This Sunday’s episodes of The Last Dance documentary don’t exactly paint a flattering picture of Michael Jordan. He could be an a****** and a bully. It’s bad enough the director was shocked Jordan okayed it.
Among those uglier moments: Jordan punched then teammate Steve Kerr in the face, and the two got in a fight during practice.
“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…
“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].”
For Jordan, he felt he had to push teammates, and the guys who could take it, the guys who stood up to him, earned his respect. Like Kerr. For Jordan, that meant kicking the ball out to Kerr in the biggest moments on the biggest stage.
The online reaction to this weekend’s episodes will be interesting to watch.
In some quarters of American sports fandom, Jordan’s style has been seen as the only way to lead a team, “it’s how real men lead.” It’s not. Kerr himself uses another style, as does Stephen Curry with the Warriors. LeBron James is different. It’s not just in basketball, Tom Brady is different in the NFL. All of them have rings to show for their different approaches.
Jordan approved this documentary, his production company helped make it. While it hasn’t always painted Jordan in a flattering light — getting into his gambling issues, for example — it also hasn’t gone as hard after some of the questions around Jordan as it could have. The Last Dance has helped bolster the mythology built up around Jordan.
We’ll see if this weekend changes that at all.