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ESPN’s The Last Dance was a highly anticipated (and incredibly ambitious) project, and it did not disappoint. Sports fans were more than engaged while watching the Chicago Bulls’ sixth championship run play out over the course of 10 episodes. Of course, it goes without saying that Michael Jordan was at the center of the entire series, but director Jason Hehir has confirmed that the basketball legend originally had reservations about doing the documentary:
I said, ‘Why do you want to do this?’ and he said, ‘I don’t.’ He was concerned people, specifically when they saw footage of him at practice in ’97-’98, would take it out of context. If they see him getting on his teammates, swearing at them ... they’d have an impression of him that wasn’t accurate. I told him, ‘We have 10 hours to give full context to this.’
People have varying perceptions of Michael Jordan and, while not everyone views him as a perfect person, some would’ve likely been surprised to see what one of his practices was like. But those who’ve seen The Last Dance know Jordan didn’t hold back when discussing the matter and Jason Hehir continued to tell the Los Angeles Times that the star jumped into the subject matter rather quickly:
The stuff of him being a difficult, demanding teammate, he got into that immediately the first time we met. And 45 minutes into that first interview is when he gets emotional: ‘If you don’t want to play that way, don’t play that way,’ and asks to cut the cameras. It’s clear how passionate he is about his philosophy about winning and his philosophy about leadership.
Anyone who followed Michael Jordan throughout his career knows he’s a competitive person and, with that nature, came an intensity that motivated him on a daily basis. In The Last Dance, Jordan made it very clear that it was just the way he played the game and stated that it did lead to success for him and his team.
While those intense practices yielded desirable results, they also drew the ire of some of Jordan’s teammates and would partially lead to some controversy outside of the organization. In 1992, sportswriter Sam Smith published The Jordan Rules, a book that chronicled the Bulls’ first championship run. Although it became a bestseller, the book drew backlash, as many believed it depicted Jordan in an unflattering way.
In terms of how Sam Smith received his information, Michael Jordan believes teammate Horace Grant, a friend of Smith’s, leaked information to him. Grant has since denied the notion and expressed his displeasure with the theory being explored so heavily in the documentary.
Michael Jordan’s interactions with his teammates and his leadership methods were easily some of the most interesting elements of The Last Dance. So in the long run, it’s good that Jordan did choose to open up about his experiences.
The Last Dance can be streamed on ESPN.com and will also be available on Netflix later this month.