TAKEAWAYS From The Last Dance…
Updated: May 22
Dr. Hal Kitchings
May 21, 2020
I watched the recent 10-part docuseries of Michael Jordan’s last season with the Chicago Bulls professional basketball team. In the fall of 1997, a film crew was given special permission to follow this team throughout the final season of Michael Jordan’s incredible run of leading them to six championships. There were other stars on the team that were highlighted, too, including the Hall of Fame Coach, Phil Jackson. Coach Jackson was told before the season he would not return as the coach the next year. Other players were going to be traded and Michael said he would not play for another coach. This was it—their “last dance.” If you have not watched the series, please know the edited version allows you to watch the ESPN mini-series without having to hear the crude language.
I was intrigued from the very start. Michael Jordan is close to my age. I grew up admiring his basketball skills and leadership abilities. I stopped playing competitive basketball after the ninth grade, so, I am not speaking as a former player. (My dad played high school and college basketball, so, I have always enjoyed the game.) His brief stint with professional baseball caused me to keep up with him even more because that was the sport I played in high school and college. After watching each episode, I listened to sports radio while jogging the next day as they discussed their take on what they observed the night before. I did not want it to come to an end because I enjoyed it so much. Inspirational sports movies, books, and stories interest me. They always have and likely always will. (My favorite movie is Remember The Titans.) I was preparing to be a coach in college when, when I surrendered to ministry. There are a lot of similarities, by the way, between coaching and pastoring.
Following are my takeaways from the documentary…
*Effective leaders will be highly scrutinized. Michael Jordan was not just the leader of the team. He was an effective leader. There is a big difference. He helped the team members maximize their potential. Many of them didn’t appreciate it at the time. He led by example. He would practice extra hard and expect his teammates to do the same. Sometimes he would push his teammates too much, in my opinion. You don’t have to berate other players to help them soar with their strengths. That does not mean you aren’t passionate or willing to be disliked. It just means you don’t have to be a jerk. But effective leaders will often be the target of scrutiny within and without the organization. It comes with this level of leadership. Accept it. Don’t whine about it. Rejoice that you are “that guy” or are associated with “that guy.” Talking about winning and winning are two different things. Lots of people talk about it. Few actually live it.
*Team chemistry counts in all-star performances. The year Michael played on the Olympic team that was deemed the original Dream Team, a certain player was not asked to be on the team. Michael indicated that had he been on the team, it would have had a negative effect on the overall chemistry of the team. As John Maxwell once stated, It takes a team to fulfill a dream. It does. If you have a person with talent, but a lack of character, a team will be limited. Character flaws of various kinds will cripple the success of any team. This particular person struggled with the issue of pride, as well as other attributes. Hard choices have to be made by someone in the organization to help keep positive team chemistry a high priority.
*Goals have a place in winning. Setting goals helps a team win big. Throughout the documentary, you learn they had one major goal their final year together as a team—win the NBA Championship. They wanted to go out in style. They accomplished their goal, though at times their style was not Godly by any means. Always keep in mind that not all great athletes act like some of those guys on the Bulls. It’s not a requirement for a successful team. They won the championship as they fought through numerous challenges—injuries, a rebellious player, emotional burnout, poor team management from the top, and other issues. Execution of their goal was key. They will never forget “the last dance” and neither will many others. Influence is powerful! Winning is not easy, but it’s worth it.
I intend to take the “takeaways” I can use as a Christian and as a Pastor. Anything that can help us be the best version of the person God made us to be should be a priority. We have one life to live and there are no “do-overs.” We never know when we will experience our “last dance” here on earth.What we do know is that we want to hear our Master (Coach) say… Well done, thy good and faithful servant (player).
Until Next Time...