Only two episodes have aired of The Last Dance documentary that chronicles the final championship year of the ’90s Chicago Bulls team, and it’s already receiving heaps of praise. The 10-part docuseries gives an inside look into the 1997-98 Bulls season, which was the final year of the Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and Phil Jackson glory days. As great as the documentary has been so far, though, it seems as though it was just as difficult to get made.
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The brain behind the documentary, Andy Thompson, who is the uncle of Warriors superstar Klay Thompson, went onThe Athletic’s “Tampering” podcast to share details about what went into making the documentary. Among other things, Thompson shared that Jordan coming out or retirement to join the Washington Wizards in 2001 really put a wrench in the plans to release the documentary sooner.
Thompson details a story about how his team had a rough cut of the documentary, which included content from a three-hour interview they were able to do with Jordan in 2000. But in the midst of piecing the film together, M.J. decided to unretire for the second time.
“Boom. That just blows up our project, because now I’ve got to leave everything and hit the road again for two years and follow him again,” Thompson said. “So from 2001 to 2003, I’m on Michael’s trail again, in Washington.”
Not only did Jordan coming out of retirement ruin their first cut of the documentary, but it pushed the potential release of the footage further down the line.
“You know the story. He never made the playoffs. That left a bad taste in his mouth that he retired, that he left the game and never really got to the playoffs, and he just didn’t want to have anything to do with any documentary talk,” Thompson said. “And this is like 2003 now, so we’re five years away from ’98. Eventually, he gets into ownership (with Charlotte in June 2006), and from time to time whenever I’d see Michael … I would say, ‘Hey man, when are we going to do this doc? When are we going to do this doc?”
After turning down the idea to release the footage several times, Jordan eventually agreed to do the documentary. Coincidentally, his decision to say yes happened on the same day that LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers were holding a championship parade to celebrate their historic title win over the Golden State Warriors in 2016. Three years later, and the documentary is once again putting Jordan and his Bulls in the spotlight, similar to the amount of the attention they received in the ’90s.
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