ESPN’s The Last Dance -- the docuseries that centered on the Chicago Bulls’ championship dynasty -- received critical acclaim for multiple reasons. Not only did it offer an intimate look into the personal life and mindset of Michael Jordan, but it also captured the exciting nature of the NBA of the ‘90s. This was greatly aided by interviews with some of Jordan’s key teammates and rivals. Although director Jason Hehir was able to get plenty former players in front of the camera, he admits there were some that were hard to get a hold of:
The guys on the Jazz… I think that for a lot of Michael’s opponents, especially those who suffered losses deep in the playoffs and never got back to that mountaintop, I think it’s very difficult for them to discuss these things, because it’s still painful for them because they are just as competitive as Michael is, and they came out on the wrong side. So it took a while for us to convince Reggie Miller, but he eventually agreed to an interview in February of this year. He was one of our last ones.
NBA fans no doubt know just how dominant the Michael Jordan-led Bulls teams were, and you can bet that those memories are still deeply engrained in their opponents’ minds. Jason Hehir would go on to tell Collider that it took some time to convince Utah Jazz legend John Stockton to take part in the project. Luckily, the filmmaker was able to make an appeal to the Hall of Famer:
It took a while for us to convince John Stockton, who is reticent and reluctant to do media to begin with. I didn’t know what John Stockton’s voice sounded like before we sat him down for an interview. It’s true, I’d never heard a sound bite from him. But in January I finally got a dialogue going with him after reaching out to him for literally years, and he wanted to be assured that this wasn’t going to be a Michael Jordan puff piece, and it was around the time that we were editing episodes 7 and 8, and I can promise you that we’re going into some aspects of Michael’s life that are not puff piece aspects, and we’re telling the story not just of Michael, but of Dennis and Scottie and Phil Jackson and Toni Kukoc and Steve Kerr, and I told him it’s very much a snapshot of ’90s basketball, so your absence would be conspicuous, because you’re one of the top five point guards ever, and you were a key player of that era.
Basketball fans should certainly be appreciative of Hehir for convincing John Stockton to appear in The Last Dance. As he pointed out, because Stockton was one of the top players of that time, his absence in the doc would have been all too noticeable.
On that note, there are stars that The Last Dance was unable to secure, but there’s one missing star that stands out the most for Hehir:
And then for guys who I wish we had gotten, I wish we could’ve sat down and talked to Karl Malone, but he didn’t want to be a part of it. He was the MVP in ’97, and as Michael said, that drove him in those ’97 Finals, and then he’s the guy who Michael stole the ball from in the waning seconds of game 6, so he played a key role in some of the most memorable Finals appearances in NBA history, and it would’ve been great to get his perspective on playing against the Bulls.
Karl Malone and Michael Jordan were fierce competitors and, with both being top players in the ‘90s, they delighted fans with some thrilling games. However, Jordan would ultimately best the Utah Jazz legend in their two NBA Finals meetings.
The Last Dance has drawn somewhat mixed responses from players who were featured. Former Chicago Bull Horace Grant was displeased with the way he was portrayed, and Scottie Pippen (who was initially reported to be upset) had no problem with it. And Steve Kerr seemed to be humorously concerned with his physical appearance in the show.
While it would’ve been exciting to have more NBA greats in The Last Dance, the show still provided us with plenty of big names like Magic Johnson, Gary Payton and even the late Kobe Bryant.
The Last Dance is currently streaming on Netflix.