Former Chicago Bulls forward Horace Grant has fired bac…

Former Chicago Bulls forward Horace Grant has fired back at claims Michael Jordan made against him during “The Last Dance” documentary series on ESPN. In a radio interview with Kap and Co. on ESPN 1000 in Chicago on Tuesday, Grant said it “is a downright, outright, completely lie” that he leaked much of the information in Sam Smith’s famous “The Jordan Rules” book, as Jordan alleged during the documentary.

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"Lie, lie, lie. ... If MJ had a grudge with me, let's settle this like men," Grant said during the interview. "Let's talk about it. Or we can settle it another way. But yet and still, he goes out and puts this lie out that I was the source behind [the book]. Sam and I have always been great friends. We're still great friends. But the sanctity of that locker room, I would never put anything personal out there. The mere fact that Sam Smith was an investigative reporter. That he had to have two sources, two, to write a book, I guess. Why would MJ just point me out? It's only a grudge, man. I'm telling you, it was only a grudge. And I think he proved that during this so-called documentary. When if you say something about him, he's going to cut you off, he's going to try to destroy your character."
Like other former teammates, Grant was unhappy with the portrayal of various players and situations throughout the documentary. "I would say [it was] entertaining, but we know, who was there as teammates, that about 90 percent of it -- I don't know if I can say it on air, but B.S. in terms of the realness of it," Grant said. "It wasn't real -- because a lot of things [Jordan] said to some of his teammates, that his teammates went back at him. But all of that was kind of edited out of the documentary, if you want to call it a documentary.
"He felt that he could dominate me, but that was sadly mistaken," Grant said. "Because whenever he went at me, I went at him right back. But in terms of Will Perdue, Steve Kerr and the young man, Scott Burrell, that was heartbreaking [to watch]. To see a guy, a leader, to go at those guys like that. I understand in terms of practicing, you have a push and shove here and there, but outright punching and things of that nature. And calling them the B's and the H's, that wasn't called for."
As they made their way from their Boynton Beach hotel on the morning of June 26, 2018, for the first of three interviews with Michael Jordan, a number of emotions came over Jason Hehir and Jake Rogal, the director and lead producer for “The Last Dance,” the 10-part documentary series which examines Jordan’s final season with the Bulls in 1997-98. “Anxious, certainly,” Hehir said. “And we felt lucky, too. Jake is one of my best friends and has been by my side creatively, logistically, and in every possible way through this process. He and I would literally say to each other, ‘How lucky are we that we get to tell this story right now?’ Like if you told 10-year-old Jason and Jake that they’d be doing this in 2018, how thrilled they would have been?”
Amid the excitement, there was plenty of strategy to the Jordan interviews. Hehir believed that he and his production crew for “The Last Dance” had to get enough material from the initial interview to complete the first four episodes. The outline for the 10-episode arc determined everything, and because Hehir had decided there would be no narrator (including Jordan) or voiceover element to tell the story, they had to tell the macro facts of the 1997-98 season (and the individual stories of Jordan and other key members of that team such as Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Phil Jackson and Steve Kerr) through voices other than the main characters.
The Flu Game, the Food Poisoning Game, the Pizza Game. Whatever you want to call it, Craig Fite is trying to set the record straight about what may or may not have happened the night before Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals — the now-legendary game when Michael Jordan battled his own ailing body but scored 38 points to will the Chicago Bulls to a win over the Utah Jazz. Fite, 50, says he was working at Park City Pizza Hut when the location’s driver motioned him over after a late-night order came in.
It was, the driver said, a pie (large, thin and crispy, extra pepperoni) they suspected was going to the Bulls, who Fite recalls were staying in a Park City Marriott outside of Salt Lake City. “We knew what was going on,” he told For The Win on Monday night.
Fite was actually a Bulls fan; he’d adopted the team as his own after it drafted Michael Jordan. He’d become a huge fan of Jordan in 1982 after watching the then-North Carolina star beat his favorite college team, Georgetown, with an incredible jump shot. The Bulls had already been in town for a few days, having come for Game 3 that was played on June 6. Tales of Bulls players, including Dennis Rodman, taking over local bars had floated around the resort town. So when that fateful call came in, the then-assistant manager jumped on the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Now here was Fite on Monday, on local radio with Jake Scott and Gordon Monson, discussing a pizza he says he made 23 years ago and disputing what was broadcast on ESPN. “That’s a bunch of crap,” Fite said. “Sorry, we were five creepy looking guys that the guy felt threatened? I guess you have to sell your book but it really wasn’t that exciting.” Start with this, Fite said. It was just he and his delivery driver, not five men. “There were two of us,” Fite said. “I didn’t even have that many people working [at the Pizza Hut].” He said the pizza was meticulously made. “I followed all the rules,” Fite said. “At the time I was trying to impress the store manager there.”
Kathy Martin Harrison didn't remember she had signed a waiver. After all, it was 22 years ago. But after seeing herself on ESPN's "The Last Dance," her phone blew up and she became a viral meme, the light went on. "Before the game started, a national TV guy came up to us and said, 'Look, we're filming a lot of footage of Michael Jordan for a movie,'" Harrison recalled in an appearance on Dan Dakich's radio show Monday. "'And if we show you in any of the footage, would you sign a release?' We signed a release."
Harrison, who owns a local car dealership and has been an Indiana Pacers season-ticket holder for 44 years, was talking trash to Michael Jordan and the Bulls, just as she did to everyone else at the time. It's no longer allowed, thanks to the code of conduct, but she enjoyed the interactions with players -- and some grew to recognize her, including Dennis Rodman. "We’d just try to get into their heads. Disrupt their game," Harrison said. "That was our job. That was our mission. "And he would just turn around. He’d go, 'Oh, that diamond ring you have on your hand is fake. That’s fake.' And I’d go, 'OK, Dennis.'"
Harrison isn't on social media, but messages started to pour in with screenshots from Twitter. She learned what the Karen meme was. By the time she got to bed, it was nearly 1 a.m. "We felt it was our job to get into the heads of the visitors," Harrison said. "You can’t do it today, because they’ll arrest you, but back then, it was OK to be feisty and yell at the players and the players would yell back at you. It was just a lot of fun. "I do miss those days, but I’m older now and I just sit quietly in my seat.”
Having conducted a vast amount of interviews, the crew behind “The Last Dance” gave voice to many people to tell the story of Michael Jordan‘s career with the Chicago Bulls. But how exactly was interview time distributed in the final cut? We watched the 10 episodes of the documentary clock in hand to find out. Of course Michael Jordan was going to be No. 1, but you may be surprised to know Steve Kerr was second in the minute count and Scottie Pippen only No. 4. (Although that’s way better than Toni Kukoc, arguably the third-best player on the 1998 championship squad).
The Last Dance has made its mark on TV history. The 10-part documentary finished strong for its finale, with episodes 9 & 10 averaging 5.6 million viewers across ESPN and ESPN2. Episode 9 (9-10 p.m.) averaged 5.9 million viewers, up 10 percent from last Sunday, becoming the third most watched episode of the series, trailing the record-breaking audiences of episodes 1 and 3. Episode 10 (10-11 p.m.) averaged 5.4 million viewers, up 9.8 percent from last week’s episode 8, which aired in the same time slot.
Like basketball fans worldwide, Eric Piatkowski watched "The Last Dance," a 10-part mini-series on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. With each episode, Piatkowski was reminded of his NBA career, which spanned 14 years. The University of Nebraska graduate made his NBA debut 1994 with the Los Angeles Clippers. "My rookie year, we had the worst record in the NBA," Piatkowski said. "We were averaging about 2,500 people per game. Everyone said 'Wait until the Bulls come to town.' Every star in town is there and there are flashbulbs going off. I'm like, 'Man, this is amazing.'" Piatkowski remembers seeing several celebrities courtside for his first Bulls vs. Clippers game, including Tiger Woods, Denzel Washington, and Jack Nicholson. Piatkowski adds that prior to the game, his wife and family members were taking pictures with celebrities courtside.
In 2004, Piatkowski was traded from the Houston Rockets to the Chicago Bulls, where he spent two seasons. "They're showing the inside of the locker room (on the documentary," Piatkowski said, "and it didn't change one tiny bit from the time Jordan was there to the time I was there. I said to my wife, 'Do you see where Jordan's locker is?' She says, 'Yeah.' I said, 'That was my locker.'" Piatkowski adds that his wife was surprised to learn he shared the same locker as Jordan. "She goes, 'So you had Jordan's locker?'" Piatkowski said. "Yeah. She responded, 'Well, that's pretty cool.'"
D.J. Augustin recently derived quite a bit of motivation from watching an episode of ``The Last Dance’’ on ESPN. ``The last episode that I watched, afterward I went straight into the garage and started working out,’’ said Augustin, referring to Episode 8 where a tearful Jordan refused to make apologies for his competitiveness and his unflappable will to win. ``I just think it as motivation – not just to athletes or basketball players, but for anyone who wants to get better at anything that they are doing and want to be a better person physically and mentally. It’s just been great motivation for everybody who has been watching M.J.’’
Meanwhile, Kanter also shared his reflections on The Last Dance, the 10-part documentary chronicling the journey of NBA superstar Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls when they won six titles in the 90s. “I feel like MJ is the G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time) now,” Kanter happily shared. Kanter bared he was able to personally meet Jordan when he was 16 years old, but he more appreciated the former Bulls star’ dedication to the game after watching the documentary that inspired him to be a better basketball player in the court. “It’s amazing to see how dedicated he was, how amazing that he go out there and win every game and how competitive he was. His love and passion of the game is amazing to see,” said Kanter.
The final episodes of “The Last Dance” have aired, yet ESPN has one more program to show about the Chicago Bulls’ sixth championship. ESPN will show “Game 6: The Movie” on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. CT, following a rebroadcast of episodes nine and 10 of “The Last Dance.” The episode will feature game footage captured by five NBA Entertainment cameras and marks the first time that the game has been available to watch in high-definition.
Executive Producer Gregg Winik — who was a cameraman for NBA Entertainment during that Bulls championship season — said the brainstorming about Game 6 started by compiling the last 40 seconds of the game for the final episode of "The Last Dance". After they were able to do that, it started to expand into a project of its own. Winik and his team then took the NBC telecast and started to lay in footage to get the complete product.
David Jacoby sure thought so. With Hehir on the Jalen & Jacoby Aftershow, Jacoby interrogated the director about if it was “exactly 100 percent the truth.” For most people, it’s odd that in a room full of people only one partakes in eating a pizza late at night. What didn’t make the cut was that Jordan spit on it to prevent anyone else from eating it, Hehir said.
Come 10 p.m. he’s starving and since they’re on the outskirts of Salt Lake City it’s difficult to find anything open. Jordan settles on pizza. “When the pizza shows up,” Hehir said, “Michael says ‘Everybody, do not touch this pizza. This is mine. You didn’t wait for me, don’t touch this.’ So he spits on the pizza.”
"The thing nobody wants to remember," Reinsdorf said, "during lockout, Michael was screwing around with a cigar cutter, and he cut his finger. He couldn't have played that year. He had to have surgery on the finger, so even if we could've brought everybody back, it wouldn't have made any sense." Jordan contends that he wouldn't have been messing around with the cigar cutter (at a golf tournament in January) if Reinsdorf had already secured a commitment from Jackson to come back.
"The fact is, it's pretty obvious in 1998 that Michael carried this team," he said. "These guys were gassed. He could not have come back because of the cut finger. But even if he could've come back, the other players [Steve Kerr, Luc Longley, Jud Buechler, Dennis Rodman] were going to get offers that were way in excess of what they were worth. "I know in Episode 10, [Jordan] says, 'They all would've come back for one year.' But there's not a chance in the world that Scottie Pippen would've come back on a one-year contract when he knew he could get a much bigger contract someplace else."
“Roy Williams (then a young UNC assistant) told us a great story about how everyone got one chance to play in Carmichael (Auditorium) during the UNC camp week,” Hehir said. “Michael killed everybody. After seeing him play, Dean Smith pulled Roy aside and told him, ‘This kid can’t go to any other camp.’ But Roy insisted that he had to go to Five-Star to see how he would do against Patrick Ewing, Chris Mullin and all these other kids. “I knew that we were going to do an episode on the making of Michael Jordan. Brendon Malone appears with us (in ‘The Last Dance’) primarily as Chuck Daly’s assistant for the Pistons, but back then he was a Syracuse University assistant basketball coach and Michael’s coach at Five-Star. He told us stories about Michael’s will to win as a 16- and 17-year-old.”
“The Last Dance” filmmakers interviewed Dick Neher, Jordan’s Babe Ruth coach and his first coach in organized basketball to get a sense of him as a young athlete. “There’s a lot more than what we showed to Larry (his brother) and Michael’s athletic story,” Hehir said. “There was a story of how Larry once went 3-for-4 in a Little League game and Michael hit the game-winning home run. On the way home, Michael’s dad is praising Larry. He’s saying consistency, ‘That’s what you need. It’s one thing to swing for the fences. That’s fine. But look at Larry. He got three out of four hits.’ And Michael’s like, ‘I won the fucking game!’ (laughs). So there’s little things like that.”
The moment captured Michael Jordan’s superior footwork, his clutch shooting and his flair for the theatrical. But should Jordan’s iconic decisive shot for the Chicago Bulls against the Utah Jazz in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals have been waived off? After all, Jazz fans often have argued the Bulls’ star pushed off on Bryon Russell. “Everybody says I pushed off — bull----,” Jordan said in the final episode of “The Last Dance. “His energy was going that way. I didn't have to push him that way."
Michael Lee: I spoke to referee Danny Crawford a few years about if MJ pushed off in ‘98 & he said you can’t blow a whistle on “what you thought you saw” in real time. “It wasn’t an egregious play where you thought, ‘Oh, no. You can’t do that.’ It was a tough play that could go either way.”
Apparently, taking a Vegas vacation in the middle of an NBA season is not the craziest thing Rodman did with the Bulls. He also skipped practice in between Games 3 and 4 of the Finals so he could participate a WCW wrestling match in Auburn Hills, Michigan. Practice footage showed Jackson expressing some irritation with Rodman about that episode. To the media, Jackson offered a different reaction when asked if Rodman’s behavior hurts the Bulls’ focus in the Finals.
The moment captured Michael Jordan’s superior footwork, his clutch shooting and his flair for the theatrical. But should Jordan’s iconic decisive shot for the Chicago Bulls against the Utah Jazz in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals have been waived off? After all, Jazz fans often have argued the Bulls’ star pushed off on Bryon Russell. “Everybody says I pushed off — bull----,” Jordan said in the final episode of “The Last Dance. “His energy was going that way. I didn't have to push him that way."
Michael Lee: I spoke to referee Danny Crawford a few years about if MJ pushed off in ‘98 & he said you can’t blow a whistle on “what you thought you saw” in real time. “It wasn’t an egregious play where you thought, ‘Oh, no. You can’t do that.’ It was a tough play that could go either way.”
Apparently, taking a Vegas vacation in the middle of an NBA season is not the craziest thing Rodman did with the Bulls. He also skipped practice in between Games 3 and 4 of the Finals so he could participate a WCW wrestling match in Auburn Hills, Michigan. Practice footage showed Jackson expressing some irritation with Rodman about that episode. To the media, Jackson offered a different reaction when asked if Rodman’s behavior hurts the Bulls’ focus in the Finals.
Oleh Kosel: Michael Jordan says the Bulls team as comprised after winning in 1998 would have come back and made the money work on short term deals, with Scottie Pippen needing some convincing, to win their 7th championship. Never going to look at 1-year contracts the same again.
Utah was in Chicago to take on the Bulls, and Jordan decided to pay a visit to Malone and John Stockton. While he was there, we learned, young Jazz forward Bryon Russell decided to get chirpy with Jordan. “Pssh, OK, Bryon Russell?” Jordan recalled. “When I was playing baseball, Utah was in town to play the Bulls. They were practicing at the facility, I go over to say hi to John and Karl, and this kid Bryon Russell comes up to me and says, ‘Man why you quittin? Why you quittin? You know I could guard your ass, I couldn’t wait, you had to quit.’ I said, ‘Karl, you need to talk to this dude, man.’ ‘Nah, he’s just a young rookie.’ But from that point on he’s been on my list.”
Larry Bird had Michael Jordan’s number during his playing days — Bird’s Celtics swept Jordan’s Bulls in the first round of the 1986 NBA Playoffs. But it was Jordan who came out on top during Bird’s coaching days. The Bulls beat the Indiana Pacers 4-3 in the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals. Bird was Indiana’s head coach, and after Game 7, Jordan made sure to get some trash talk in. From a postgame conversation featured in Episode 9 of ESPN’s “The Last Dance.” Bird: "You b***h, f**k you." Jordan: "Y'all gave us a run for our money." Bird: "Yeah, I'll see ya." Jordan: "All right, take care. Now you can work on that golf game of yours."
The 1997-98 Pacers came as close as any team did to ending the Bulls dynasty. In the end, they came up short. But it took a classic seven-game series with a series of twists for the Bulls to get through Indianapolis. "Most people feared Michael Jordan and rightfully so," Reggie Miller said on episode 9 of ESPN's The Last Dance on Sunday night. "But I didn't fear him like the rest of the league did."
With just under seven minutes to go and the game in the balance with Indiana leading by three, the Bulls won a jump ball and got it to Steve Kerr for a 3. That helped swing an eventual 88-83 win for the Bulls. "If we win that jump ball and go down and score and go up five, that could be it for them," Miller said in the documentary. "They win the jump ball, it finds the hands of Steve Kerr. … It changed everything.
Scott Agness: . @WSMVTracyKornet , mother of Bulls center Luke Kornet, tells @TheAthleticIND she is NOT the Pacers fan in episode 9. But her phone is blowing up because of the uncanny resemblance.
Rodman went on to pull down 14 rebounds in Game 4 in an 86-82 win over the Utah Jazz to take a 3-1 series lead en route to their sixth championship. He explained his philosophy during that run to “The Last Dance” while pegging why Jackson was the perfect coach for that Bulls team. “I wasn’t trying to do anything,” Rodman said of his wrestling interlude. “I was just trying to explain basketball, party, da da da, f--- all the girls. Just be me, Dennis. S---.
Oleh Kosel: Michael Jordan says the Bulls team as comprised after winning in 1998 would have come back and made the money work on short term deals, with Scottie Pippen needing some convincing, to win their 7th championship. Never going to look at 1-year contracts the same again.
Utah was in Chicago to take on the Bulls, and Jordan decided to pay a visit to Malone and John Stockton. While he was there, we learned, young Jazz forward Bryon Russell decided to get chirpy with Jordan. “Pssh, OK, Bryon Russell?” Jordan recalled. “When I was playing baseball, Utah was in town to play the Bulls. They were practicing at the facility, I go over to say hi to John and Karl, and this kid Bryon Russell comes up to me and says, ‘Man why you quittin? Why you quittin? You know I could guard your ass, I couldn’t wait, you had to quit.’ I said, ‘Karl, you need to talk to this dude, man.’ ‘Nah, he’s just a young rookie.’ But from that point on he’s been on my list.”
Larry Bird had Michael Jordan’s number during his playing days — Bird’s Celtics swept Jordan’s Bulls in the first round of the 1986 NBA Playoffs. But it was Jordan who came out on top during Bird’s coaching days. The Bulls beat the Indiana Pacers 4-3 in the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals. Bird was Indiana’s head coach, and after Game 7, Jordan made sure to get some trash talk in. From a postgame conversation featured in Episode 9 of ESPN’s “The Last Dance.” Bird: "You b***h, f**k you." Jordan: "Y'all gave us a run for our money." Bird: "Yeah, I'll see ya." Jordan: "All right, take care. Now you can work on that golf game of yours."
The 1997-98 Pacers came as close as any team did to ending the Bulls dynasty. In the end, they came up short. But it took a classic seven-game series with a series of twists for the Bulls to get through Indianapolis. "Most people feared Michael Jordan and rightfully so," Reggie Miller said on episode 9 of ESPN's The Last Dance on Sunday night. "But I didn't fear him like the rest of the league did."
With just under seven minutes to go and the game in the balance with Indiana leading by three, the Bulls won a jump ball and got it to Steve Kerr for a 3. That helped swing an eventual 88-83 win for the Bulls. "If we win that jump ball and go down and score and go up five, that could be it for them," Miller said in the documentary. "They win the jump ball, it finds the hands of Steve Kerr. … It changed everything.
Scott Agness: . @WSMVTracyKornet , mother of Bulls center Luke Kornet, tells @TheAthleticIND she is NOT the Pacers fan in episode 9. But her phone is blowing up because of the uncanny resemblance.
Rodman went on to pull down 14 rebounds in Game 4 in an 86-82 win over the Utah Jazz to take a 3-1 series lead en route to their sixth championship. He explained his philosophy during that run to “The Last Dance” while pegging why Jackson was the perfect coach for that Bulls team. “I wasn’t trying to do anything,” Rodman said of his wrestling interlude. “I was just trying to explain basketball, party, da da da, f--- all the girls. Just be me, Dennis. S---.
You were upset about a few comments that Jordan has made in this documentary. You criticized his “cocaine circus” quote since those men now have children and grandchildren who are watching this and it puts those guys in a tough position. What have you thought of the documentary and Jordan’s comments? Craig Hodges: Well, when I look at MJ, he’s a product of his success. Sometimes, that success can be a prison for you. I look at it in a couple lights, man. I feel somewhat empathy for him, to some degree, because of the fact that you are in a prison – in two prisons actually. America was a prison for black people, and now you’ve been incarcerated through capitalism on a whole different level. So it’s cool for the entertainment value of it, but I think it’s been somewhat divisive as far as in line with what we need right now as both the people and the world.
Yeah, 106 people! Did it bother you that you weren’t interviewed? Craig Hodges: Woowww… (laughs) That’s interesting, man. I thank God for waking up this morning and being in a peaceful state of being, knowing where we are historically. When I watch “The Last Dance,” I do it from a critical standpoint as far as having somewhat of an intimate understanding of the locker room and the travel and the workouts and all of the above. But it’s interesting, and you can hear it in my voice that it’s funny to me that I wasn’t interviewed… But, at the same time, it’s not so funny because I understand the impact of the things that I felt we could be doing with our stardom. And a lot of people took that to mean that I was dissing MJ, but that ain’t it at all. I just say, “To whom much is given, much is required.”
Have you gotten an explanation from the filmmakers about why you weren’t interviewed? Craig Hodges: Nah, man. Not at all; they don’t got to talk to little ‘ol me! (laughs) And this is the cold part: When you look at America, when you become a billionaire, you become insulated to a degree. So, hey man, I don’t expect them . If they didn’t want me to be a part of it, they didn’t want to be a part of it. Me not being a part of it, there has to be some reasoning behind it. I would love to know what their reasoning is. But I kind of know what it is from a standpoint that I’ve never not spoken on behalf of people. I’ve never not spoken up about human rights. And it’s not just about black people; it’s about a human-rights condition that we can have an impact on because we were champions at that time in a city like Chicago. During the time that we were winning championships, there were 900 murders , man. Somebody has to speak to that. … In this city, you had two of the brightest stars in the history of African people on the planet Earth – Michael Jordan and Oprah Winfrey – and look at our condition in Chicago. And where are they at now?
Craig Hodges: And that’s the problem with all of the major league sports. All of them are racist to the core, because they are built on racism. The foundation of this country is racism. And don’t nobody want to go to the foundation that we have never received what we were supposed to see reparation wise, so the structure can not go up and be strong because it’s built on weakness. When the Founding Fathers said, “We are all created equal,” my people were getting them tea and crumpets, being slaves. And we never rectified that. So, now we have a slave on TV, represented as an African American. We go from “slave” to “negro” to “nigga” to “African American.” What are ya’ll going to call it? This is ridiculous, man, where we are today. I was taught that you care about people. It’s about people, it ain’t about money.
The highly-watched docuseries “The Last Dance” will head into overtime following Sunday’s finale. ESPN will produce an after-show “After the Dance” that will air on ABC next Tuesday. ESPN commentator and “First Take” star Stephen A. Smith will host the hour-long special, where he’ll be joined by NBA legend Magic Johnson and other surprise guests to discuss their takeaways on the 10-part series. The “SportsCenter” special will air at 8 p.m. The will move the previously-announced “The Story of Soaps” an hour later to 9 p.m., with the series premiere of “The Genetic Detective” is moving back a week to May 26.
Aaron Watkins hopped on a bus with his bag and his Mount Caramel breakaway pants. (As if the video itself, complete with the Logo Athletic splash Cowboys hat, wasn’t ’90s enough.) The gym was packed. Father and son watched Jordan take part in a couple of scrimmages before it got late and they reluctantly decided they would head home. “I was the only kid in there, and Mike just yelled and said: ‘Hey kid, you don’t wanna run with me?’” Watkins said. “And immediately, I mean before my dad could even turn around, I ripped off my tearaway pants and I was ready to check into the game.”
Chapters of Dennis Rodman’s story have been retold over the last month thanks to ESPN’s “The Last Dance,” a 10-episode documentary that focuses on Michael Jordan’s last season with the Bulls in 1997-98. The final two episodes will air Sunday night. Rodman was the star of Episode 3, but his time sporting blue and gold at Southeastern Oklahoma State University was only chronicled by a few seconds of grainy footage. How Rodman arrived in Durant, Oklahoma, is what Reisman can only describe as a “fairy-tale story.”
As an assistant basketball coach at Southeastern from 1981-87, Reisman regularly recruited in Dallas — just a 90-minute drive but a world away down U.S. 75. That’s why he was so confused when he first saw Rodman practice at Cooke County College (now North Central Texas College) in Gainesville. Reisman, upon inquiring, was told Rodman attended South Oak Cliff High School in Dallas. “I'm going back through my notes and I couldn't find his name,” Reisman said.
Rodman was a three-time NAIA All-American at Southeastern from 1983-86. He averaged 25.7 points and 15.7 rebounds per game. Rodman still holds the school’s career rebounding record by a margin of 477. “Dennis came along, and superhuman is about the only way I can explain this guy’s ability,” said Kenny Chaffin, a forward at Southeastern from 1982-86. “He could just do some things that were not explainable. I mean, that’s why the crowds came.”
Rodman secured a rebound and passed the ball to Stephens, who stood at the top of the key. Stephens took two dribbles and launched the ball toward the rim. "What in the hell are you doing?” Reisman thought to himself. Rodman emerged from nowhere, caught the ball and threw down a 180-degree dunk. “He goes back down the floor and gets a standing ovation from their crowd,” Reisman said. “That's how fast that guy was. Hell, I even got up. I'd never seen anything like it.” “Philip and Worm just had this unspoken language,” Chaffin said.
While it's no surprise that viewers are gaining a new understanding of Jordan and the Bulls, you may be surprised that his daughter is as well. In a recent interview with the Associated Press, Jasmine Jordan explained what the experience has been like for her. Just a young kid during Jordan's playing days, she said she's been texting him non-stop to talk about the episodes, and admitted she's basically watching like a fan, rather than a family member.
Jasmine Jordan: I'm harassing him. He's probably tired of me texting him. I think my brothers and I are doing it, probably alongside all his friends. But for me, it's like, hey, as I said, I was super young so I'm really taking this in as a fan. And I'm also trying to corroborate all those stories you were telling me all those years. Trying to make sure you weren't just fabricating and making it bigger than what it was. I'm definitely texting him nonstop. I think there hasn't been an episode, a Sunday where I haven't been like, 'This happened-let me know your thoughts.'”
Jasmine also talked about what Jordan is like as a father and a grandfather to her son. While she revealed that these days her son "has him wrapped around his fingers already," she also said his competitiveness carried off the court as well when she was growing up. "I know when it comes to the game, his passion is unmatched. His energy's unmatched. So when he's going at Steve Kerr or checking Scottie and trying to get that fire and tenacity out of them, I'm like, 'Oh, yeah, that's Dad.' I mean, he'll do that to me just so I can get an A out of a test or two. (laughs) And I'm just trying to pass school, I'm not even winning championships. So that is definitely totally him."
ABC and ESPN are taking The Last Dance to overtime. The broadcast network will air an hour-long special called After the Dance With Stephen A. Smith: A SportsCenter Special at 8 p.m. May 19, two days after the conclusion of ESPN's breakout docuseries about Michael Jordan's last year with the Chicago Bulls. Smith and basketball legend Magic Johnson will discuss their biggest takeaways from The Last Dance and be joined by other NBA greats as well.
Detlef Schrempf, the Sonics’ starting small forward at the time, called that series with the Jazz a “bloodbath” while reminiscing with 710 ESPN Seattle’s John Clayton on Thursday morning. And when the dust settled, he and his teammates looked up, all of the sudden in Chicago set to face a record-setting Bulls team led by Michael Jordan.
“I had forgot that the Bulls went 72-10 that year because we had a really good year,” said Schrempf, who like many has been watching ESPN’s “The Last Dance” documentary, including last Sunday’s episode that profiled Seattle’s 1996 NBA Finals trip. “I didn’t realize we were such an underdog.”
One of the more memorable clips shown in that episode of the documentary is from the NBA on NBC pregame broadcast before Game 1 where Bob Costas said many were calling it the “biggest mismatch in NBA Finals history.” And that’s even though the Bulls had just eight more wins in the regular season than the Sonics and Seattle had even split the season series between the two teams 1-1. “Back then we just played,” said Schrempf, noting that the Sonics had short rest between their Game 7 win over the Jazz and Game 1 vs. the Bulls, who had been waiting at home after sweeping the Orlando Magic. “Now they’re saying, oh, people were saying we were gonna get swept – I forgot about that.”
Not so fast on crediting Jordan with the league’s ascension, according to former Houston Rockets coach Kevin McHale, who was speaking with ESPN 97.5 The Game after the first four episodes of The Last Dance. McHale had the below to say: “No Michael didn’t build this league, because I was in the league before it was built. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird built this league, along with David Stern. David Stern had an unbelievable vision for this league.”
Craig Hodges: When we point out other people's flaws I think we need to look at ourselves in the mirror and you know, the first session when he talked about the cocaine circus, how many people who are teammates appears that was on that, on that poster? How many of them have to make explanations of whether they are part of it. So it's all part of life but I just wonder, what was the reasoning for this and some of the comments that he's made at this point in his life and with the billions of dollars that he has, what do you have to gain from throwing Scotty under the bus.
“All in all, it’s (‘The Last Dance’) been cool for the general population, entertainment value and something to do while we’re on this lockdown,” Hodges told Rahimi at the outset. “But from the personal side of it, some of the things have been somewhat touching some sore spots, and when I say sore spots I’m just saying as a teammate, as a friend, you know, some of the people that have been hurt by some of the statements MJ has made.”
“To single Horace out for that, to look at the climate that was going on during the time,” Hodges said, “Who knows the conversations that was happening between Sam (Smith) and MJ that MJ thought was off-the-cuff, and he was writing them down? So, there’s a lot of things to me that are left unsaid that need to be explained, and so if you’re going to point someone out, point them out with facts as opposed to it being innuendo. “It’s ugly for what we did as a unit and what we accomplished as a team.”
I asked “The Last Dance” director Jason Hehir about Burns’s comments and here is what he said: “I have the highest admiration for Ken Burns. He has been a hero of mine since I was a kid. His body of work is extraordinary. He called me a couple of days ago. Word had gotten back to him that the comments he made to The Wall Street Journal kind of had taken on a life of their own, so he called me to explain the context in which he said what he said. It was really gracious and really classy. This guy is one of the reasons I got into filmmaking, particularly that baseball series in 1994. I vividly remember watching that as a freshman in college. He did say that he looked forward to seeing it. He’s working on seven documentaries of his own right now and taking care of his kids and going through the pandemic like we all are. He said, ‘If anyone knows the feeling of asking someone to put 10 hours aside to watch their work, it’s me. So I will find 500 minutes to watch this.’ It was great to hear from him.
“He (Burns) expressed that his world is a PBS world and they have underwriters and if any of those underwriters are even remotely affiliated with the subject, they’re not allowed to be associated with the project. So those rules that are put in place by PBS are very stringent. Obviously, with this project, we weren’t under the same parameters, We are not working in the same parameters. It should be noted that it’s not Michael’s production company. Michael didn’t have a production company. The Jordan brand — meaning Curtis Polk (who manages the financial and business affairs of Jordan and is an executive with the Hornets) and Estee Portnoy (Jordan’s longtime business manager) — gave notes just like ESPN and Netflix and the NBA gave notes. But those were not final cut notes. With a league such as the NBA or MLB or NFL or NHL, if that is inherently not journalistic if they have editorial input, then sports documentaries would cease to exist. Because you have to license the footage through these entities, so they own it. Of course, they get a say in it. We made it very clear early on in this process that we wanted to tell a comprehensive story. No one was interested in this being a puff piece. Most of all, the Jordan brand and the NBA.
I asked “The Last Dance” director Jason Hehir about Burns’s comments and here is what he said: “I have the highest admiration for Ken Burns. He has been a hero of mine since I was a kid. His body of work is extraordinary. He called me a couple of days ago. Word had gotten back to him that the comments he made to The Wall Street Journal kind of had taken on a life of their own, so he called me to explain the context in which he said what he said. It was really gracious and really classy. This guy is one of the reasons I got into filmmaking, particularly that baseball series in 1994. I vividly remember watching that as a freshman in college. He did say that he looked forward to seeing it. He’s working on seven documentaries of his own right now and taking care of his kids and going through the pandemic like we all are. He said, ‘If anyone knows the feeling of asking someone to put 10 hours aside to watch their work, it’s me. So I will find 500 minutes to watch this.’ It was great to hear from him.
“He (Burns) expressed that his world is a PBS world and they have underwriters and if any of those underwriters are even remotely affiliated with the subject, they’re not allowed to be associated with the project. So those rules that are put in place by PBS are very stringent. Obviously, with this project, we weren’t under the same parameters, We are not working in the same parameters. It should be noted that it’s not Michael’s production company. Michael didn’t have a production company. The Jordan brand — meaning Curtis Polk (who manages the financial and business affairs of Jordan and is an executive with the Hornets) and Estee Portnoy (Jordan’s longtime business manager) — gave notes just like ESPN and Netflix and the NBA gave notes. But those were not final cut notes. With a league such as the NBA or MLB or NFL or NHL, if that is inherently not journalistic if they have editorial input, then sports documentaries would cease to exist. Because you have to license the footage through these entities, so they own it. Of course, they get a say in it. We made it very clear early on in this process that we wanted to tell a comprehensive story. No one was interested in this being a puff piece. Most of all, the Jordan brand and the NBA.
The portion of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” that focuses on Michael Jordan’s time away from the NBA in 1994 makes clear that he is still upset about a Sports Illustrated cover story that mocked his initial foray into professional baseball. Jordan is famous for nursing grudges and grievances over the years, but he is not the only one looking back with unhappiness on his treatment by the magazine. As it turns out, so is the writer of that widely noted story. “I think he was rightly insulted,” former Sports Illustrated writer Steve Wulf recently told ESPN.
In an ESPN podcast released Wednesday, Wulf said that while the tone of his story was “a little snarky, and very skeptical,” the cover — over which he had no control — was out of line. “I still cringe every time I see it,” he claimed, adding, “I wish they had run the headline by me.” “Definitely,” he replies, just after the documentary notes that he severed communications with the magazine after that issue hit newsstands.
As for Jordan’s continued ire at Sports Illustrated, Wulf said, “I think he’s perfectly within his rights to maintain that stance. The headline was over the top. And I know SI thought, ‘Well, we put him on the cover so many times. What’s the big deal about this?’ Well, you know what, we disrespected him.”
The common misconception surrounding Jordan is that he hit the gym after losing to the Pistons, bulked up and started winning. That’s not exactly how it worked. Grover earned Jordan’s trust because the initial strategy wasn’t about simply building up muscle mass, but rather addressing past problem areas –such as his ankle and groin – to give him a base for more explosiveness and speed. From there, Jordan would slowly reach his desired weight, which for Jordan, Grover said, got up to between 213 pounds and 218 pounds.
“You hear all of these athletes, ‘Yeah, they put on 15 pounds or 20 pounds during the offseason.’ Do you know how hard it is to put on 15 pounds of muscle? It’s almost physically impossible. Unless,” Grover said, laughing to himself, “you’re getting some help from an outside source. Plus, when you have an athlete, his game is so refined like Michael, you want him to gradually put on weight and gradually put on strength and let their body acclimate to what they’re doing. So what I did with him, every year or every season, we would put on five pounds. And I would say, ‘How do you feel after five pounds?’ And he would say, ‘I feel good.’ All right, so let’s go a little bit more.”
“With basketball, you could see how he played. You had film from college. You had games from his early career in the NBA, so you could see how he likes to plant. This is how he pushes off, this is how he lunges, this is how he does something,” Grover said. “With baseball, there was no record of it. So every time they made adjustments, I had to make adjustments and he made the adjustment… It was a huge challenge. And everyone knows Michael, that’s what fuels him.”
Ewing joined Rachel Nichols on "The Jump" on Monday to discuss "The Last Dance" and revealed he's still hearing about how MJ always beat him when it mattered most. "He's been talking trash from the first day that I met him and he still continues to talk trash, telling me that I have never beat him when it counts," Ewing said on "The Jump."
Let’s talk about that. Before “The Last Dance” came out, Michael Jordan told director Jason Hehir: “When people see the footage of , they’re going to think that I’m a horrible guy.” He pushed you really hard that year. What was it like dealing with that? Scott Burrell: It was like getting taught; getting taught in a tough way. I didn’t think it was embarrassing, I didn’t think it was humiliating. I don’t have any regrets of how it went down or any second thoughts about learning from the best. I mean, I was getting tutelage from the best player to ever play, from the best team ever put together! And it was a team that won five out of seven championships before I got there, and I didn’t want to mess it up! So, I was glad to learn any way possible that was taught to me.
Jordan has explained that he was trying to toughen you up and prepare you for a grueling postseason. Do you think his way of doing things made you tougher and more prepared? Scott Burrell: I think it prepared me for life, not just basketball. I had played with some very good teams in the past and with very good players, but it’s totally different when you play for a great player and great coaches, and you’re playing for the same goal – winning a championship. It’s totally different when that level is turned up another 100 degrees and you’re in the midst of it.
There are stories of Jordan getting physical with some of his teammates like Steve Kerr and Will Perdue. I have to ask: Was this “riding” just verbal? Or was it ever physical? Scott Burrell: No, it was never physical. Jordan is smaller than me, he wouldn’t mess with me. (laughs) I’m just joking; I’m just teasing. (laughs) That was a strong man for his size, just saying. But, no, it was always verbal. It was never physical. That’s why when people say, “Are you worried about what people will think?” or, “Are you worried about how people are gonna take it?” I’m like, “No!” It was never physical, and it was all to make me better and prepare me for the season later on. So, I don’t think it’s anything that I have to worry about.
In a recent interview, you said that you recently texted Michael and told him, “Thanks for getting me 1,000 interviews.” I thought that was funny. How much attention have you been getting since this documentary started airing? Scott Burrell: It’s huge! This is my second interview today and I have two more after this. But it’s getting to the point where people are trying to catch Michael now, which is sad. Like, “Was he mentally tormenting people?” or, “Was he abusive?” No! He was a tough competitor, a coach. He wanted to win, he wanted us to get better and he wanted to prepare us to be great when it was our time to be called on. That’s it. I just don’t understand how you can watch this film and try to portray him as a person that goes too hard at people when he’s never done anything to get in trouble and he’s never been involved in scandals. He just did nothing but win championships and he has one of the best companies in the world right now. Just let him be Michael, the way he did it.
What was it like playing with Dennis Rodman? Scott Burrell: Dennis was an awesome teammate. He never spoke. He came into work and worked his butt off. He would miss practice once a week or once every couple of weeks, but , he came focused to win. (laughs) He watched so much film. I learned a lot from Dennis. Dennis is a little bit older than me. Dennis worked out, did cardio every day and lifted weights every day before games. He was in great, great physical shape. A competitor and he knew the game – he had a high IQ for the game, offensively and defensively. And he dominated the game without even trying to score, which is amazing. In this day and age, scoring is everything. That’s how you get $20 million a year, if you make a couple jump shots. But Dennis dominated the game playing great defense. He was a great passer, knew when to score and when not to score. He just brought big-time energy and was fun to play with.
Storyline: Michael Jordan Documentary
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