One of the points The Last Dance has really hammered home for basketball fans is how hard it is to win championships in consecutive seasons. Playing at least 98 games two or three years in a row, and being rewarded with only three and a half months to recover, takes an immense physical toll. There's the mental weight of being defending championships, dealing with the expectations and the fact that the team has a target on its back every night they take the floor. Then there's the issues that naturally arise with teammates, who are people as well as basketball players. Most people don't get along with their coworkers all the time, much less if they have to work with the same two dozen people, day in and day out, for years at a time-- and most people don't work with some of the most maniacally competitive characters in the world.
That's how it was for Jordan's Bulls back in both 1993 and 1998: it's really freaking hard to win back-to-back-to-back titles. It may not even be that much fun, either. ESPN's Nick Friedall penned an article published today about the weight the Golden State Warriors felt in the second leg of their attempted three-peat, and general manager Bob Myers said there wasn't joy in their 2018 title run.
"The second time with Kevin [in 2018] it felt like, 'Well, we just did what we were supposed to do, and great job,'" Warriors president and general manager Bob Myers said of the last time the Warriors won a title. "It wasn't joy. I'm sure a lot of people felt differently. It wasn't anybody's fault. I think there's just a weight to everything. And so I'm sure [the Bulls] felt that weight of everything, weight of relationships."- ESPN
In retrospect, 2017-2018 was the first full season that the general discourse among fans towards the Warriors was filled with vitriol. Nobody outside of the Bay Area was rooting for Golden State back in 2016-2017, but there was still a chance they could fail, that Kevin Durant's addition would somehow backfire. Their stroll to a championship that season proved a team with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Durant resulted in the inevitable. The cracks didn't start to show within the Warriors until the 2018-19 season, and the tax of playing into June several years in a row resulted in a torn Achilles for Durant and a torn ACL for Thompson.
It's all just a lot. You could see similar consequences affecting the Miami Heat in the last season of their run; LeBron James and Co. looked simply exhausted by the final game of the 2014 Finals. The Los Angeles Lakers tried to trade Pau Gasol, Kobe Bryant's valuable sidekick, after two championships and ultimately couldn't secure the third for the three-peat. Kobe and Shaq's personal issues dissolved the early 2000s Lakers dynasty after three rings. NBA teams can be a very fragile ecosystem, and championship contention pushes everyone to the brink.
It's remarkable to know all that and still see repeat champions. The final two episodes of The Last Dance should portray that better than anything.