ESPN will soon televise a 10-part documentary on Michael Jordan.
“The Last Dance” director Jason Hehir on initially discussing the project with Jordan, via Richard Deitsch of The Athletic:
The meeting took a little less than an hour. I said to him, ‘why do you want to do this?’ And he said, ‘I don’t.’ And I said, ‘Why not?’ And he said, ‘When people see this footage I’m not sure they’re going to be able to understand why I was so intense, why I did the things I did, why I acted the way I acted, and why I said the things I said.’ He said there was a guy named Scotty Burrell who he rode for the entire season and, ‘When you see the footage of it, you’re going to think that I’m a horrible guy. But you have to realize that the reason why I was treating him like that is because I needed him to be tough in the playoffs and we’re facing the Indiana’s and Miami’s and New York’s in the Eastern Conference. He needed to be tough and I needed to know that I could count on him. And those are the kind of things where people see me acting the way I acted in practice, they’re not going to understand it.’ I said to him, ‘That’s great because this is an opportunity. We have 10 hours here to peel back the onion and have you articulate all the things you just articulated to me.’
Jordan’s most famous moment with a teammate? Punching one in the face.
And Jordan thinks we’ll think EVEN WORSE of him?
I can’t wait to watch this documentary.
Jordan demanded teammates match his competitiveness. It wasn’t always pretty, but it worked. Jordan had that aura. Teammates wanted (or at least felt compelled) to please him and worked to do so. In the process, they become tougher and more prepared for those playoff battles.
That doesn’t nullify Jordan’s “horrible guy” concern, though. Being a good basketball player can run counter to being a good person. Jordan was ruthless. His methods were often unkind.
What’s a fair way to view Jordan? It’s a complex question. But we should have a fuller picture after this documentary.