Michael Jordan is a mythological legend in the sports world. He understandably ranked extremely high on our list of the greatest NBA players ever. The 14-time All-Star won six NBA Championships with the Bulls and countless other accolades. However, Jordan has kept very private in recent years. The all-time legend doesn’t even use social media.
Furthermore, he rarely speaks to the mainstream media except in his role as owner of the Charlotte Hornets. But that’s all changed thanks to ESPN’s new documentary series, ‘The Last Dance.’ The smash-hit shows archived footage from Jordan’s unreal career with the Bulls. For many young NBA fans, it’s the first time they’ve seen the man in action. So today, we looked at 20 secrets the show reveals about Jordan. Some are inspiring while others are less flattering. But ultimately he’s one of the most compelling athletes of all-time.
Find out why right here.
20. Pippen Contempt
It’s hard not to feel for Scottie Pippen. Ever second to Jordan, he definitely has the toughest time out of everybody in the show. His seven-year contract was an absolute monstrosity. However, he got his own back, and Jordan doesn’t come out of it well.
He decided to put off ankle surgery until the beginning of the 97-98 season. Jordan was irate and called Pippen selfish for leaving him high and dry. But he missed the point because he could have used his massive influence to help his friend and teammate.
One thing that ‘The Last Dance’ does very well shows just how much pressure weighed upon Jordan on and off the court. It’s no wonder he entered his first retirement because he needed to clear his head as much or more as anything else. His fame and visibility were greater than any previous basketball star.
Jordan also admits his lifestyle was unsustainable. That’s not saying that he went full Dennis Rodman, because he didn’t. But the world was watching him like no one else before him except maybe Muhammad Ali. It was no wonder he walked away.
It’s difficult for the younger generation to appreciate the phenom Jordan was. Arguably only David Beckham has had the same cultural impact. But they’ll also struggle to understand how ruthless he was in pursuit of his goals and wealth.
Jordan didn’t condemn police violence towards black children until 2015. He also infamously refused to endorse Harvey Gant, a black Democrat running for the North Carolina senate seat against famed racist Jesse Helms. His infamous “Republicans buy sneakers too” quote is still brought up often to the day.
One of the most interesting snippets from ‘The Last Dance’ began at the 1998 All-Star Game. This was Kobe Bryant’s first appearance in the annual game. With Jordan expected to retire, it was a true changing of the guard moment even though Jordan’s team won.
In the locker room, Jordan went in hard on Bryant’s desire to keep shooting. He said that if he were a Laker, he wouldn’t pass to him. It was somewhat hypocritical from Jordan, who once took 49 shots in a single game. But it also shows that he saw Bryant as the man to one day usurp him.
One of the most bizarre episodes of ‘The Last Dance’ described how Dennis Rodman went missing for two days. The former Pistons legend is a famously volatile character, but somehow managed to wrangle a couple of days of R&R. With Rodman, it was a terrible idea.
His party with his girlfriend Carmen Electra went on for days. Finally, Jordan went in pursuit of the couple. After tracking them down, he found them naked in bed together. He dragged Rodman to practice, where he showed no signs of wear and tear.
Jordan broke his foot in his second season. This isn’t a secret by itself, but people might not have realized just how much it affected his relationship with the front office. The worldwide star had a direct confrontation with Jerry Reindorf over his recovery.
Doctors told him there was a 90% chance it would be fine after it healed. However, the front office didn’t want him in the playoffs because of the 10%. Things would eventually come to a head as it all escalated behind the scenes. Eventually, a compromise was reached, yet it was problematic.
Just like it was seeing Jordan play in the NBA, it’s also awesome to see his beginnings. One of the people who left a massive impression on Jordan was his head coach at UNC, Dean Smith. It was Smith who gave Jordan the confidence to express himself as a freshman.
However, the best thing he ever did for him was also his most noble. He told Jordan to go pro instead of playing his sophomore year. This was a beautiful thing from the coach because on paper he had nothing to gain from losing his best player. He was the most important person in Jordan’s life after his parents.
One of the biggest problems with ‘The Last Dance’ documentary series is the way it goes hard on former GM Jerry Krause. Jordan’s relationship with him was infamously bad but there’s a major issue with his representation in this show. It leaves a bad taste.
Krause died in 2017 and is unable to defend his name. Overweight, defensive, and insecure, he’s an easy target for Jordan’s derision. But there’s no balance in his portrayal. After all, he did serve as GM for 18 years, including six NBA championships. Was he perfect? Definitely not, but the series doesn’t even mention that he passed away.
One of the big questions about ‘The Last Dance’ is, why now? First of all, it may have been better to come out 10 years ago, but better late than never. However, Jordan had total control over the filmmaking process right down to the archive footage.
It took multiple producers nearly 15 years of trying to convince him the time was right. Finally, he decided to let them use it, but he definitely had a massive hand in its creative direction. Of course, you’d expect nothing less from the Bulls legend.
First of all, it’s clear that Jordan had an insane amount of pressure on him from a young age. This made it very difficult for him to relax or let his guard down at any point. Even with his own teammates, he was still somewhat on edge, and who could blame him?
However, it’s clear from the show that he was able to laugh with his security detail. Jordan gambled and joked with them all of the time. While they had clearly defined roles in the hierarchy of the Bulls, Jordan was more at ease with them than anyone else.
There’s no denying this show rewrites history from certain points. A clear example is when it deliberately misquoted Krause saying “organizations win titles, not players.” It leaves out a keyword. The actual quote was “players and coaches alone.” In short, it’s definitely not the best journalism by ESPN.
This is startling and it does cast a negative light on Jordan, who famously ranted in 2009 about this at his Hall-of-Fame induction. The show obviously idolizes him but there are dark elements that pierce through the light. Krause wasn’t innocent but this is wrong.
For younger viewers of “The Last Dance,” one of the biggest shocks was Jordan’s on-court rants. Over the past 20 years, the game has undeniably become more sanitized. But he goes off on his teammates right from Episode 1 in a manner that makes you cringe.
Scott Burrell especially felt his wrath. Was it fair? In short, maybe, because we are talking about a different era. Jordan demanded excellence and accepted nothing less. Meanwhile, the proof was in the pudding. His six NBA Championships tell the story.
With all the talk of Jordan’s brilliance, it’s easy to overlook the times where he didn’t perform up to his highest standard. One of his weaker skills was shooting from distance. Throughout his career, Jordan averaged 0.5 triples per game on a 33.2-percent clip.
That’s fine because he didn’t need to. But for some reason, he still accepted an invite to the 1990 Three-Point Contest. He only managed to score five points. While it’s not exactly a secret, it’s definitely something Jordan doesn’t like to remember.
The 14-time All-Star is synonymous with the number 23. However, this wasn’t his only number. On a couple of occasions, he had to change it up. Shortly after returning from retirement, he wore 45 for a while before switching back to the number we all associate with him.
But this wasn’t the only time he wore a different number. He was forced to wear an emergency reserve ’12’ after his own was stolen from the locker room. The Bulls lost to the Orlando Magic and he never wore it again. You can see his one-and-done effort above.
Jordan’s tongue wag is iconic. There are so many images of the legendary star jumping through the air with his tongue out. However, the story of how he actually started doing this goes back to his childhood. It became a part of his everyday game as we all remember.
It comes from his father James. He used to do the exact same thing when he was doing handiwork around the house. Whether it was a conscious decision or not we don’t exactly know, but Jordan began to imitate his father. Suddenly, it became the most famous mannerism in all of sports.
If you ask anybody over 40, they’ll say Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all-time. Most people younger than that will probably say LeBron James. But there’s no doubt Jordan deserves to be up there. However, the question begs, who was his hero?
The answer to that question is Magic Johnson. In fact, on “The Last Dance,” we learn that Jordan even carried the nickname ‘Magic’ as a youngster, such were his prodigious talents. But he was then able to carve out his own identity in becoming the most lucrative athlete ever.
When Jordan retired for the first time in 1990, he stunned the world. Nobody expected it because he was only 30 and in the prime of his life. After three NBA championships, it seemed like he had achieved everything he wanted to and decided to try baseball.
However, other issues were in play. As well as his poor relationship with Krause, he allegedly had a run-in with then-NBA Commissioner David Stern. He allegedly banned Jordan from playing in one season because of his violations of the league’s policies on gambling.
The show does reveal that he likes to gamble a lot. Although Jordan insists he never had a problem, his excursion to Atlantic City is infamous now. It was the night before a big game against the New York Knicks, but he left the casino worse for wear.
He also lost thousands in a game of golf with Slim Bouler. Richard Esquinas even wrote a book about his alleged addiction. This one of the main reasons why Jordan avoids the media. ‘The Last Dance’ touches on this, but it’s not a subject he likes very much. No surprise there.
Many people believed Jordan was too short to be an elite NBA star. Of course, he went and proved all the doubters wrong. The first two players drafted in 1984 were both seven-footers. This says a lot about the era and how the game began to evolve from then on.
The footage of former Knicks star Walt Frazier questioning Jordan’s ability to be a franchise player is striking. However, just a few months later, Jordan led Team USA to gold in the Olympics. Coach Bob Knight called him “the best basketball player I’ve ever seen play.”
One of the biggest takeaways from the show is that Jordan would not have been the Bulls’ first pick. That honor would have gone to Hakeem Olajuwon if they had the opportunity. Nobody thought Jordan would become the player he turned out to be.
But instead, the Houston Rockets got Olajuwon. Let’s face it, that definitely wasn’t a bad pick either and definitely right for the time. But the Blazers going for Sam Bowie was a terrible move in hindsight. In sum, the Bulls got very lucky and the rest is history.