For most Indians, the first experience of watching the NBA live on TV was in the early nineties with the arrival of cable television. And this coincided with one of most purple patches for a basketball team featuring the greatest basketball player and the greatest basketball coach ever. The Chicago Bulls with Michael Jordan’s genius led by Phil Jackson as coach won six NBA titles between 1991-98. And yet this piece is not about individuals, as neither Jordan nor Jackson came anywhere close to this sort of success elsewhere in their careers. Jo Ellison writes about the leadership and teamwork that shines through in the new Netflix documentary “The Last Dance”. On the lines of “All of nothing’ and ‘The Test’ documenting Man City’s remarkable season in the EPL and the Australian cricket team’s resurgence from the ignominy of sandpaper gate respectively, ‘The Last Dance’ shows the Bulls’ stellar journey as a team.
“…The Last Dance reminds us that leadership means nothing if you don’t command respect. Great coaches, like politicians, are made greater by the diversity of talents in the team. Michael Jordan was monstrously unpleasant to his teammates, but he respected Jackson. He wouldn’t play for anybody else (until he did). Rodman was a law unto himself — until he got on to the court. Jackson’s subsequent career may not have been so rosy, but for that period of the nineties, he and his team could barely do wrong.
Maybe that’s why audiences, exhausted by so many examples of bungled leadership, incompetence and elitism, have embraced this documentary. The Last Dance is a eulogy to the spirit of teamwork and the celebration of talents that lie within. It’s a reminder that real leadership doesn’t require slavish loyalty, nor insist on gibbering rote. It allows for mavericks, mess and massive egos. It celebrates diversity and different points of view. But most of all, it’s totally transparent. You couldn’t fake Jordan’s breathtaking, otherworldly ball skills. And you can’t always slogan your way to a win.”
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