With thousands of people stuck in their home quarantining in the midst of a pandemic, it’s as if Michael Jordan knew exactly what all sports fans needed — “The Last Dance” a 10-episode documentary on Netflix.
Netflix’s joint production with ESPN put the Chicago Bulls on full display, revealing everything that went into winning their six NBA Finals rings. Fans were able to see exclusive footage that brought them inside the life and basketball career of Jordan, one of the greatest athletes and basketball players of all time.
The team chemistry between the Bulls and some of its star players — Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman — isn’t something every basketball team in the NBA or NCAA achieves so effortlessly. Whether you’re a basketball fan or not, the motivation and passion that led to their success is inspiring.
After “The Last Dance” was produced and aired it seemed like all fans wanted was an episode 11. To fulfill this desire, Netflix should consider a documentary on the Wisconsin Badgers’ 2014-2015 men’s basketball team. If only the cameras were rolling nonstop on that team with unrestricted access just as they were for the Bulls.
Composed of star players Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker, Josh Gasser, Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes, this group produced one of the best basketball teams in Wisconsin history. With the amount of unity and passion this team displayed and the back-to-back season successes they achieved it would, in a way, resemble “The Last Dance.”
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In their 2014-2015 season, the Badgers were off to a great start after beating Penn State at home and building their conference record to 3-0. After that game, Kaminsky, who would eventually be named Big Ten Player of the Year, suffered a minor injury that would sideline him for a game. But Wisconsin fans knew their next game against Rutgers would quickly turn their record to 4-0.
Unfortunately, the Badgers ending up losing 67-62 and the dynamic of the team without Kaminsky was off. Exposing the audience to what changed between the team when Kaminsky was out of that game and the adjustments that had to be made would make for some engaging content.
Impactful footage of Wisconsin’s impressive 10-game winning streak after their loss to Rutgers and the energy the team radiated in the Kohl Center throughout the season would also be necessary aspects.
The Badgers performance earned them a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament where they defeated #16 seed Coastal Carolina before escaping #8 seed Oregon to work their way up to the Sweet Sixteen. Here, their road collided with perennial contender and blue-blood program #4 seed North Carolina.
This matchup was highly anticipated from the moment the bracket released. This game could be a key focus in the documentary, displaying the increasing intensity of the tournament in the second weekend as well as the player mindsets heading into the game. North Carolina led the Badgers in a tight contest for a majority of the game, but some key plays from Zak Showalter and Dekker in the final minutes secured a 79-72 Badger win.
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The Badgers then faced Arizona for a second straight year in the Elite Eight. After escaping with a narrow 64-63 overtime victory over the Wildcats the year before, the Badgers shattered their hearts once more in 2015 with a score of 85-77. This would be an opportunity to document the bad blood between Wisconsin and Arizona basketball at the time. The Badgers’ victory over Arizona led them into a battle with top dog Kentucky in the Final Four, the exact same set up as the year before.
A deeper look with footage of the Badgers’ 2013-2014 season ending with a Final Four loss to Kentucky would be interesting for fans to understand all the emotion and work leading up to that game. The format of “The Last Dance” — bringing you back-and-forth in time — was a unique way to tell many intertwined stories. Scenes of Wisconsin players training after their Final Four loss transitioned with them beating Kentucky in their 2014-2015 season would be extremely powerful.
When the Badgers lost to #1 seed Duke in the national championship, it was a devastating loss that affected not only the team, but thousands of loyal Badgers fans who were watching the game broadcasted from Indianapolis. Everything written on paper seems very statistical and unemotional, but the bonds these athletes were creating from achieving so much together was exhilarating. Interviewing players from other teams in the Big Ten conference in the documentary would be insightful to understand the competition the Badgers put up during this time.
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Phil Jackson, who led the Bulls to three consecutive NBA championships, and Bo Ryan, who led the Badgers to two consecutive Final Fours and a national championship game, each paved the road for these successful basketball teams. Having a segment on players’ attitudes towards Bo Ryan and how he impacted their lives would be interesting content in a documentary.
Learning about Ryan’s journey as a basketball coach and his life would also be eye-opening. Ryan retired from his head coach position in the middle of the following season and hearing directly from him, his players and even students at Wisconsin would serve as valuable information.
Adding footage about how each player grew up and ended up at Wisconsin would be important and would drive for an even deeper connection to the players. Touching on the lifelong relationships each teammate made with one another would be another key aspect, some even ended up in each other’s weddings.