The Last Dance has swept across the world picking up a whole new generation of Michael Jordan fans in the process.
The story of Jordan’s seismic influence on the Chicago Bulls, his stellar supporting cast of teammates and the NBA itself has gone down a storm, with basketball fans and non-basketball fans alike coming together to soak up the tale.
Now The Last Dance has drawn to a close, you can expect a scramble of filmmakers seeking to get their hands on footage of other iconic sports teams, with stories to tell and legends to bring to the Netflix era.
To replicate the success of The Last Dance, a number of criteria must be met to allow any potential docu-series to be executed with the same impressive production values and appeal.
For starters, there has to be global appeal, a team that transcends sport and has impacted culture itself. Everyone had heard of Jordan prior to his series, though many flocked to learn more about why they’ve heard of Jordan.
The story also has to be complete, otherwise a series will look dated without a start-to-finish story. This would rule out the current all-conquering Liverpool side and a look at Lionel Messi and Barcelona.
And finally, most crucially, there must be hundreds of hours of footage readily available, otherwise you don’t have a series. While we should continue to celebrate the near-mythical sport teams from the early 20th century, usable film reels may be scarce or non-existent.
Bearing these criteria in mind, we’ve brought up a few iconic sports teams that we’d love to see given The Last Dance treatment and showcased to the world.
Manchester United: Sir Alex Ferguson
One of the most valuable, supported, influential football teams in the history of the sport, Manchester United is the only place to start, specifically the Sir Alex Ferguson era.
United were a good-not-great side when Fergie took charge in 1986 and a shaky opening few years almost saw his reign end within three seasons. Even the most ardent United fans born after his turbulent start may not fully appreciate the club’s situation at that moment.
Over 27 years, Fergie crafted a relentless winning mentality at the club and picked up 13 Premier League titles. Arguably his greatest skill was knowing when to break down a squad and rebuild.
He knew precisely when to sell players and how to replace them, often selecting unspectacular parts to plug into the greater machine. In essence, he performed ‘Jerry Krause’ moves time and time again, but succeeded in every instance.
A documentary could run similarly to The Last Dance with an arching theme of his final season, an against-the-odds Premier League title victory with a squad that – in hindsight – shouldn’t have been able to bring home silverware.
In between, we could watch stories following the likes of maverick superstar Eric Cantona, the class of ’92 featuring David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, the Neville brothers, the 1998/99 treble-winners, the emergence of Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney – the list could go on.
And Fergie shares similarities with Jordan in the sense that he wasn’t afraid to upset some of his key cogs in order to coax winning performances out of them. He remains on frosty personal terms with Keane despite a mutual respect, while the famous incident of the gaffer launching a boot at Beckham – leaving a cut above his eye – would provide some box office scenes.
There is so much material to be shown, almost too much, and you have to imagine cameras would have traced the squad’s movements with similar scrutiny to that of the Chicago Bulls.
Numerous documentaries have told the United story but those tales combined with the production values of The Last Dance shown to the captive audience Netflix commands would result in a sure-fire winner.
New England Patriots: Tom Brady
This one may need to simmer for couple of seasons until Tom Brady finally retires following his move to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but once he’s liberated of his duties as a player, a free-speaking Brady on his New England Patriots career could be sensational.
Both Brady and Jordan sit in the pantheon of all-time US sporting legends with six top titles with one team in their respective sports. Both men are responsible for dynasties.
Brady’s career, from being drafted way down the order in 2000 as every team passed over him on several occasions to becoming the NFL’s biggest star of a generation, is a fairytale. However, there’s more than enough controversy to discuss among the titles and Super Bowl rings.
His relationship with head coach Bill Belichick and owner Robert Kraft would be fascinating to explore without the awkward shackles of the three men still working with one another. There have been long-standing murmurs of rifts, fall-outs and friction that ultimately may have led to Brady’s departure, akin to Jordan-Bulls situation.
The Patriots were involved in a 2007 ‘spygate’ controversy after being found guilty of video-taping opposition instructions and signals from an unauthorised position, while the most specific Brady-centric drama stemmed from a huge AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts in 2015.
Brady’s Pats triumphed 45-7, but allegations emerged to suggest the quarterback has deliberately ordered the subtle under-inflation of balls during the game, a move that could allow him to throw the ball with greater ease and essentially gain an advantage over the unaware Colts.
The ensuing legal drama is worthy of a series alone, but it would add an extra edge to a documentary that countless fans would tune in for.
Los Angeles Lakers: Kobe Bryant
The Last Dance brought the NBA back into the wider public eye, a series on Kobe Bryant would help keep it there.
The late, great Bryant died in a helicopter crash alongside his young daughter and seven other people in February 2020, shocking the world who knew him as both a basketball legend on the court and iconic figure off it.
Bryant features in The Last Dance as a young upstart aiming to seize the crown from Jordan. His career overlapped with the Bulls’ supreme reign, proving filmmakers with a seamless transition into Bryant’s rise with the LA Lakers.
The season after the Bulls’ final title in 1998 ended prematurely due to a player strike. The season after that, Kobe inspired a spell of three consecutive NBA titles and picked up a further two later in his career. He instilled a similar galvanising effect on his teammates and would be a worthy candidate to keep spinning the basketball popularity plate, with LeBron James another contender to follow him in a potential third in a ‘Last Dance anthology’.
And the footage exists. The footage does very much exist.
Cameras followed Bryant very similarly to Jordan with the intent that one day a series like this could be brought to screen. Magic Johnson – the former Lakers star who also appears in The Last Dance – confirmed that the footage is unseen and ready to be used, adding that a series is likely in some shape or form.
The Last Dance may be over, but it has only increased the hunger for another ball.