Jackie MacMullan Feels Michael Jordan Was 'Flummoxed' from Criticism from Last Dance

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVApril 15, 2022

CHARLOTTE, NC - MAY 8:  Michael Jordan #23 and Scottie Pippen #33 of the Chicago Bulls huddle together against the Charlotte Hornets on May 8, 1998 at Charlotte Coliseum in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  Mandatory Copyright Notice:  Copyright 1998 NBAE (Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images)
Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

Longtime NBA writer Jackie MacMullan believes Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan was a little caught off guard with criticism stemming from The Last Dance documentary miniseries.

The Last Dance, which originally aired in 2020, highlighted the Bulls' dominance of the 1990s and showcased MJ in a mostly positive light, but there were moments throughout the series where his treatment of teammates was questioned.

"Let's not get it wrong. He was an a--hole. He was a jerk," former teammate Will Perdue said during one episode. "He crossed the line numerous times. But as time goes on and you think back about what he was trying to accomplish, yeah, he was a hell of a teammate."

MacMullan explained Friday on The Hoop Collective podcast how Jordan felt in wake of the documentary.

"I don't think he was particularly thrilled with the blowback from The Last Dance and some of the things that came back at him," she said. "I think some of it flummoxed him a little bit to be honest."

Among those who've criticized Jordan since the series aired was Hall of Fame teammate Scottie Pippen, who felt the 10-episode event was too slanted toward MJ.

"The final two episodes aired on May 17, [2020]. Similar to the previous eight, they glorified Michael Jordan while not giving nearly enough praise to me and my proud teammates," Pippen wrote in his memoir, Unguarded, which was released last year.

He added: "On second thought, I could believe my eyes. I spent a lot of time around the man. I knew what made him tick. How naive I was to expect anything else."

Pippen said he heard from several members of those Bulls championship teams who held similar feelings.

One of the most powerful moments in the documentary came when Jordan was asked how his actions of the past could change how he's viewed in the present.

MJ, perhaps sensing the possible backlash, delivered a statement about leadership that ended with him emotionally asking for a break from the interview:

"Look, winning has a price. And leadership has a price. So I pulled people along when they didn't want to be pulled. I challenged people when they didn't want to be challenged. And I earned that right because my teammates who came after me didn't endure all the things that I endured. Once you joined the team, you lived at a certain standard that I played the game. And I wasn't going to take any less. Now if that means I had to go in there and get in your a-- a little bit, then I did that. You ask all my teammates. The one thing about Michael Jordan was he never asked me to do something that he didn't f--king do. When people see this they are going say, 'Well, he wasn't really a nice guy. He may have been a tyrant.' Well, that's you. Because you never won anything. I wanted to win, but I wanted them to win to be a part of that as well. Look, I don't have to do this. I am only doing it because it is who I am. That's how I played the game. That was my mentality. If you don't want to play that way, don't play that way."

It was one of the hallmark moments of The Last Dance, but it also backed Pippen's stance that Jordan was the sole main character and everyone else was part of the surrounding cast.

The Bulls ended up winning six NBA championships in the '90s, three straight from 1991 through 1993 and another three-peat from 1996 through 1998.

While The Last Dance helped bring their dynastic run to the minds of a new generation, it clearly reopened some wounds that may not have fully healed over the previous two decades.