Days before the premiere of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” documentary series, Michael Jordan opened up Thursday about the final season of his Chicago Bulls tenure in 1997-98, the central focus of the 10-part series.
Jordan told “Good Morning America” that the name of the series, which debuts Sunday on ESPN, comes directly from a message that head coach Phil Jackson gave the team before the campaign.
“At the beginning of the season, it basically started when [Bulls general manager] Jerry Krause told Phil that he can go 82-0, and he would never get the chance to come back,” Jordan said. “Knowing that I married myself to, obviously, and if he wasn’t going to be the coach, then I obviously wasn’t going to play.
“So Phil started off the year saying, ‘This is the last dance,’ and we played it that way. So mentally, it just kind of tugged at you through the course of the year, you know, that this had to come to an end. But it also centered our focus to making sure we ended it right. So as sad as it sounded at the beginning of the year, we tried to rejoice and enjoy the year and finish it off the right way.”
The 1997-98 Bulls finished the regular season 62-20 before winning the NBA title, capping their second three-peat in a span of eight years. Jordan retired after the season, before returning for two years with the Washington Wizards beginning in 2001.
ESPN’s docuseries will run two episodes every Sunday for five weeks. It was initially expected to debut in late May, but that was moved up due to the absence of other sports programming during the coronavirus pandemic.
Jordan, Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf and Jackson agreed to let an NBA Entertainment film crew follow the team in 1997, providing much of the basis for the docuseries.
Footage from Jordan’s childhood, his arrival in 1984 and the growing pains that predated the six-time championship dynasty will be mixed amid the triumphs of a team that became a culture-sweeping phenomenon.
—Field Level Media