Revisiting The Last Dance

I loved The Last Dance, the ten-part documentary about the 1990’s Chicago Bulls championship run. One of my only fond early-Covid memories is watching the new episodes Sunday night two at a time for five straight weeks with my son. We’re both huge NBA fans. And this was a time for us to hang out (and set him straight on Jordan vs. Lebron).

I’ve watched it a few more times taking notes for a leadership lessons blog post.

There’s so much there.

An opportunity to witness individual greatness, team building, and champions at work through the fun lens of basketball.

How pettiness, credit hogging, and hard feelings can interfere with success.

Tough decision-making.

Jordan’s harsh view of leadership and insane self-motivation.

But this isn’t that post.

It turns out there’s a developing flip side to The Last Dance. Jerry Krause, the GM punching bag through much of the documentary died in 2017 so he couldn’t clap back. However, Scottie Pippen is alive and well and calling BS on Jordan’s documentary.

Pippen’s view of The Last Dance

Besides that claim above, Pippen says:

Jordan made himself the hero of his own documentary, taking credit for his teammates development, growth, and accomplishments. Their flaws and mistakes are rehashed. His aren’t.

Jordan got paid to participate. The others didn’t.

Pippen claims to speak for other players. I don’t know if it’s true. But he was the second best player on that run, and he speaks for himself and that’s enough for me. Maybe these resentments were building for a while, or they’re brand new. What’s clear is that The Last Dance blew them wide open since not too long ago Pippen was slathering Jordan with praise.

Beyond the Bulls

The Last Dance, when combined with the end of the Brady-Belichick Patriots dynasty, and the current struggles of the Jaylen Brown – Jason Tatum led Boston Celtics, provides larger lessons on leadership, culture, and winning.

Your mind and ego can be powerful enemies. 

Communication, sharing credit, and investing in relationships are powerful antidotes.

The Bulls

Ask any basketball player if they would have liked to be on the Bulls winning titles, making millions, and as Phil Jackson said in Episode 1, creating an “image that people wanted to be part of” and you know the answer.

Why would resentment linger so many years later?

Because long after the champagne is dry and you’ve been out of the league for so long short shorts are back in vogue, the success doesn’t matter as much as the credit you received and your treatment along the way. Jordan needed to remind us he was The Goat. We already knew it. Why not take the opportunity to share more glory with his teammates?

The Patriots

Why wouldn’t the two keys to the Patriots dynasty (sorry Bob Kraft) want to win more championships together?

Because eventually championships aren’t enough. You crave greater individual recognition. You want more money and more appreciation. And resentments build up.

The Celtics

And if recent stories about the Celtics are to be believed, why would Tatum and Brown be more worried about which one will make the next all-star game than interested in anchoring a winning team for a legendary franchise?

Because as Jordan said, “winning has a price and leadership has a price.”

Young players may not be ready, willing, and able to pay that price to contribute to organizational greatness. They may not be willing to elevate someone else, since they fear not receiving as much credit, money, and fame for the team’s accomplishments as they would for their own accolades.

Leadership Lessons

I worked at an absolute amazing money manager with a horrible culture that eventually imploded.

I help lead an amazing wealth management firm with an excellent culture that we want to maintain. It’s one of my biggest priorities in life.

I am trying to learn from stories like The Last Dance about creating and maintaining a great culture and what either prevents greatness, or derails it once it’s underway. 


Share credit.

Have big goals that rally and excite people.

As issues develop, address them thoughtfully with even more communication.

It’s evident with the Patriots that the issues that eventually split up Brady and Bill had been festering for a while. Don’t let things fester.

Investment Lessons

Individual investors can learn lessons here as well. We’ve talked about behavioral investing traps before. Maybe these stories bring this stuff home in a different way.

Your mind isn’t always your best financial ally. An objective independent advisor can help.

Don’t compare yourself to others financially, or try to keep up with the Joneses. You’ll never be satisfied and the lack of satisfaction can get you in trouble.

Set out to accomplish your financial goals, and as they are accomplished celebrate and enjoy. Avoid the curse of more. 

And most importantly, keep reading, watching, and learning from people who have been there before.

Suggested Further Reading

Learning to Avoid the Sunk-Cost Effect with Bill Belichick

5 Leadership Lessons from Bob Iger

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