality and at this time positively influence social order?

Why did the documentary take so long to make? Why might Jordan have been so defensive about creating what some will likely call the definitive piece of work on his career? Why might Jordan now, in his 50s and wearing reading glasses, be ready to share this most intimate look at one of the world’s most well-known athletes?

From a conflict perspective, how might a film like this reinforce gender and racial and social class stereotypes that exist in society? Why might the controllers of media, and ESPN, be interested in maintaining these narratives for capital gain? What group(s) will likely be most disadvantaged by the release of this film, and why?


Using _______, Erving Goffman would likely argue that the backstage behavior of the Chicago Bulls revealed in this documentary will likely change how some folks view the Bulls, and likely Michael Jordan.
a. Anomic Approach
b. Autoethnographic
c. Strain Theory
d. Dramaturgical Analysis

Of the following questions about religion, which of them is most closely associated with sociology?
a. Is God real?
b. What rituals do people of certain religions engage in, and why?
c. Who wrote the Bible?
d. How much money do churches collect in donations every year?

This documentary is most closely associated with which of the following sociological research methods?
a. Interview
b. Content Analysis
c. Participant Observation
d. Survey
e. Ethnography
f. All of the above, and more.


Photo credit: iStockphoto.com/JEFF HAYNES/AFP via Getty Images

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