NBA

Why “the Last Dance” Is Biased

Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson celebrate after finishing off the Jazz to win the 1998 championship. 2020-04-16 Jordan Jackson
Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY, USA TODAY

The narrative Michael Jordan sought heavily influenced “The Last Dance.” Therefore, it is inherently biased.

Amid the current pandemic and lack of live sports, ESPN provided fans with prime-time entertainment in “The Last Dance.”  The 10-part documentary series showcased the Chicago Bulls of the 90s that built a dynasty in the NBA behind their iconic leader, Michael Jordan.  However, there have been several reports undermining the credibility of the series. 

One of the most dramatic topics from the documentary is if Jordan was responsible for leaving Isiah Thomas off of the 1992 USA Olympic team.  When addressing Isiah Thomas and the Dream Team in episode five, Jordan stated the following.

“It was insinuated that I was asking about him, but I never threw his name in there”

Michael Jordan

Many fans thought that Jordan was not responsible after hearing his take.  However, Sports Illustrated’s renowned writer, Jack McCallum, covered the 1992 Dream Team and recently started a podcast called, “The Dream Team Tapes.” In the podcast, McCallum discusses what was going on during the 1992 Olympics and what led up to the gold medal in Barcelona.  In 2011, McCallum interviewed Jordan for a book about the ‘92 team, entitled “Dream Team: How Michael, Magic, Larry, Charles, and the Greatest Team of All Time Conquered the World and Changed the Game of Basketball Forever.”  In episode three of the podcast, they played a clip of a 2011 interview Jordan appeared to contradict his recent comments.

Rod Thorn called me. I said, ‘Rod, I won’t play if Isiah Thomas is on the team.’ He assured me. He said, ‘You know what? Chuck [Daly] doesn’t want Isiah. So, Isiah is not going to be part of the team.’”

Michael Jordan

Two different interviews with MJ contradict each other. Which interview is true? Should we trust Jordan’s interview from the “The Last Dance” or his interview with McCallum?

MJ’s Teammates Weigh In

One of the most outspoken people against the documentary has been Jordan’s former teammate Horace Grant.  In an interview on Kap and Co. on ESPN 1000, Grant expressed his view on the series.

“When that so-called documentary is about one person, basically, and he has the last word on what’s going to be put out there … it’s not a documentary.  It’s his narrative of what happens in the last, quote-unquote, dance. That’s not a documentary, because a whole bunch of things was [sic] cut out, edited out. So that’s why I call it a so-called documentary.”

Horace Grant

To support Grant’s opinion, Curtis Polk and Estee Portnoy were executive producers for “The Last Dance.”  Polk is Jordan’s agent. Portnoy is Jordan’s business manager, who, of course, would want to portray Jordan as positively as possible.

Jordan’s hall of fame sidekick, Scottie Pippen, has also had his problems with the documentary.  According to David Kaplan of ESPN 1000, Pippen, “is so angry at Michael and how he was portrayed, called selfish, called this, called that, that he’s furious that he participated and did not realize what he was getting himself into.”  

Jordan got the final say on everything in the series, but episode two heavily focused on Pippen, so shouldn’t Pippen have gotten the final say on his portrayal, at the very least?  Also, the documentary showcased Pippen’s 1994 season without Jordan and Pippen’s decision to sit out with game three of the conference semifinals on the line.  Jordan wasn’t on that team, so why did he have a say on what clips make the final cut and Pippen didn’t with regards to the 1994 season?

Are the facts shown on “The Last Dance” 100 percent untrustworthy? No.  But, is the documentary subjective? Yes.  McCallum, Grant, and Pippen had a first-person view of the events portrayed in the documentary, just like Jordan.

At the end of the day, it is important for viewers of the series to be mindful of bias throughout the series. As Grant put it, it was all influenced by Jordan’s narrative of what happened.

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