Michael Jordan's 'The Last Dance' Director Explains Why They Gave Barack Obama That Hilarious Title
By Jennifer Drysdale
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
The highly-anticipated Michael Jordan documentary, The Last Dance, gave fans all the sports they had been missing when it debuted on Sunday night. The 10-part series by director Jason Hehir looks back on Jordan’s entire career while chronicling the Chicago Bulls’ efforts to win a sixth NBA title during the 1997-98 season.
The first episode recapped the basketball legend's transition from college basketball superstar at North Carolina to his life as an NBA rookie. A standout moment was Jordan recalling how he witnessed a drug-fueled party -- including "things I've never seen in my life" -- from the preseason in 1984.
"The first thing I said [was], 'Look man, I’m out.' Because all I can think about is if they come and raid this place, right about now, I am just as guilty as everyone else that’s in this room," he said. "And from that point on, I was more or less on my own."
However, one of the night's most tweeted-about moments was the title ESPN gave Barack Obama. No, he wasn't listed as "former president" -- he was listed as "former Chicago resident."
"I’m mean ESPN y’all really could have added Former President of the United States under Obama’s name along with former Chicago resident.....I mean it was just a lil job he had ya know #TheLastDance," one user tweeted.
I’m mean ESPN y’all really could have added Former President of the United States under Obama’s name along with former Chicago resident.....I mean it was just a lil job he had ya know #TheLastDancepic.twitter.com/iACHnnboFI
Hehir explained Obama's chyron -- and that of Bill Clinton, who was listed as "former Arkansas governor" -- to The Athletic.
"That is a Michael thing," Hehir said. "Barack Obama is not the kind of guy that I can find his number and text him. Michael had a connection. But I was pretty adamant that we don't have people in here who don't have an organic connection to the story. I think the temptation is because Michael was super famous, let's get as many super famous people in here as possible. There were conflicting philosophies amongst all the (production) partners of what makes a good documentary and what makes a documentary sizzle. I'm a filmmaker first and I just want to tell the story of this team as if they were not super famous. Who were the human beings who make up this team and how did they become famous and how did they handle that fame?
"So that was an interesting part of this whole thing. The good thing is that we all have the common goal – that it should be fantastic and everyone should enjoy watching it. I think the temptation would be to say, well, Bill Clinton was president in the 1990s. He has to talk about Michael because he was the President when Michael was playing and he saw Michael play live. My question was, okay, what is Bill Clinton going to say that is different than any other fan would say about watching Michael play? Why should he be considered an authority on basketball just because he's Bill Clinton? Now if Bill Clinton says I was governor of Arkansas when Scottie Pippen was in high school and I saw Scotty play, that's organic to the story and much more interesting."
The first two hour-long episodes of The Last Dance premiered Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN. The documentary will continue Sunday, April 26, with episode 3 at 9 p.m. ET and episode 4 at 10 p.m. ET. See more on the premiere schedule here.