The Last Dance complicates the NBA’s GOAT debate

Michael Tallarida ’21 views The Last Dance – courtesy of Michael Tallarida ’21

With no live sports over the past two months, avid sports fans have been looking for something to keep them entertained during their quarantine. 

     Originally set to premiere this summer, ESPN moved up the release date of The Last Dance to April 19. The documentary, which focuses on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls’ path to glory, broke viewership records on its opening night. The series became an instant hit, gaining more attention each week as it concluded on May 17. 

     Going into the documentary, Michael Jordan himself felt skeptical about how it would portray his character. Jordan claimed, “People are going to hate me,” after they watched the ten-part series. The feedback was quite the opposite, as many believe the documentary grew fans’ love of Jordan, bolstering his reputation over LeBron James even more. 

“There’s no question in my mind that Jordan is the GOAT.”

Matt Mignucci ’20

     Haverford students enjoyed the documentary, specifically the Jordan aspect. 

     “I thought the way that it was put together with various interviews from different people from all aspects of Jordan’s life, and the way they edited that all together, including footage from the games, made it a phenomenal documentary,”  Fifth Former Drew Loughnane said. 

poll by Austin Zhuang ’22

     In basketball discussions the GOAT question arises:  Jordan or LeBron? The Last Dance seems to have changed the normally generational divide, with more people now regarding Jordan as the best basketball player of all time.

     “There’s no question in my mind that Jordan is the GOAT,” said Sixth Former Matt Mignucci. “LeBron is a fantastic player capable of being top three, but Jordan was just on another level.”

     James’ NBA Finals record has always been a knock on his career achievements, only going 3-6 in his appearances compared to Jordan’s perfect 6-0. However, James’ position as heir to the throne is not over yet, as he showed throughout the 2019-20 NBA season that he is still one of the best players on the planet, which for many served as proof of his superiority. 

     “In my opinion, LeBron is no doubt the best basketball player of all time. Jordan has more achievements to his name, but there has never been a player as dominant and physically gifted as LeBron,” said Fifth Former Tyler Zimmer.

poll by Austin Zhuang ’22

     Former Lakers star Earvin “Magic” Johnson remarked something quite similar, stating, “LeBron James to me, when you think about all-around basketball players, he’s probably the best of all time. An all-around basketball player. But when you want to say who’s the greatest ever, it’s still Michael Jordan.”     

As the GOAT debate rages, there may never be a clear answer, but The Last Dance brings to light some old footage of Jordan for contemporary fans who may have not seen too much of his game. The door is open for James, and time will tell if he can finally cement himself as the greatest basketball player of all time.