The Bounce
Doing it for the fans

7 things about success we learned from The Last Dance.


I can safely say that of all the sporting stories out there, that have seen the light of a TV screen, The Last Dance is pretty much the greatest thing to come out of sport.

The unrestricted footage, the slickness of storyline and sheer enormity of achievement being showcased aside, there are so many amazing takeouts from this documentary series.

Chief among them is that it provides a larger than life blueprint for success. Here are 7 things in this regards that Michael Jordan and The Last Dance taught us.

1: Belief

Everybody wants to be successful in sport (and life), and many pay lip service to the elements required for this outcome. The element of belief is a big one, but belief doesn’t just end with an initial declaration of where you want to go. Belief is a daily dynamic in the life of a superstar. And in order to fuel it, you need to give yourself reasons to believe in yourself and in getting the job done. Jordan created reasons to believe everyday through his hard work and drive, so when it came to the big games moments he got it done more than anyone. This then spread to the rest of his team, which then spread to their fans. Suddenly everyone knew they could win, and when that belief is that strong, the converse of that is that your opponents/competition suddenly start thinking that you can’t lose too. 

2: Winning is everything

Much has been said about ‘winning’, and that you need to make it a habit. This isn’t solely focused on the primary wins of your sport in focus, for Michael Jordan is was about everything in life. It was about winning in practice, winning in the gym, winning at card games, social golf, whatever was going… It’s an obsession that simply cannot have boundaries. If he saw someone playing a game of any kind, even if it was something he had never seen before, he wanted to win at it. This again all ties into when he was in a pressure situation on the court. When all he knew was winning, the chances of that being the outcome was very high.

3: Talent is just a word

Sure Michael Jordan was talented, but that talent got him nothing more than a foot in the door coming into professional basketball. Ultimately when it comes to being a superstar, talent is nothing more than a nice haircut, or a winning smile. The work you do, the belief you have and the obsession you have for winning is what makes you a star. There is nothing sadder than hearing someone say, “it’s a shame they didn’t make in the big leagues, they were so talented…” People that place so much importance on talent never make it, and the Last Dance showed this brilliantly as every bit of success was earned through nothing but extreme hard work and sacrifice. 

4: Understanding the price of greatness

Unless you grew up with basketball or were a die hard NBA fan in the 90s, you simply can’t fully appreciate the level of hard work and sacrifice that went into the ‘repeat threepeat’ shown in The Last Dance. These guys are super athletes, and though games are essentially made up of four 12 minute quarters, the physical demands are immense. Short quick movements, explosive power and regular jumping while moving in all directions takes it out of you. Especially when you are  6 foot 6 and weight 100kgs. That was what Michael Jordan brought to the court, and he did so pretty much every game in his career. He knew he had to be on the court as much as humanely possible in order to achieve the success he wanted. He also knew he had to be on the court because the fans needed him each and every time. When he arrived at the Chicago Bulls they were pretty much a nothing side. He said he wanted to make the city proud of this team again, so that meant giving his absolute all. He built a home gym with everything he needed, which often meant a 5am start with his trainer. Official team practice was just one part of his day, he went longer and harder than anyone else, but this was the price he was willing to pay to get the job done. There was no downtime, just discovering of new limits to surpass. 

5: You have to be a team

To be good at something, you often have to be good at many things. Michael Jordan new this from the start, and was ahead of his time with regards to creating a team around of him to make sure game time was always go time. The Last Dance documentary has regular touch points for example with his trainer Tim Grover. Grover started professional life trying to get practical hours training professional athletes. He wrote letters to all the members of the Chicago Bulls early on to get them to work with him. He got no responses, instead he got a personal meeting with Jordan who wanted him full time to make him a better all round athlete. The guy literally counted the number and direction of the steps MJ took in each game, so they knew what to work on the next day to get his body back to optimal levels. They didn’t set up appointments, he was just always there with him, and even in the off season there was a plan and schedule that was put in place to ensure that he kept getting better and more conditioned for greatness. Jordan covered all bases in his pursuit for success, and this example galvanised his team into becoming the absolute best they could be too to complete the package. 

6: Own your fundamentals

Something that is often overlooked around superstar athletes is their incredible command of the fundamentals of their craft. In all sports we marvel at AB de Villiers’ shot making as a batsman, Cristiano Ronaldo’s mesmerising runs on the football pitch, and of course Michael Jordan’s aerial acrobatics approaching the hoop. All of these guys can do this, and continually evolve their talents because their fundamentals are sound. Jordan never practiced the elaborate dunks and finishes he became known for. But he did them in the games as he practiced so hard to just get into those positions to close. Same with his defence, because he worked so hard on his conditioning, and applied so much time to reading the plays and movements of his opposition, he was able to be just as big of a threat on defence as he was offence. He knew that anything was possible if he covered the groundwork.

7: Take it personally

The Last Dance scrolled back and forth on a timeline like no other story has done before. One of the best features of this was showcasing the individual rivalries that Jordan had over the years, and how seriously he took them. He didn’t just want to win, he wanted to defeat people, and do so in such a way they would never forget it. He played in an era of absolute stars, and with all of them he made it his business for them to know that he was the best. The most telling example of this was at the 1992 Olympic Games when Jordan lead an all star NBA USA unit to gold. Their practice matches were intense, with trash talk and high intensity exchanges dwarfing anything they would see on the court that summer. Even in a ‘friendly’ setting like that, he outplayed everyone, each and every time, and never once let up. People spoke about his ability to always focus, and always be present no matter the situation. This is possible when you take things personally, and though this isn’t a great way to make friends necessarily, it’s a great way to be successful. 

As we see time and time again, what works in sport can almost always be mirrored in business and life. And with the difficult times we are currently faced with, it certainly won’t hurt to take a page out of Michael Jordan’s book and see how we can approach our own journeys of success from here. 

Tags: the last dance, michael jordan, chicago bulls, last dance, netflix sports


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