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One of the things ESPN’s The Last Dance did so well was humanizing its subjects, particularly Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan. The miniseries definitely portrayed him as the popular and beloved sports figure that he is, but it also didn’t shy away from painting him in a somewhat unflattering light at times. With this, you have to wonder how Jordan and his team felt about this approach. Well now, director Jason Hehir has revealed whether he experienced any troubles while attempting to show the various sides of Michael Jordan.
When it came to The Last Dance, Jason Hehir’s goal was to tell a multifaceted story that would portray the various aspects of Michael Jordan’s character. This includes both his “good side” and “bad side.” And according to Hehir, his producing partners became open to the idea once they really got into the thick of things:
We all just felt incredibly lucky, and we wanted to tell, you know, there’s a good side and a bad side to everybody. There’s the nicest side and the mean side to everybody, that we wanted to be able to tell as comprehensive a story as possible. And I think that once all the partners and I started working together more and more, everyone became more comfortable with telling a more well-rounded story.
While speaking with Gold Derby, Hehir also revealed that The Last Dance wasn’t initially meant to focus so heavily on Jordan’s life, as it was going to focus squarely on the Bulls’ final championship run. However, these plans would gradually change:
At the very, very beginning, I think it was expected from some of the executives on the Jordan Brand side and on the NBA side that we were really just going to focus on ‘97/’98. This was not the quote on quote definitive Michael Jordan story. It still isn’t because we told so many other stories that you wouldn’t tell in a Michael Jordan documentary. You wouldn’t interview Steve Kerr’s mom for a Michael Jordan documentary. But that dissipated very quickly I think when they became comfortable with the level of research that we were putting into it.
The Last Dance covered several controversial moments in Jordan’s career, such as his gambling habits, which became a major point of media scrutiny. The docuseries also included his refusal to show public support for a Democratic senatorial candidate in North Carolina.
And of course, the series also highlighted the intense Bulls practices he ran, which became the subject of the bestselling book The Jordan Rules. To this day, Jordan claims the book came to be because information was leaked by teammate Horace Grant. Grant, who was not pleased with his depiction in The Last Dance, has disputed this notion.
If anything, The Last Dance was made better by Jason Hehir and his team’s efforts to tell a more complex story. Had they not done their due diligence, the series honestly would have become stale.
The Last Dance is now available to stream on Netflix.