5 Lessons for Teams From “The Last Dance”
This is a little different than our normal blog posts. I watched the Michael Jordan documentary called “The Last Dance”, and put together a presentation that might be helpful for leading teams and being on a team at your church.
I have added timestamps for different clips to watch while you read this. You can watch “The Last Dance” in the ESPN App. The time may be a few seconds off depending on the version you are watching.
WATCH: Episode 3 – 27:01 to 27:40 (Jordan game winning shot)
I was 25 days old when Michael Jordan won his third championship. When the Bulls won their sixth championship that is focused on in “The Last Dance”, I was 5. Everything I’ve learned about Jordan, I learned later in life. My love of basketball started from Allen Iverson in 2001. Before watching “The Last Dance”, I knew Jordan was the best. Stories from former players and family members, clips of games, and articles about his greatness, told me MJ was the GOAT. I knew he was dominant. I knew he was 6-0 in the finals. I know his shoes. I know his brand. I know he hasn’t been a great owner for the Hornets.
But while watching “The Last Dance” documentary, I learned a lot more about Jordan the player and the person, his teammates, and his fame. I also learned a lot of lessons about what made MJ different. What made him great. What made him iconic. What drove him and made him stand out. Things that I felt that I could apply to my own life and also Loop Community. So here are 5 things I learned from “The Last Dance”.
1. You Need a Team
Obviously Michael Jordan couldn’t win on his own. Every championship takes a team. Before “The Last Dance”, I knew Jordan was a mean teammate. I knew he berated guys during practice and many teammates didn’t like him. I also thought that almost all of the game winning shots, and success of the Bulls, was solely due to Jordan. I knew he had Scottie Pippen as a number two, and that Pippen was a great player. But, what I didn’t realize was how the other role players on the team not only played a role, but were crucial to the success of the team.
Jordan was resistant to trust anyone but himself. But he had his ways of making sure he could trust his team. He pushed his teammates. He yelled at them. He made them prove that they had the strength to take the weight of a moment and help him win a championship. I actually don’t recommend being a teammate exactly like MJ. Most of his former teammates hated him, and still do. They understood where he was coming from, and they wanted to win, but he often pushed it over the edge. It worked, so it was allowed. But I think we should all want to be teammates like Steve Kerr.
WATCH: Episode 9 – 40:30 to 42:00 (Steve Kerr shot)
Without the trust of Jordan that started when Steve Kerr stood up to him in a practice, that led to Steve getting punched in the face, Jordan may not have given up the ball, and they probably would have lost.
Horace Grant, Dennis Rodman, John Paxson, Steve Kerr, Toni Kukoc, BJ Armstrong, Bill Cartwright. These are all names that I knew before watching “The Last Dance”, but didn’t understand the significance of them in Michael Jordan’s success.
We all have a role to play. In life and at our jobs. We may not be the face of the company, or feel like we have the most responsibility. Steve Kerr said he only got 5 shots a game. So each shot had a lot of weight on it. Some of us only get a few shots, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t important. It actually means that each shot is even more important than someone who gets to take most of the shots.
John Paxson gained MJ’s trust during a game when coach Phil Jackson told MJ that John was open every play and John hit the game winner. Later in the season, with the NBA Finals on the line, MJ had scored every point in the fourth quarter for the bulls. All of them. But this happened on the last play.
WATCH: Episode 6 – 52:18 – 53:08 (John Paxson shot)
I learned that I need to learn my role, commit to my role, and do what it takes to help the team be successful. Steve Kerr and John Paxson could not have won a championship on their own. But neither could Jordan.
2. Find What Fuels You
WATCH: Episode 5 – 22:06 to 23:26 (Clyde Drexler / Jordan Shrug)
One of the most fascinating things I learned from the Last Dance was how Michael Jordan fueled and motivated himself. The whole world watched his every move. He was criticized for everything on and off the court. His father was murdered in the middle of his career. He rarely got a moment to himself. It was exhausting. Yet night after night, he continued to put on a show for the world on the court and kept winning.
Jordan would use anything as motivation. From knowing that someone in the crowd may only get to see him play once, to something a reporter said, or trash talk from a rival, he used it. He remembered it. It didn’t matter if it was from during that game or two years prior, he used it.
One time, Jordan even told his teammates and the media that a player on an opposing team jokingly said “nice game” to him during a bad performance in a playoff game. He made a big deal out of it and the following game, destroyed the player and won the series. After the game he told his teammates, he made up the story.
We often feel exhausted. Whether it’s because we’re stuck in our houses doing the same thing over and over right now, or we are dealing with hard things inside or outside of work. Sometimes it’s a challenge for me just to get through the day. I focus solely on what exhausts me. We need to find what fuels us. Remember why you are doing what you’re doing. Use motivations in your life. Like something big: “Working hard honors God.” “Working hard pays my bills.” Or use something small. For example, I really enjoy the feeling of completing tasks. I want to finish things so I can check them off. Whatever fuels you, use it.
3. The Importance of Rest
Jordan was tired as I mentioned before. He was so worn out by criticism and long seasons, that he actually quit basketball for two years. He needed a break. Many people think that if Jordan played all eight years straight, he would have won eight championships. I don’t think so. I think he knew his body and his mind, needed the rest.
The same thing happened to the Golden State Warriors recently. They went to 5 straight finals. They won in 2015, barely lost (choked) in 2016, won in 2017 and 2018. When they got to the finals in 2019, they seemed exhausted. Kevin Durant got hurt. Klay Thompson got hurt. They couldn’t do it against the fresh legs of a Raptors team that had played significantly less games than them over the last four years. Jordan needed rest too. He sought it with two years off, but also during his seasons with golf, in his hotel room, wherever he could get it.
We see Jesus rest in the Bible time and time again. I’m reading a book right now called “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry” by John Mark Comer. It focuses on the hurry problem that our culture has. We give ourselves no time to rest and seek God. No time to relax our minds. It’s always on to the next thing.
He talks about Jesus getting away and fasting for 40 days in the wilderness and then having the devil tempt him. Comer says, “I thought of the wilderness as the place of weakness. I read it this way: Isn’t that so like the devil? To come at us at the end of a long day or a long week? When we’re hangry and at our worst? But then I realized I had it backward. The wilderness isn’t the place of weakness it’s the place of strength.” Jesus needed to get away to be able to not succumb to temptation.
We need to rest our minds. We need to use the time we have to recover, and that doesn’t just mean distract ourselves and not work. It means to seek silence and solitude. If we could do this for even 15 minutes a day more than we already are, it would drastically improve our energy and mental state.
So I encourage you to seek out time of solitude and rest. This book by the way is great and explains this more in depth. Without rest, Jordan may have won the three championships, and then fizzled out, or gotten injured. And he would be known as A great player. Not THE great player.
4. Don’t worry about what you haven’t done
Listen to this quote that Jordan would say.
This quote hit me. I always worry about what i can’t control. I have always worried. I struggle with anxiety. I worry about everything that hasn’t happened, or even will never happen. This is shown by my 6 Enneagram Type as well. When the Coronavirus pandemic started, I spent days thinking about every possible outcome. When my car needs a simple repair, I worry about how we are ever going to be able to pay off our student loans, afford a house and have kids. All things that are very much in the future, God has under control, and not really affected by a $200 car repair.
“Why would I worry about a shot I haven’t taken?”
Some worry is important. Preparation is a good thing. But we can spend so much time worrying about the future in an unhealthy way and letting it consume us, that it affects the final outcome. It affects our success.
MJ didn’t worry. He was driven. He was passionate. He prepared in every way possible. But he didn’t worry about a shot he didn’t take until after he took it, and then stopped worrying after it did or didn’t go in.
Sometimes when I’m given a project at work, I spend a day worrying about it in my head, before I start it. I’ll do every other thing that I have assigned to me before I start the hardest task I have. Which is also a very 6 type thing to do. I think somehow worrying and over analyzing it will actually make it better. But then I’ll spend 5 minutes working on it and realize that I can do it, it’s not as bad as I thought, and I actually can do a great job.
Continue to prepare like Jordan, set yourself up as well as you can and then go for it. At your job, and all areas of your life.
5. It Starts With Hope
Michael Jordan was a kid from North Carolina with a dream to be great. He went to UNC and told his coach that he was going to be the best. He had hope over and over again to be the best.
WATCH: Episode 10 – 56:25 to 56:53 (Hope)
Jordan wanted the team to be great, his city to be great, and himself to be great. He had hope that it was possible.
First it’s important to talk about how we have an amazing hope that is in God. Romans 15:13 says “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” I’ve been doing my best to remember this during the pandemic and now with all of the events of injustice coming to light the last few weeks. It can be very hard to have hope, but we must cling to God.
So the hope that I learned about in the documentary was more about believing that it is possible to have success and be great. Jordan sought out to be the best basketball player of all time. In doing that, he became bigger than basketball. He brought the NBA to other countries. He changed the way we view athletes as a whole. He accomplished what he wanted to do. None of that would have been possible if at one point he thought, “Eh this probably isn’t possible” or “this is too hard” and just gave up.
Believing that it’s possible is the first step to accomplish anything. I have hope for Loop Community to grow, continue to help churches around the world, and be able to impact the church. Keep having hope and striving to accomplish what you want to accomplish.
With your team, if you find what fuels you, rest when needed, focus on preparation not worry, and believe that it’s possible, you can accomplish what you set out to do.
WATCH: Episode 10 – 34:00 to 37:00 (Bulls win the championship)
Derek, The Loop Team