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What Netflix has taught me during the pandemic


My friend, Paul, called me out a few weeks back.

“You know,” he said.  “It occurs to me that many people have used their time during this pandemic to do new things… to learn to paint… or play piano… to do house renovations… or even read the classics.   All you did was watch 49 episodes of Billions.”

Damn.  Guilty.  

I was late to the party with Billions, but quickly got sucked in, maybe because it’s loosely based on real events.  And now that I’m caught up, I’ve become hooked again, this time on Ozark.  Neither of these series has imparted any real life (or business) lesson to me – other than that bad people will behave badly, whether in Manhattan or Missouri.

Thankfully, there’s also been The Last Dance.

Many millions have watched the 10-episode behind-the-scenes look at Michael Jordan’s sixth and final championship run in 1998, along with flashbacks of his career and the Chicago Bulls’ dynasty that dominated the NBA in the 1990s. It has quickly become the most-watched sports documentary of all time.

I found it full of lessons for both life and business, and it seemed to appeal beyond just basketball.  My daughter, Julia, watched it along with me and, unless it’s the Raptors making history (or the players’ hair styles), she has zero interest in basketball.  But The Last Dance seemed to be just as much about competitiveness, power, relationships, culture, conflict, pain, hopes and dreams, achievement.

It had a slice of everything.

Along the way, I picked out a short list of observations that (to me) also apply to business:


  1. It only takes one individual to set the tone for the team.   

Not only was Jordan’s talent off the charts – the best player in the game – he was a competitive freak.  His work ethic and commitment set a clear tone for the rest of the Bulls.   They had to measure up because Michael expected them to.  After losing to the more physical Detroit Pistons in 1990, Jordan pushed the team to work all summer – lifting weights, adding muscle, deepening their discipline. The Bulls came back and won their first championship a year later.

And he was the same off the court.  Here was the richest player in the game (now worth $2.1 billion), pitching quarters against the locker room wall in competition with the head of security at the United Center, playing for $10 bills.  This was MJ’s team and his competitive fire came to define the Bulls culture.  He had to win.

  1. But it takes more than one for the team to win.

People forget that Jordan was a Bull for six seasons before winning his first championship.  In his early years, the team was all about Michael.  Pass the ball to Mike, let him take the shots.  But it didn’t all come together until Phil Jackson became coach of the Bulls and installed his infamous “triangle offense.”  Jackson’s idea was to create multiple threats to score other than just Michael, like Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman and Steve Kerr, among others.  The new offence allowed every player to contribute their strengths.

Being the best player on the court only got Jordan (and the Bulls) so far.  Pippen was also one of the top players in the game.  Jordan made him even better, and Scottie made Michael better too.  Once Jordan realized that, once the triangle offense took hold, things went to another level of success.  Together, Jordan and Pippen would help the Bulls win six championships in eight years.  It took a team.



  1. Manage to the mix.  

It’s not only about the team, but mixing together the various parts in the most effective way.  That’s why, to me, Phil Jackson was the missing ingredient in the Bulls’ success.  Not only did he get MJ some help, and take some of the pressure off him – he found the right way to combine all of the pieces with the right touch.  Rodman was an example.  He was, by far, the best defensive player in the league, and a key part of the Bulls second ‘three-peat’ of championships.  But he was also a pain in the ass to put up with.  There was the scene of Rodman running off to Las Vegas with Carmen Electra for a 48-hour “vacation” in the middle of the 1998 season, and then heading to Detroit – in the middle of the Finals – to wrestle with Hulk Hogan.

This was one of Jackson’s unique gifts as a coach.  He understood not only when to give his players space, but why they needed it.  It built a bond of trust between him and the team.  And it ended up creating a dynasty.  In Jordan’s own words:  “Phil had a way of always drawing you in to be part of the process.”


  1. Ego can be poison.

My final insight has to do with the Bulls’ general manager.  Make no mistake, Jerry Krause was excellent at his job.  He had the smarts to draft a talent like Pippen from a tiny college.  He added complementary pieces to Jordan that made the team better.  He had the guts to fire a good coach (Doug Collins) and hire an even better one (Jackson). He brought in Rodman when others around the league thought he was crazy.  The list goes on.

But, like too many managers in business, Krause wanted the credit – and he ended up being the primary reason that 1998 was the “last dance” for the Bulls.  He decided even before the season began that the following season (1999) would be a rebuild and that Jackson’s coaching contract wouldn’t be renewed.  The dominoes toppled from there.  Jordan decided he wouldn’t play for any coach other than Jackson, so 1998 would be his own last dance.   Krause’s ego ultimately got in the way, and spelled the end of the Bulls dynasty.

They never won another championship.

So, if you haven’t yet seen it, give The Last Dance a view, and let me know what you think.  (It’s even better than Billions.)

And then ask yourself:

  1. Who’s setting the tone on your team?
  2. Do you draw on the strengths of all of your players?
  3. How does the whole mix come together?
  4. Does ego get in the way?

~ Craig