Ball’s in his court.
Over the past few weeks, non-fans and basketball followers alike have been transfixed with Netflix’s sports commentary ‘The Last Dance‘ which highlights Michael Jordan’s final season at the Chicago Bulls. The series not only chronicles what transpired in the background whilst providing an insight into the inner-workings of the most dominant basketball franchise of the nineties, it also touched on the human aspect of everyone involved.
In a recent interview with series director Jason Hehir, we dug deep into the mystique surrounding who is arguably the greatest athlete to ever played in the NBA. We also ask whether the series has done justice not only for Jordan but the people around him as well.
Word on the street is that Jordan agreed to the production of The Last Dance on the same day LeBron James won the 2016 Championship with Cleveland. Often lumped into the GOAT conversation alongside Jordan and the late Kobe Bryant, certain sectors suggested that The Last Dance was a response to put an end to that Jordan – LeBron – Kobe debate once and for all. Hehir responded:
“I wasn’t there when he greenlit [this documentary] or his participation in this documentary. But the idea that he would have greenlit it because of LeBron James would indicate that there was some level of insecurity involved in his decision and Michael is the least insecure person I have met in my life.
“So I think it’s a fun conspiracy theory and a fun hypothesis, but I don’t think it’s true.”
Responding to how the series would sway opinions when it comes to the GOAT debate, Hehir had this to say: “I don’t mean to sound disrespectful when I say this but ‘I don’t care’. We told the story of the Bulls dynasty through the lens of the 97/98 season and Michael Jordan was the main character of that dynasty.”
“We told the story of how the Bulls evolve from a mediocre team that couldn’t even fill half their stadium in 1984 to one of the most significant pop culture phenomenons on planet Earth in 1998. That was the story I was interested in telling.”
“So if people want to argue about Michael, Lebron, Kobe and Bill Russel; that’s their prerogative. “
Hehir remarked that one of his biggest challenges in the making of The Last Dance was ‘De-mythologising Jordan’. “[But] to a certain extent, that’s what I try to do in any story that I want to tell. There’s always more to learn about any human being. And there’s a lot more to learn about people who are perceived as mythological.
“So the paramount concern to me is always to humanise these people. To de-iconise them. To make them into human beings and not bronze statues.”
Speaking of de-mythologising, we also touched the opposite end of the spectrum – de-demonizing a figure. This pertains specifically in relation to Jordan’s – and to a certain extent, most of the Bulls squad’s – turbulent relationship with then General Manager Jerry Krause.
While Krause has been instrumental in bringing together the pieces of the puzzle which ultimately resulted in a super team consisting of Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and Coach Phil Jackson, he has also been vilified for his role in “dismantling the Bulls dynasty”.
“I think that we accurately depicted Jerry’s actions,” Hehir said “personality and the reasons why there was this strife between the locker room and the front office. At the same time, I feel a debt of responsibility to tell Jerry’s story as accurately as we can. And since he is no longer with us, we have to use archival footage to do that. I wanted to give him as much of a voice as we can give him for his side of the story and we have gone to great pains to do so.”
“I also think that by the end of this series, you’ll see people giving superlative praise to Jerry Krause that seem very unlikely outside of the series. I think that my respect for Jerry Krause and the Chicago Bulls respect for Jerry Krause would be reflected by the time you finish watching the entire documentary.”
The Last Dance is now streaming on Netflix, with episodes 5 & 6 most recently aired earlier this week. The remainder of the episodes are as follows:
- Thursday, 8th May- EP 107 / 108
- Thursday, 15th May – EP 109 / 110