Has ‘The Last Dance’ become a communal viewing expe…

Has ‘The Last Dance’ become a communal viewing experience? JOHN DAHL: Without a doubt. It’s been amazing to see how this is unfolded as a cultural event. Our director, Jason Hehir, just did a phenomenal job. It’s been blowing my mind. There are stories about stories in each episode. That’s what’s been extraordinary to see. The conversation just keeps going from week to week.

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ESPN capitalized on hunger for sports content during pandemic by moving up its premiere date. But didn’t that cause pressure behind the scenes? John Dahl: The production wasn’t done. The last couple of episodes weren’t done – and we were making the commitment to move this up by six weeks. We had to find a cadence that made sense. I drew up over a dozen scenarios when [ESPN Executive Vice President of Content] Connor Schell asked me to start exploring what was possible.
What do you think of criticism from Ken Burns that this is not “good journalism” since Michael has ultimate editorial control? JD: I don’t think it’s a fair criticism. When Ken made the comments, he had not seen any of the series. I don’t know if he’s seen any episodes since. But he had not seen it then. The thing you have to understand is Michael always had control over the 1997/98 footage. It wasn’t going to happen unless he said, ‘OK, I’m going to let this happen, let’s do it.’ That’s just the rights he was granted back in 1997/98. I can just tell you that Michael has never prevented anything from being in the film. He never said, ‘Don’t put this in.’ He’s not doing that. Jason has been able to put in pretty much what he wants to put in. I think it’s been a very successful venture.
George Karl didn’t want to give Michael Jordan any added fuel. But by avoiding him at a Chicago restaurant prior to the 1996 NBA Finals, he did anyway, as “The Last Dance” documentary revealed Sunday night. “He walks right past me,” Jordan said in the show. “And I look at Ahmad [Rashad] and I said, ‘Really? Oh, so that’s how you’re gonna play it?’”
“It is true. I had Brendan Malone on my staff from the Detroit Pistons, and he said, ‘Michael plays head games with you all the time,’ and he said ‘you don’t want to mess with him in the series,” Karl said. “Say hello at the beginning of the series, shake his hand at the end of the series, but during the series don’t let him use anything to motivate himself to be a better player than the greatest player in NBA basketball.”
Michael Lee: MJ showed up to a game with a bat & a pre-game victory cigar, then dropped this verse from the Book of Jordan: 23:16. "That's a sign of a good man if he can talk sh*t when it's even score, or talk sh*t when you behind score. When you're ahead, it's easy to talk."

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Look, this guy was the clubhouse attendant as a college freshman, hanging on through a work/study program to a nowhere school walk-on athletic scholarship. It did appear Pippen was going to be an early one-and-done. You know, one year of college and done and on the way to the factory. It couldn't have been more Pippen Sunday in the documentary to say of the infamous 1.8 moment, "It was one of those incidents where I wish it never happened…" Now wait for the sine qua non that is so Scottie Pippen… "But if I had a chance to do it over again I probably wouldn't change it."
Michael Jordan summed up his entire ethos with one phrase late in Episode 7: "Winning has a price." Jordan punched multiple teammates in practice. When several were asked on camera if he was a nice guy, they either hemmed and hawed or simply said, "No." But to Jordan, none of that mattered. What mattered was the end result. And, to him, there was only one acceptable result: winning.
In the latest episode of The Last Dance, Perdue opened up about why the rest of the Bulls squad still held MJ in high regard despite his often brazen attitude during practices. “Let’s not get it wrong: He was an a**hole, he was a jerk, he crossed the line numerous times but as time goes on you think back about what he was actually trying to accomplish — you’re like, he was a hell of a teammate,” Will Perdue said.
“His theory was, if you can’t handle pressure from me, you’re not going to be able to handle the pressure of the NBA playoffs,” Steve Kerr said. “So he talked trash in practice, he went after guys. He challenged guys.” They then show footage of him going after Scott Burrell, whooping and whistling at him, letting Burrell know it was about to be a long day. “‘Woo,’ I remember, yeah,” Burrell said with a laugh. “He wants to win and you gotta earn everything in Chicago. There was nothing easy, nothing given to you and you gotta go out and earn it. And you earn it in practice.”
That phone call fixed everything between Jordan and Kerr. "We talked it out and it was probably, in a weird way, the best thing that I ever did, was stand up for myself with him because he tested everybody he played with, and I stood up to him," Kerr said on "The Last Dance." Kerr punched Jordan, but his actions won over the best player in NBA history. "He earned my respect because he wasn't willing to back down to be a pawn in this whole process," Jordan said.
According to the theory, Jordan’s first retirement was essentially a suspension from then-league commissioner David Stern stemming from Jordan’s gambling problem. However, in the latest The Last Dance episodes, the late David Stern addressed the rumor. “The urban legend that I sent [MJ] away because he was gambling…ridiculous. No basis in fact,” Stern said in the recent episode.
However, according to Jordan himself, that wasn’t true in the slightest bit. “I didn’t retire because someone kicked me out or they suspended me for a year and a half,” Michael Jordan said in the latest installment of The Last Dance. “That is not true… I needed a break, my father just passed. And I retired with the notion that I wasn’t going to come back.”
Sunday's new episode of the ESPN documentary series The Last Dance -- which has largely examined Michael's final season with the Chicago Bulls in 1997-'98 -- went back several years to examine a formative aspect of his life, and the celebrated athlete got emotional while reflecting in his relationship with his late father. "He was my rock. You know, we were very close. He constantly gave me advice," Michael recalled for the documentary cameras. "I remember, in ninth grade, I got suspended three times in one year, and my father pulled me aside that summer and said, 'Look, you don't look like you're heading in the right direction. You know, if you want to go about doing all this mischievous stuff, you can forget sports.' And that's all I needed to hear." "From that point on, it was like tunnel vision," Michael said, "and I never got in trouble from that point on."
James was brutally murdered on July 23, 1993, when he pulled off a highway to take a nap on the side of the road. James was shot to death while sleeping, and the two attackers then hid his body in the woods and stole his car. His body wasn't discovered until the following month. "You know, my mother was so strong," Michael recalled of his mom's advice at his father's funeral service. "The first thing she says, 'You know, you got to be thankful.' You know, and I started looking at the positive." "One of the things that he always taught me is that you have to take a negative and turn it into a positive," he added. "So I started looking to the other side of it, and that helped me get through it."
According to our historical database, Scottie Pippen is one of only two NBA players since 1980 to average at least 22 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 2.5 steals per game over the course of an NBA season, which he did through 72 games in 1993-94. The other? Michael Jordan in 1989, when MJ averaged 32.5 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists and 2.9 steals in 81 games. Pippen's 1993-94 campaign was further proof that he could have absolutely thrived in a LeBron James-style, jumbo lead ball-handler role with shooters surrounding him.
StatMuse: 1996 NBA Finals MJ not guarded by GP: - 3 games - 31.0 PPG - 5.0 APG - 46.0 FG% - 50.0 3P% MJ guarded by GP: - 3 games - 23.7 PPG - 3.3 APG - 36.7 FG% - 11.1 3P% #TheLastDance

http://twitter.com/ClutchPointsApp/status/1259678615534366720
While teams are usually giddy with delight after successful game-winners, Kukoc recalled how the entire squad fell silent shortly after that thrilling escape. The 6-foot-11 Croatian said this in the latest episode of The Last Dance on Sunday. “Obviously happy for making the shot, but the whole situation, even going to the lockers, you see everybody is like pissed that things are not right,” Toni Kukoc admitted, referring to Scottie Pippen’s surprising action.
Kevin McHale took the stand to offer his testimony, much of which I’m able to corroborate directly. “First of all, you can see why the Pistons didn’t like the Bulls,” the Celtic legend told the Herald. “The Bulls complained all the time. That’s one thing that came across (in the documentary). Like, ‘This is not basketball. This is thuggery.’ All that stuff. I thought the Bulls really disrespected what the Pistons were able to do. “But, hey, when you kill the king, you can talk (expletive).”
“I’m going to tell you this: of all the series that I played in all through the ’80s, after a close-out game, unless you were walking with somebody you knew, you almost never said anything. You might congratulate them if you saw them later, but there wasn’t a lot of talk, I mean, congratulatory or (expletive)-talking or anything,” McHale said. “You just kind of went in the locker room. Ninety percent of the series we won, I didn’t talk to anybody. They didn’t come up to me, and I didn’t think they should.”
Despite the undeniable virality of The Last Dance, Awful Announcing has learned that multiple popular Twitter accounts have received DMCA complaints for posting clips of the show. Awful Announcing’s own Twitter account — which has been live-tweeting a few clips every weekend — was also targeted with one of these requests this past week for a clip that aired weeks ago. The complaint was our first DMCA complaint, which carries no real punishment. But for other accounts who have been flagged in the past, the DMCA complaints have had a more significant effect with multiple accounts being suspended indefinitely.
Awful Announcing has reviewed a handful of registered complaints, all of which were filed by ESPN. All of the clips in question follow the general accepted principles to be considered legal fair usage: clips under 30 seconds, and not monetized or rebranded. What’s strange is that ESPN has historically not had any issues with this type of content on social media. We frequently see ESPN talent, corporate accounts, and executives often retweet clips of their content posted on social media by non-ESPN accounts. The recent crackdown raises the question of if there’s been a shift in the legal interpretation of fair use at ESPN, but a source told AA that’s not what’s at play here.
The source told us that despite the claims being put forth by ESPN, there has been no formal policy change. The source added that this new zealous (or perhaps overzealous) policing seems to pertain to only The Last Dance, which points the finger at its other production partners. While almost all ESPN content is exclusively owned or produced by ESPN, The Last Dance was a collaboration between Netflix, the NBA, Mandalay Sports Media, Jump 23, and ESPN.
But while Isiah is quite correct to point out that things were different in that era, Detroit’s silent stroll by the Chicago bench was for a far more pointed reason than the Celts’ slightly early departure. Kevin McHale took the stand to offer his testimony, much of which I’m able to corroborate directly.
“First of all, you can see why the Pistons didn’t like the Bulls,” the Celtic legend told the Herald. “The Bulls complained all the time. That’s one thing that came across (in the documentary). Like, ‘This is not basketball. This is thuggery.’ All that stuff. I thought the Bulls really disrespected what the Pistons were able to do. “But, hey, when you kill the king, you can talk (expletive).”
But McHale also wanted to put things in context. While the NBA has become a more fraternal order in latter years, it has never had the formality of the NHL’s post-series handshake line. “I’m going to tell you this: of all the series that I played in all through the ’80s, after a close-out game, unless you were walking with somebody you knew, you almost never said anything. You might congratulate them if you saw them later, but there wasn’t a lot of talk, I mean, congratulatory or (expletive)-talking or anything,” McHale said. “You just kind of went in the locker room. Ninety percent of the series we won, I didn’t talk to anybody. They didn’t come up to me, and I didn’t think they should.”
“I knew Isiah from the Pan-Am Games, and Zeke and I have always been friends,” said McHale. “He said something to me, and I said, ‘Hey, man, look, it feels just as bad to lose in The Finals as it does to lose in the Eastern Conference finals.’ I said, ‘This (expletive)’s not over with. You guys got another series to play, so don’t celebrate too much.’ I said that, then I walked off. That was just my advice to him as a friend.”
Grant joined ‘Pardon My Take’ in recent days, where he talked about his relationship with MJ, all the rumors saying he gave Smith inside information of the Bulls and more. He explained that Smith had quoted several other players in the book, including Bill Cartwright and John Paxson among others. He added that Smith talked with assistant coaches, Phil Jackson and even played golf with Jordan himself. “I don’t know where did they come with that I was the source behind the book. That’s a straight-up lie,” Grant said.
Horace also talked about the relationship with Jordan and how things changed after the book was published. Both players had a common goal and that was what brought them together initially. “Michael and I really didn’t have a great relationship. We respected each other as teammates in terms of us having one goal and that goal was winning a championship. We didn’t hang out that much off the court. He had his friends, I had my friends. (…) As for changing, I think, we weren’t close at all during that time.”
No one, including Isiah Thomas, should be surprised that he wasn't selected to what many consider to be the greatest team ever assembled, according to a player who was picked: Hall of Famer David Robinson. During a recent appearance on the "Bulls Talk Podcast" with Jason Goff, Robinson pointed to Thomas' "reputation" as a determining factor. "If you have a reputation and you take pride in your reputation as a 'Bad Boy' it kind of means people aren't going to like you," Robinson said, via NBC Sports. "Can you be that surprised when people say 'I don't really want to play with the 'Bad Boys?'”
Despite the undeniable virality of The Last Dance, Awful Announcing has learned that multiple popular Twitter accounts have received DMCA complaints for posting clips of the show. Awful Announcing’s own Twitter account — which has been live-tweeting a few clips every weekend — was also targeted with one of these requests this past week for a clip that aired weeks ago. The complaint was our first DMCA complaint, which carries no real punishment. But for other accounts who have been flagged in the past, the DMCA complaints have had a more significant effect with multiple accounts being suspended indefinitely.
“I hate the way that Isiah is being presented,” Rivers said. “Isiah was a ruthless winner … he’s no different from any other winner. Being from Chicago, Isiah’s the best player ever to come out of Chicago, in my opinion. Even my ego has to say that, you know? And then having Michael be the greatest player to play in Chicago … that created a competition on its own right. Like, Isiah wasn’t giving Michael Chicago, and Michael was trying to take Chicago, you know? People don’t even know that part of it. They just see the Detroit part, and the Chicago Bulls part. But the biggest part is that. Isiah still lived in Chicago when he was playing for Detroit. He wanted to come home and be Isiah Thomas; he didn’t want to come home and hear about Michael Jordan. So it had a lot of energy to it.”
Zach Lowe: I listen to the third episode of 'The Dream Team tapes' and there is Michael Jordan on tape saying what to Jack McCallum? Jack McCallum: He said when Rod (Thorn) called I told him I didn't want to play if Isiah was on the team.
"The Last Dance" director Jason Hehir told Insider that Jordan refused to be interviewed in his home. Hehir said he also tried to film Jordan on his plane for a trip he took for a Nike meeting and Air Jordan nixed that idea as well. "There are certain aspects of his life that he wants to keep private," "The Last Dance" director Jason Hehir told Insider.
Hehir said these two houses were owned by friends of the production who granted permission for the interviews to be done. "You'd be surprised how quickly people will open their doors when you say, 'Can Michael Jordan come over and be interviewed at your house?'" Hehir said.
You were interviewed for “The Last Dance.” Are you enjoying the documentary so far? Jud Buechler: Oh, I’m loving it. It’s been so great for myself and my family. I’m at home in San Diego with my family and my dad; every Sunday night, we can’t wait for 6:00 out here on the West Coast. It’s just been such a great walk down memory lane for me. I mean, it was 22 years ago and that was such a huge part of my life. It changed my life, really. It’s just so enjoyable for me.
Jud Buechler: The thing that I don’t think a lot of the younger-generation players (who didn’t have a chance to see him play) understand about Michael is that people feared him. There was fear. As great as the players are in today’s game, I don’t know if anyone’s really feared like Michael was. I mean, opponents really didn’t want to play against him. And then you add Scottie into the mix, and those guys were just relentless on defense. But especially MJ, he just had this aura about him.
Jud Buechler: Phil basically saved my career. I was in a tricky spot. I had been in Golden State for three years and I was kind of almost out of the league. When I got there, the triangle offense and the way Phil coached was just so different than any other coach that I’d ever played for. He just really knew how to manage people. He knew how to handle and manage superstars as well, but I just really loved his style. He cared about you as a person a lot.
How was Rodman as a teammate? Jud Buechler: He was an incredible teammate. When the lights came on, he went crazy, he went nuts; he was a showman and very flamboyant and everything. But I think the one misconception about him is that [he’s always like that], but behind the scenes, he was actually quiet. He was super nice and he was super generous with all of us, just a great teammate. In practice, he just worked as hard as anybody. But he was actually borderline shy; like, he wouldn’t even talk that much.
Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr had to laugh when asked what it's been like to relive his tenure with the Chicago Bulls as "The Last Dance" continues to dominate the national conversation. "It's definitely weird," Kerr told ESPN. "And I know it's about to get weirder." That's because Kerr, who won three championships as a guard for the Bulls from 1996 to '98, knows what's coming up in the final four episodes, especially the next one on Sunday night that goes in-depth on his infamous practice scuffle with Michael Jordan that left Kerr with a black eye.
"It's not something I'm proud of," Kerr said of the incident. "It is something that happens from time to time on most teams during the season. Guys get into it during practice. It's just part of high-level competition. But it's very, very strange to know everybody's hearing this story and talking about it and then I'm going to be on camera talking about it. Michael is. And people are going to be examining this whole thing. It's like there's a reason camera crews generally aren't given that type of access. Now, I don't think there was any footage of that fight, because that didn't happen in '98, but just unearthing it all and talking about it is not a lot of fun."
"He called me later that day and apologized," Kerr said. "In a strange way, it was almost a necessary step in our relationship, in a weird way. And from then on, I think he understood me a lot better and vice versa. And we got along much better and competed together and I think he trusted me more. So it was actually sort of, in the end, it was all good. But we've never talked about it since. To be honest, I don't ever think about it, but I get asked about it because it's a unique [situation]."
What did you think about what he said when he called you the second best point guard against ever seen? Isiah Thomas: You're always pleased to hear someone compliment you like that, particularly someone who is in the discussion of the greatest player to ever play. He's in that debate.
ESPN has hit the quarantine gold mine with The Last Dance, the 10-part documentary that chronicles the career of NBA legend Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls dynasty of the 1990s. And so have sports cards dealers. Prices for Jordan cards, primarily his basketball ones — but also those from his attempt to play baseball — have skyrocketed. So, too, have the prices for the cards of the Bulls’ other dynasty-era players and the rookie cards of Jordan’s contemporaries. Jordan, though, has carried the hobby to heights not seen in decades. His 1986-87 Fleer rookie card, for instance, has sold recently for $51,000 with a 10 gem mint grade.
Director Jason Hehir had been scheduled to travel to Spokane, Wash., to shoot the final interview for the project — with former Utah Jazz star John Stockton — on March 10. But ESPN called him off the trip, fearing that airline flights might be canceled and he would be stranded. “We didn’t know what shelter in place even meant at that point,” Hehir said recently. “We would not have been able to finish if I was stuck in Spokane for an extended period of time.”
Around the same time, producer Mike Tollin was in New York visiting his recently married daughter. From there, he was scheduled to fly back to Atlanta where he was shooting a sequel to “Varsity Blues.” “I got a call basically telling me, ‘Don’t bother coming back, we’ll ship your stuff to L.A.’ and I flew back home,” said Tollin, co-chairman of Mandalay Sports Media. “That Friday the 13th was when the world stopped spinning and by Monday morning I was on a conference call with ESPN, Netflix, Jump Inc., NBA and Mandalay Sports Media and … we started looking at the calendar and it was up to Jason to look at the amount of work that still needed to be completed and back time it from there.”
Hehir believed he could finish the final episode by mid-May, so airing one episode per week for 10 weeks was discussed before the decision was made to premiere on April 19 and close on May 17, with two episodes airing every Sunday. Contrary to the usual practice of having an entire series complete before it debuts, work on episode 9 was finished Friday and the final is scheduled to be done by May 10, as viewers watch episodes 7 and 8.
Craig Hodges: “One of the things as players we call this a fraternity. So I’m watching the first episode and I was upset about the ‘cocaine circus.’ That bothered me because I was thinking about the brothers who are on that picture with you who have to explain to their families who are getting ready to watch this great Michael Jordan documentary event and they know you’re on the team, and now you’ve got to explain that to a 12-year-old boy… Then the Scottie Pippen part. Scottie was ‘selfish’. C’mon man, c’mon. And then last night with Horace, that hurt me. I’m letting MJ know that that ain’t right, dude. Horace did not deserve to take the fall for ‘Jordan Rules’. If MJ knows something else and knows Horace’s motive, then tell us how Horace did it for my sake, because I’m your teammate brother, just like they are, and I’m kind of salty how everybody got interviewed but me.” (Full Audio Above) Listen to former Chicago Bulls shooting guard Craig Hodges join The Odd Couple to explain his discontent with ESPN’s ‘The Last Dance’ documentary.
Have you watched The Last Dance? What does Michael Jordan mean to you in your basketball journey? Admiral Schofield: Yes, I’ve watched every episode, this definitely brings back some memories for me as a kid because Michael Jordan was my era growing up. It’s really cool to see what he went through for his career. Being from outside of Chicago, I never knew all of this went down with the Bulls, so it’s very interesting to know this, but also see a different side of Jordan and get a deeper look into who the person was, and also the name and the athlete that we know as Michael Jordan.
You have so many behind-the-scenes stories from covering Michael Jordan and those teams. Is there anything that you wish they would've included or that you hope they delve into during the remaining episodes? Sam Smith: I think they've done a pretty good job of raising the main issues. There were parts here and there where I thought some context might have been left out, like with the Pistons' walk-out. I was there and I would have loved to have seen [this]: We were sitting in a group around Jordan and he just eviscerated the Pistons when the Bulls were up 3-0. He called them unworthy champions, terrible people, an embarrassment to the NBA... And it went on for, like, a half hour. It was just stunning. And I know that's what prompted that walk-out because the Pistons' players didn't know about it until the next day, basically.
Sam Smith: Jordan, now heading toward a seventh year without a title, is really pushing his teammates. He actually wanted different teammates; he wanted more veterans. He would have been fine with [Scottie] Pippen and [Horace] Grant getting traded for Buck Williams and Walter Davis – two ACC guys he liked since they were veterans who were more accomplished. That's who we wanted to play with. He wanted guys to match [James] Worthy and Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] with the Lakers and [Robert] Parish and [Kevin] McHale with the Celtics. He didn't want to play with babies and so that was a source of frustration. As we've seen witnessed in this documentary and which we knew, he has this incredible manic competitiveness to the level that he wants to embarrass his opponent.
Sam Smith: Anyway, the book comes out and there were dual controversies. One, that I destroyed the team. Two, how I've depicted Jordan. "This is not how he is! This is not Jordan!" I remember many of his defenders from North Carolina, like Roy Williams, went on TV and bashed me, saying, "Well, this is all made up. We know Michael is not like this..." There was a lot of that kind of stuff. It obviously became an unusual and difficult situation. But, at the same time, I had experienced that before. I had been an investigative reporter in Indiana when I first started working in journalism and then, in DC, covering Congress was my main job but I also did investigative work. So, I had worked on those kind of things before, which were serious.
Sam Smith: I know he enjoyed the lifestyle and the ability to gamble at high stakes, which was much easier to do when he had a lot of money. Two, he was able to separate himself with security as the years went on. He basically hung around with his security people as you saw when he was gambling with them. He didn't really mingle with teammates at all. I remember some of the Bulls players during the second three-peat telling me that they'd never talked to him other than on the basketball court when he was yelling at them. They'd never seen him off the court
Sam Smith: Also, to suggest that one player, who was certainly not privy to a lot of things going on, can be the source of information for a 300-page book about years of a team, some of which he wasn't even involved in, it's just ludicrous. But Michael singled him out on the broadcast because, you know, Horace was the one who would often stand up to Michael on behalf of the players. In practice, when Jordan sucker punched Will Purdue, Will was practically crying and didn't fight back; Horace was the one who went to fight back. Horace wasn't in the card games with Michael, wasn't in his group and didn't hang around with him, but he would stand up to him. Horace was going to be a Marine before he turned to basketball; that was always his dream
Hehir told Insider on Monday that the interview with Bryant was one of the shorter ones he conducted for the docuseries. He only had around 25 minutes with Bryant when they tracked him down in July 2019. And at the time of the interview, Bryant was preoccupied as he was putting the final touches on a speech he was giving at the ESPY Awards to Bill Russell as that year's recipient of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. "I had to work hard, which was unusual in this process because normally people are ready to sit down and heap praise on Michael," Hehir said.
Hehir said that when he tossed Bryant a softball question like what was the first pair of Jordan sneakers he owned, Bryant brushed it off and said growing up he was a Magic Johnson fan. "We were kind of circling each other for a while," Hehir admitted. However, Hehir said the two finally found a groove when they began talking about the 1998 All-Star game leading to Bryant revealing some insight on his interaction with Jordan.
Episodes 5 and 6 drew 5.8 million and 5.2 million viewers, respectively, on Sunday. The first four episodes were watched initially by 6.3 million, 5.8 million, 6.1 million and 5.7 million viewers. The odd-numbered episodes are attracting higher viewership because they are airing at 9 p.m. ET, while the even-numbered episodes are airing at 10 p.m. ET.
Myles Brown: Jerry Krause was a contemptible guy. But how Phil Jackson has gotten away with this for 30 years is beyond me.

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Harvey Gantt was seeking to become the first African-American senator from North Carolina. A boost from Jordan, who at that time hadn't won an NBA title but was still one of the most famous, beloved people on the planet, could have only benefitted Gantt. "We didn't spend a lot of time brooding about it," Gantt said in an interview on Friday. "Or saying darn, if Michael had endorsed us we would have gotten another 10, 20, 30, 40 thousands votes. That was not the first thing that came to my mind on the morning after that defeat."
Even Gantt himself sympathizes with Jordan. He says that neither he or anyone from his campaign reached out to Jordan directly about an endorsement in 1990. In The Last Dance, Jordan says his mother asked him to film a commercial for Gantt; he wrote a check to the campaign instead. "From morning until night, I was traveling all over this state, making speeches and doing a whole lot of stuff and trying to become a credible candidate," Gantt says. "I only heard about this Michael Jordan saga secondhand. A lot of people have called me over the years and asked, did you go to Michael? Did he turn you down? Look, I didn't even know any of this stuff until the drama I guess was over. And since that time, I've thought it was much ado about nothing."
Lee, who created and starred as the shoe-obsessed character in his film, "She's Gotta Have It," gave credit to Nike's founder for giving his stamp of approval for the campaign. "Nike's agency saw the film, called me up outta nowhere and said, 'we want you to be in a national campaign with Michael Jordan, you play Mars Blackmon, but there's one catch Michael Jordan has not seen the film and does not know who you are,'" Lee recalled, laughing about his early days in the industry. "We gotta give credit to Phil Knight. It's his decision -- to have a black guy be the face of your company -- so give him credit and the rest is history," he added.
As a basketball fan, Lee remembered what it was like sitting courtside during Jordan's heyday at one of his favorite NBA stages. "New York City would be on fire when Michael Jordan would come to the Garden," Lee said. "I think one of the reasons why Mike liked playing in the Garden is he understood that New York City, that basketball's our game and we appreciate great performances." "Even though he was killin' us," Lee said of the Knicks, who "couldn't get past the Bulls -- we had to see this guy."
Bryant started working on something completely different the last few years of his career. He'd call authors such as J.K. Rowling and directors such as Darren Aronofsky. He asked to visit the set of "Modern Family" and sit in on writers rooms. He kept journals of movie and television projects he'd like to work out. He fleshed out characters and story arcs for children's books. He was bursting at the seams with ideas and concepts he'd put into production as soon as basketball was over. When he learned that Jordan had the rights to footage shot of his final season, Bryant commissioned a camera crew to film his final seasons. Bryant even inquired about producing the documentary on Jordan's final season.
Rod Beard: I talked to #Pistons Isiah Thomas about the Michael Jordan's "hate" comment in #TheLastDance: "I’m really surprised that he has that kind of hate and anger. I’ve never experienced that being around him. My son was wearing Michael Jordan jerseys and shoes."
While sipping on a glass of wine during a 30-plus minute discussion on Bird and Rapinoe’s Instagram series called “A Touch More,” the Miami Heat’s All-Star wing spoke about life amid the COVID-19 pandemic and said he has not tuned into the popular “The Last Dance” documentary that chronicles Michael Jordan’s final season with the Chicago Bulls. “I haven’t seen this MJ doc. I haven’t seen it,” said Butler, who still hasn’t signed with a new brand after his endorsement deal with the Jordan Brand ended a few months ago. “Everybody around my house puts it on every TV. And I’m just like you know what, everybody is watching it so I’m gonna go outside and work on my true calling and I just kick a soccer ball around.”
But the current iteration of Jordan, seen on ESPN's "The Last Dance," is different than the player whom Kerr knew. "I've never seen Michael so open," Kerr recently said on the Runnin' Plays podcast. "I think it's the best thing. ... He was always very guarded."
Jordan -- who famously was closed off during his playing days -- has been extremely candid in the 10-part docu-series, which continues Sunday with episodes 5 and 6. In the first episode, Jordan recalled the time he walked into his teammates' hotel room to find marijuana and cocaine. Two episodes later, he called former Detroit guard Isiah Thomas an "a--hole" in response to the Pistons walking off the floor just before the Bulls eliminated them from the 1991 playoffs. "He never seemed vulnerable," Kerr said of Jordan. "I think that was part of his persona. He wasn't vulnerable to everything and everybody, you know, [he was] indomitable, knowing nobody could touch him. And he walked into that arena, and he was just dominant over every person in that building -- opponents, coaches, teammates, referees, fans."
Jordan has never hidden his dislike for Isiah Thomas. But that didn't stop him from paying Thomas quite the compliment in the discussion of why Thomas was famously left off the Dream Team for the 1992 Olympics. "I respect Isiah Thomas' talent," Jordan said. "To me, if the best point guard of all time is Magic Johnson, and right behind him is Isiah Thomas. No matter how much I hate him, I respect his game."
"Before the Olympics, [selection committee chairman] Rod Thorn calls me and says we would love for you to be on the Dream Team," Jordan said. "I said, 'Who's all playing?' "He said, 'What's that mean?' I said, 'Who's all playing?' He says, 'Well, the guy you are talking about and you are thinking about is not going to be playing.' It was insinuated I was asking about him, but I never threw his name in there. "You want to attribute it to me, go ahead. Be my guest. But it wasn't me."
"I don't think that statement needs to be corrected because I said it in jest on a bus with Horace Grant and Scottie Pippen," Jordan said. "It was thrown off the cuff. My mother asked to do a PSA for Harvey Gantt, and I said, 'Look, Mom, I'm not speaking out of pocket about someone that I don't know. But I will send a contribution to support him.' Which is what I did. "I do commend Muhammad Ali for standing up for what he believed in. But I never thought of myself as an activist. I thought of myself as a basketball player. "I wasn't a politician when I was playing my sport. I was focused on my craft. Was that selfish? Probably. But that was my energy. That's where my energy was."
After Converse told Jordan that it had too many big-name players -- including Magic Johnson and Larry Bird -- to make Jordan a front man for the company, the choice came down to Adidas or Nike. Adidas wasn't willing to give Jordan his own shoe, but Nike was. There was just one problem: Jordan didn't want to meet with the shoe company to discuss it. "I couldn't even get him to get on the damn plane and go visit the campus," Jordan's agent, David Falk, said.
Which in tone and substance sounded a lot like how modern-day Jordan defended himself in the documentary. “I’m actually playing golf with people all the time… and if they want to gamble, we gamble. The character of those individuals, I found out later what kind of people I was playing with. I learned that lesson. But the act of gambling? I didn’t do anything wrong… “I never bet on games; I only bet on myself and that was golf… I told [the NBA league office] exactly what was happening,” Jordan’s takeaway line was that he did not have a gambling problem. “I have a competition problem.” It was enough of a problem that the NBA was paying attention back in 1993, but the late NBA Commissioner David Stern told the filmmakers, “It never reached epic crisis levels in my view.”
To the end, Wozniak’s business-like approach endeared him to the six-time champion. “He wasn’t the type to ask for anything,” Nicholi said. “The only time he’d ask Michael for stuff was if it was for fundraisers and charitable things within the community. Michael was very pro-police. His father was military. His brother was military. So Michael always without flinching would give my dad paraphernalia, autographs to raise money for fallen officers’ families.”
None of this is to say that Wozniak couldn’t give it back to Jordan every now and then. The nation caught a glimpse of that swagger on Sunday thanks to footage of a game of quarters, but that wasn’t the only time Wozniak got the best of MJ. “My dad beat him at pool and he came home early from like a Christmas party,” Nicholi said. “I’m like, ‘What happened?’ He’s like, ‘Ah, I beat Michael at pool and Michael didn’t like it, so …’”
We knew this was coming: Jordan talking about Bryant, and Bryant talking about Jordan. The latter comes in a flash-forward interview, a recent one with Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash on January 26. Speaking of his basketball idol, Bryant tells the cameras, “He’s like my big brother … What you get from me, is from him. I don’t get five championships here without him. He guided me so much and gave me so much great advice.”
“I respect Isiah Thomas’s talent,” Jordan says today. “To me, the best point guard of all-time is Magic Johnson, and right behind him is Isiah Thomas.” Jordan reaffirms in The Last Dance that he didn’t tell Dream Team overseer Rod Thorn to keep Thomas off the 1992 Olympics squad, though his denial is notably understated compared to some of his other more boisterous pronouncements.
Since Thomas, then one of the most accomplished players in the NBA, was left off the Dream Team in 1992, it’s largely been attributed to his poor relationships with some of the players who made the roster, namely Jordan. In Episode 5, Jordan says when he asked Rod Thorn, then the head of USA Basketball, who was playing, Thorn told him, “The guy you’re talking about, who you’re thinking about, he’s not gonna be playing.”
Part of the documentary also looked at the book, "The Jordan Rules," which contained information that described Jordan as being demeaning and borderline abusive toward teammates. Jordan said he thought former teammate Horace Grant was responsible for providing the writer, Sam Smith, with information, but Grant vehemently denied it. Among the revelations in the book was the rumor that Jordan once punched teammate Will Perdue during practice. Perdue joined CBS Sports HQ on Sunday night and confirmed the story, but said it wasn't a big deal because fights were commonplace at Bulls practices (Video above). "He did, and I wasn't the only one," Perdue said. "That's how competitive our practices were. That wasn't the only fight, that was one of numerous. But because it involved Michael Jordan, and it leaked out, that it became a big deal. And the funny thing was, in that practice that it happened, we basically separated, regrouped and kept practicing -- it wasn't like that was the end of practice. Stuff like that was common, because that's how competitive our practices were.
Jordan became a pitchman unlike any other before him, and to some degree, it turns out that was the plan all along. Agent David Falk explains in Episode 5 how he wanted to treat Jordan like a boxer or tennis player – an individual star – instead of how stars in team sports were typically marketed. But Nike, the company that landed Jordan, never would’ve gotten a meeting if it weren’t for MJ’s mom, who convinced him to take the meeting. “I go into that meeting not wanting to be there,” Jordan says in Episode 5. “Nike made this big pitch. And Falk was like, ‘You gotta be a fool if you’re not taking this deal. This is the best deal.’”
It's wild to consider that Michael's parents each changed the course of sneaker history. Not once, but twice. "I was Adidas," Jordan reveals. Deloris Jordan, who convinced her son to take the Swoosh meeting, remembers Michael saying: "I am not going to Nike, momma."
Still, it didn’t look good when it emerged that Jordan wrote a $57,000 check to Slim Bouler to cover a gambling debt, and a golfing acquaintance, Richard Esquinas, said Jordan owed him $1.2 million. Jordan had to testify in court where Bouler was on trial facing money laundering and drug conspiracy charges. (Jordan once skipped a White House visit to golf with Bouler, according to the documentary.) The league took interest and questioned Jordan. “I never bet on games; I only bet on myself and that was golf. … I told them exactly what was happening,” Jordan said. Former NBA Commissioner David Stern told filmmakers: “It never reached epic crisis levels in my view.”
Storyline: Michael Jordan Documentary
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