'The Last Dance' Takeaways

True champions are an eclectic group of talents and personalities who can endure some strife along their journey.

If we were college students majoring in Leadership Studies, ESPN’s “The Last Dance” would have to be part of our core curriculum. Over the last month, this two-hour weekly class has provided countless lessons on everything from communication to conflict, veracity to victory. It has given us soundbites and snapshots of the pain, perseverance and sacrifice that go into not just succeeding at the highest levels but becoming iconic. Above all, it’s taught us that true champions are an eclectic group of talents and personalities who can endure some strife along their journey but still perform at their peak when the din of chaos is loudest. Here are some class notes:

  • Courage is required to voice the uncomfortable truth.

  • Ultimately, winning resolves the tension between players.

  • The things that divide us should never be greater than the things that unite us. 

  • Greatness is a badge of destination.

  • We danced to the words, not the music.

  • Everyone has an opinion. Everyone has a critic.

  • A story well told will live forever.

  • Every episode was a war of opinion vs. facts.

  • Embarrassment is a tough medicine to swallow.

  • Winning and losing is life's ultimate test of character.

  • The great ones are revolutionaries. They destroy the opponent's will to win.

  • History is best situated to record our deeds.

  • Some stories have no end.

  • Our lives must be lived forward and understood backward. 

  • Sometimes you have to take someone else's beating.

  • There are 2 kinds of truth: hard and inconvenient.

  • Championship organizations are not built in silence. 

  • Truth reveals itself over time. Truth is absorbed and believed over time.

  • The good and bad live on forever.

  • Sometimes it takes a wake-up call to get your attention.

  • Great leaders do not hide behind silence. 

We’ve now completed our five-week course, but the lessons “The Last Dance” has taught us live on. Cohesion, resilience, mindfulness, communication and above all else, handling the cold, honest truth. These are just some of the qualities it takes for sustained excellence at the highest levels. Remember that greatness is a badge of destination that few reach. As we exit the classroom, let’s go forward the way M.J. did determined not just to have an accomplished past but to leave an indelible history.


P.S. If you are in search of a book recommendation, our team at The Daily Coach highly recommends No Time For Spectators: The Lessons That Mattered Most From West Point To The West Wing by General Martin Dempsey. This book takes readers behind the closed doors of the Situation Room, onto the battlefields of Iraq, and to the East German border at the height of the Cold War. It contends that relationships between leaders and followers―employers and employees, politicians and constituents, coaches and athletes, teachers and students―are most productive when based on certain key mutual expectations.


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