The Last Dance has captured the imagination of audiences on streaming services and ESPN, chronicling the fortunes of the great Michael Jordan and his exploits with the Chicago Bulls during his illustrious career.
The series has followed Jordan on his rise to the top of the NBA while playing with the Bulls from the start of his journey after being drafted third overall in 1984 to the end of his run with the team in 1998. The documentary provides a fascinating look behind the curtain of one of the most successful teams in the history of the NBA - the early to late nineties Bulls.
It details the key relationships between Jordan and the leading figures at the Bulls - notably Scottie Pippen and head coach Phil Jackson. General manager Jerry Krause is framed as the antagonist of the picture, breaking up the dynasty after their drive towards their sixth championship in the 1997/98 season.
There may not be another run like the Bulls achieved during their dominance of the sport. There was not only success, but constant drama such as Jordan and his two retirements; the ongoing power struggle involving Krause and Jackson; the rivalries between Jordan and Pippen and Dennis Rodman and Isiah Thomas during heated matches between the Bulls and the Detroit Pistons.
We'll now look at who the next great series could involve, featuring key details behind success and off-the-court drama in the NBA.
Los Angeles Lakers 1999-2010 - Kobe and Shaq
The Lakers were almost as successful as the Bulls, winning five championships – one shy of the Bulls dynasty. Jackson proved that he is arguably the greatest coach in the history of the game by continuing his success from his Chicago days in Los Angeles. Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal were the superstars behind the run on the court. However, the two enjoyed a fierce feud, despite being team-mates on the court as well as winning three titles on the bounce from 2000 to 2002. Bryant remained with the Lakers in their runs to two further championships later in the decade, but O'Neal departed after the 2003/04 campaign in a trade to the Miami Heat.
The two men just could not see eye-to-eye in the locker room. There was a perception of a lack of drive from Shaq compared to Kobe, with one man relying on natural talent to dominate the game. Their disagreement perhaps overshadowed one of the greatest runs by a team that had the talent to match the Bulls. It was cut short, leaving a lot of regret from all parties involved despite their success later in the decade. Reports have suggested that a documentary could be in the works, although the sad passing of Bryant in a helicopter crash in January 2020 may delay production and deny viewers the entire story. Both Kobe and Shaq had spoken about their feud, but a forensic look back at that dominant team would be fascinating.
LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers 2003-2010 and 2015-19, Miami Heat 2010-14, Los Angeles Lakers 2019 - )
LeBron is perhaps the one player that can match Jordan's level of brilliance on the court and his career has proven to be just as complicated. He has not been as successful in terms of championships, but he has elevated teams to greatness by his own excellence. If the Golden State Warriors were not in his path – he could well have forged a dynasty with the Cavaliers in four-straight surges to the NBA Finals, winning one crown. His story is one all fans of basketball could dream to follow – being drafted straight out of high school by his home state team then rising to the top of the sport. LeBron is the player that everyone strives to emulate whether it's on the court or on gaming consoles.
The 35-year-old is the face of the NBA and any team that inherits his talents always seems to benefit. Prior to the break, he had inspired the Lakers to the second-best record in the league, with only the Milwaukee Bucks ahead of them. Unsurprisingly, the Lakers and the Bucks dominate the basketball betting as sites such as Betway see them as the favorites for the NBA Championship. LeBron has been the central figure of his teams' success throughout his career and the Lakers will be hoping he can get them back to the top of the sport. However, Cleveland's inability to get over the line in the post-season early on in his career prompted his infamous move to the Miami Heat. It's fair to say he was not a popular man in Cleveland after his exit, while the titles won as part of the big three with the Heat rubbed further salt into the wounds.
With LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, the Heat reached four Finals on the bounce, winning two crowns back-to-back with triumphs over the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs. Miami beat truly elite teams to win their two crowns before it all ended in 2014. LeBron returned to Cleveland for another crack at bringing his home state glory. It finally came in 2016 when he put the team on his back to overcome the 73-win win Warriors in seven games in the NBA Finals. His journey is not over and he may even win further titles with the Lakers before it's all said and done. LeBron's story will be fascinating.
Just missed the cut...
The Golden State Warriors may also have a claim, but they were outstanding without being overly interesting in their exploits to three championships. The Oklahoma City Thunder's failure to win the NBA crown despite boasting Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden on their roster would also be worthy of a documentary about how even having the best talent does not guarantee success. Fortunately for documentary creators – there's no shortage of stories in the NBA.