ESPN Docuseries ‘The Last Dance’ Sees Michael Jordan Open Up Like Never Before
ESPN is set to release a docuseries, titled ‘The Last Dance’, a deep dive into the 1998 Chicago Bulls attempt to win their sixth NBA Championship in eight seasons.
Director, Jason Hehir, told Insider the documentary will give a career retrospective of Michael Jordan where he opens up like never before, capturing not only his career highlights that earned him the titles “Air Jordan”, “The GOAT (Greatest Of All Time)” and a catalogue of others, but also his less-flattering moments.
“From the moment I first met him, nothing was off-limits,” Hehir said.
“His candour, I can’t say enough about it.
“It was the difference between this being a run of the mill documentary about basketball and something that I hope people will think is an incisive look inside the mind of a guy who is considered a statue,” he said.
Hehir said he did not shy away from talking to Jordan about the things he was sensitive to discuss as a player during his career, like his ‘tough-guy’ persona with his teammates, his unbreakable gambling habit, his attempt to play pro baseball, and the criticism he received for not being a vocal advocate for issues surrounding the black community despite his global appeal.
He said before he began the interview process, he had a lingering feeling Jordan wouldn’t be open to discuss the more controversial topics, but an exchange between Hehir and Jordan at the start of the first interview put faith the documentary would be a tell-all story:
“Why do you want to do this?” Hehir asked him.
“I don’t,” Jordan replied
“When people see some of this footage, they’re not going to understand why I behaved the way that I behaved,” Jordan revealed.
“This is not going to be just a quick clip of you talking,” Hehir reminded him. “You have 10 hours to explain things. Some questions I ask you may not want to answer but I have to ask them, and you will have the chance to set the record straight on those things.”
“I’ll talk about whatever you want,” Jordan replied.
Hehir revealed it only took until the second interview for Jordan to talk in great detail about his gambling, and even went back to talk about it in their third meeting to drive home his feelings.
While the central focus for the series is on the entire Chicago Bulls attempting to pull of a second three-peat of titles in the span of eight seasons that marks Jordan’s and coach Phil Jackson’s last season with the Bulls, Jordan was the spotlight.
Hehir conducted 106 interviews for the project, including most of the players who were on the 1998 Bulls team, Phil Jackson, rivals like Isiah Thomas, Charles Barkley, and Reggie Miller, along with Bulls fans Barack Obama and Justin Timberlake.
When approached by the NBA with hundreds of hours’ worth of footage following the Bulls throughout the 1997-98 season, Hehir said he had bigger plans than just showing off the footage.
“They came to me and asked if I thought we needed to shoot original interviews or just go wall-to-wall with the verite footage from 1998 for eight episodes,” Hehir said.
“I said we absolutely have to shoot original interviews from all parties with their perspectives of over 20 years,” he said.