Michael Jordan's 'The Last Dance': How NBA Icons Dennis Rodman, Steve Kerr and More Have Responded
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Michael Jordan's The Last Dance not only captivated viewers with the riveting tale of the NBA icon's personal life and legendary career, but it also ruffled plenty of feathers when it comes to Jordan's fellow basketball greats.
Jordan, 57, had no issues being blunt when it comes to his opinions about both his teammates and opponents, including his take on infamous incidents that occurred both on and off the court. Let's take a look at how Jordan's former Chicago Bulls teammates, as well as other key figures in the docuseries, have reacted to The Last Dance, which ended on Sunday.
Plenty of time in The Last Dance has been dedicated to Pippen, Jordan's right-hand man on the Bulls. Pippen had a complicated relationship with Jordan and the rest of the team, to say the least, with plenty of people noting that he was severely underpaid and that his own talents were often overlooked.
The revelation of Pippen's $18 million, seven-year contract with the Bulls also caused plenty of reaction with fans, who were shocked by his salary considering his importance to the team. All the furor had Pippen's estranged wife, Larsa Pippen, coming to his defense on Twitter, noting that he earned a lot more in later years.
While Pippen has noticeably stayed quiet since The Last Dance started airing, despite participating in the documentary to give his side of the story, ESPN reported that those close to him say he's "wounded and disappointed" by how he was portrayed.
ESPN 1000's David Kaplan also said Pippen was "beyond livid" over the documentary.
"He is so angry at Michael and how he was portrayed, called selfish, called this, called that, that he's furious that he participated and did not realize what he was getting himself into," Kaplan said.
"He felt like up until the last few minutes of Game 6 against the Jazz, it was just 'bash Scottie, bash Scottie, bash Scottie,'" he continued.
Meanwhile, Pippen's former Bulls teammate Dennis Rodman told ESPN, "I wish he didn't give a s**t like me about what people say. Scottie was so underrated -- and so underpaid. He should be holding his head up higher than Michael Jordan in this documentary. I think a lot of people are now realizing what he went through. The kid was a hero, in a lot of ways, during those great Bulls runs."
Rodman also made a bold claim that he would actually consider Pippen a better player than LeBron James.
"If LeBron was playing during the '90s, I'd still say Scottie Pippen was the second-best player behind Michael," he said.
Much like Pippen, Rodman participated in the documentary but hasn't talked much about his own portrayal -- specifically, the third episode documenting his wild trip to Las Vegas in the middle of the 1997–98 NBA season. Rodman asked for the vacation, which Jordan and their coach, Phil Jackson, reluctantly agreed to, though it was only supposed to be for 48 hours.
Not surprisingly, Rodman didn't return in the allotted time, and Jordan recalled in the docuseries that he had to confront Rodman at his apartment in Chicago to bring him back. Rodman's then-girlfriend, Carmen Electra, revealed she actually hid when Jordan came through the door.
Electra -- who married Rodman in Vegas in November 1998, though they filed for divorce by April 1999 -- has commented on her memorable part in the docuseries. The actress told The Los Angeles Times that being Rodman's girlfriend at the time was an "occupational hazard," but she has "no regrets at all."
"I saw all these different sides of Dennis," she said. "He would always say, 'No one understands me. No one gets me.' He was very emotional at times. Then there was the sweet romantic side and the fun, eccentric guy who loved to go out and drink and wear feathered boas. But on the court, he was a savage."
She acknowledged that his teammates worried about him.
"There were those moments of 'Where's Dennis?'" she recalled. "Other team members would worry when he would run off and they couldn't find him. There were times when all of us would go to a few bars and then we all would try to get Dennis to go back to the hotel. He would just run away and leave us. There was nothing we could do."
"If Dennis didn’t have a good game, if the Bulls didn’t win, it would reflect back on me in a sense," she added. "We were both so out there."
In April, Johnson spoke to ET about The Last Dance, in which his friendship with Jordan is touched upon -- specifically, their love for trash-talking.
"This was so needed during a time when we all have social distancing and stay-at-home and all the things that we're going through right now with the virus," Johnson told ET. "Last Dance is really giving us something. The NFL draft gave us something. We're all sports fans, so we would love to just have sports... It's been wonderful."
He also reflected on his and Jordan's similarities.
"Michael had a lot on his shoulders, but loved the pressure of being the ambassador, just like I loved the pressure of being one of the NBA ambassadors as well," he noted. "We understood our role, not only just with the Bulls and the Lakers, but also in the league and representing the league when we're out in public, and so I think that's why we're such good friends... We understand that we want to be more than just basketball players."
Johnson later confirmed to ET that he'll be following in Jordan's footsteps with his own documentary, chronicling his final season with the Los Angeles Lakers.
"You get the basketball part of it, but then also how I reinvented myself and how I went into business and what I'm doing today, so it will all come into this documentary," he shared. "I'm looking forward to it."
Jordan clearly is still not a fan of his former Bulls teammate, and in the doc, accused him of leaking information to author Sam Smith for his 1992 book, The Jordan Rules. Grant denied the allegation.
"It's only a grudge, man. I'm telling you, it was only a grudge," he said of why Jordan would call him out in a radio interview with Kap and Co. on ESPN 1000. "And I think he proved that during this so-called documentary. When if you say something about him, he's going to cut you off, he's going to try to destroy your character."
He also called the documentary "90 percent B.S."
"I would say [it was] entertaining, but we know, who was there as teammates, that about 90 percent of it -- I don't know if I can say it on air, but B.S. in terms of the realness of it," Grant said. "It wasn't real, because a lot of things [Jordan] said to some of his teammates, that his teammates went back at him. But all of that was kind of edited out of the documentary, if you want to call it a documentary."
Grant said he refused to bow down to Jordan.
"He felt that he could dominate me, but that was sadly mistaken," he said. "Because whenever he went at me, I went at him right back. But in terms of Will Perdue, Steve Kerr and the young man, Scott Burrell, that was heartbreaking. To see a guy, a leader, to go at those guys like that. I understand in terms of practicing, you have a push and shove here and there, but outright punching and things of that nature. And calling them the B's and the H's; that wasn't called for."
Jordan talked about the partying habits of some of his former Bulls teammates during the first episode of the docuseries, when he was asked about the so-called "traveling cocaine circus." Jordan recalled attending a party during the preseason of his rookie year in 1984 and claimed that "practically the entire team" was participating in less than model behavior.
"I walk in and practically the whole team was in there," he said. "And it was like, things I've never seen in my life, you know, as a young kid. You got your lines over here, you got your weed smokers over here, you got your women over here. So the first thing I said, '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. And from that point on, I was more or less on my own."
Jordan's former teammate, Craig Hodges -- who was not on the particular team Jordan was referring to -- took issue with the comments in an interview with Fox Sports Radio show The Odd Couple.
"One of the things as players, we call this a fraternity," he said. "So, I'm watching the first episode and I was upset about the 'cocaine circus.' That bothered me because I was thinking about the brothers who are on that picture with you who have to explain to their families who are getting ready to watch this great Michael Jordan documentary event, and they know you’re on the team, and now you've got to explain that to a 12-year-old boy."
Another player Jordan ruthlessly puts on blast is former teammate Scott Burrell. During one scene, Jordan roasted him on the team plane for his partying activities, even as Burrell begged him to stop.
"He never gets his sleep," Jordan said about Burrell, referring to him as "Dennis Rodman Jr." "If you think he’s committed to one girl, it’s a lie. Single man, and he thinks he can hang out all night."
"Mom and Dad, he's an alcoholic," Jordan added with a laugh.
In an interview with CBS Sports HQ, Burrell said he knew the scene was coming.
"Well, I warned my parents about that part," Burrell said. "I knew that part was coming and someone told me that it was going to come in tonight's film. So I was like, 'Oh boy, when's it coming?' So I'm sitting on the couch watching with my wife and I was like, 'What is she going to think? What are her parents going to think?' But you know what, that was 20-something years ago, so it's a different way of life."
Thankfully, his wife, sports anchor Jeane Coakley, had a sense of humor about the whole thing.
"I was in high school when 'baby Rodman' was at his peak ?," she noted on Twitter.
She also responded to a user who suggested she mute this particular scene in the docuseries, replying, "Nah, I want [to] hear about 'baby Rodman.'"
Kerr was a teammate of Jordan's on the Bulls, and one episode addressed the fist fight the two got into during one practice when Jordan was attempting to toughen up his teammates. Jordan ended up hitting Kerr in the eye and got thrown out of practice by coach Jackson. Jordan said he regretted the incident and apologized to Kerr. He also noted that Kerr had earned his respect, given that he stood up for himself when he pushed him.
Kerr, who now coaches the Golden State Warriors, told ESPN he also wasn't proud of the incident, but that his relationship with Jordan improved after the fight.
"It is something that happens from time to time on most teams during the season," he said. "Guys get into it during practice. It's just part of high-level competition. But it's very, very strange to know everybody's hearing this story and talking about it and then I'm going to be on camera talking about it. Michael is. And people are going to be examining this whole thing."
"It's like there's a reason camera crews generally aren't given that type of access," he added. "Now, I don't think there was any footage of that fight, because that didn't happen in '98, but just unearthing it all and talking about it is not a lot of fun."
During episode nine of the documentary, Kerr also emotionally talked about the murder of his father, Malcolm, in Beirut in 1984, and said that he and Jordan never talked about the shocking and untimely deaths of both their fathers. Jordan's dad, James, was shot to death in 1993 while taking a nap in his car, and the two attackers then hid his body in the woods and stole his car. His body wasn't discovered until the following month, and his death had a profound impact on Jordan.
"I think it was probably too painful for each of us," Kerr said about the topic.
"Basketball was the one thing I could do to take my mind off what happened," Kerr also said about learning of his father's death when he was just an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Arizona. "So I went to practice the next day. I didn't know what else to do."
Years later, during game six of the 1997 NBA Finals, Kerr made the game-winning shot when Jordan passed him the ball.
"I think this documentary is giving you a pretty good glimpse inside his life and how different his life was as a player, and that probably affected his life ever since," Kerr told ESPN of his former teammate. "He's very, very private ... we might run into each other once a year or so at maybe a golf tournament or All-Star Weekend, or maybe in Charlotte when we play, and he's always great and it's fun to see each other and we relive a few old times and then just move on."
"But he's always been very private and it's easy to see why if you're watching this documentary," he added. "His life was just total chaos. So I think he relishes his privacy now."
Plenty of time in the docuseries has also been given to Jordan and Pippen's complicated feelings when it came to the Croatian-born Kukoc, who started playing with the Bulls in 1993 after being courted by late Bulls general manager Jerry Krause. Krause is portrayed in an unfavorable light in the documentary as being the reason for much of the tension on the Bulls, and Kukoc stood up for him in an interview with ESPN.
"I wish Jerry were here to say his part of the story," Kukoc said. "It's easy to like Michael and Scottie and Dennis and Phil, and I like them all. I love them. Scottie was the ultimate team player. Michael will always, to me, be the best player ever. He changed the game. He made it global. Every player today should tip their hat to him. But you have to hear the other side. Jerry built the six-time champions. You have to give him credit."
Kukoc also had no hard feelings toward Jordan and Pippen for famously giving him a hard time while playing against him in the Olympics, and later when he became their teammate on the Bulls.
"I understood I would have to earn respect," he said. "I was coming to the best team in the world. You have to put aside all your accolades and pride. It doesn't matter if you were good in Europe. I was OK with that."
Kukoc made it particularly clear that he is still a great admirer of Pippen's, even when the documentary showed when Pippen stunningly refused to play in the final seconds of Game 3 in the 1994 conference semifinals due to Jackson designing a play for Kukoc to get the ball instead of him. Kukoc ended up making the game-winning shot, and Pippen's teammates expressed extreme disappointment in him.
"It's just something that happened," Kukoc said, looking back. "Everyone has an ego. Even someone that doesn't play one minute has an ego. I don't take anything away from [Pippen] for that."
"I love Scottie," he added. "The guy that helped me the most those first two years was Scottie. He is so easy to play with. I never really felt [the criticism] was mean. I felt like he was trying to point me in the right direction."
Jordan and Thomas were bitter rivals on the court, and obviously, are still not the best of friends today. During the documentary, Jordan denied rumors that he was the reason Thomas didn't make the legendary 1992 Dream Team at the Olympics.
"I respect Isiah Thomas’ talent," Jordan said. "To me, the best point guard of all time is Magic Johnson and right behind him is Isiah Thomas. No matter how much I hate him, I respect his game."
Thomas talked to The Detroit News about Jordan's use of the word "hate."
"I'm really surprised that he has that kind of hate and anger," Thomas said. "I’ve never experienced that being around him. My son was wearing Michael Jordan jerseys and shoes. They have Jordan jerseys on from the Olympics and the Bulls jerseys that I bought for them."
Thomas also made an appearance on ESPN's Get Up and reacted to Jordan calling him an "a**hole" because Thomas and the rest of his team at the time, the Detroit Pistons, walked off the court after losing the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals to the Bulls without shaking hands with them.
"In terms of how we felt at that particular time as champions, we were coming down, Michael Jordan was coming up," Thomas explained. "And in coming up, you have certain emotions. And in coming down as champions, you have certain emotions. And I've said this many of times: Looking back over the years, had we had the opportunity to do it all over again, I think all of us would make a different decision."
"Now, me, myself, personally, I paid a heavy price for that decision," he continued, referring to his belief that he was left out of the Dream Team for personal reasons. "And in paying that price, you know, I understand that this is the sports world and everything else, but at the same time looking back over in terms of how we felt at that particular time, our emotional state and how we exited the floor, we actually gave the world the opportunity to look at us in a way that we never really tried to position ourselves in or project ourselves in that way. So it's unfortunate that it happened, but that's just how it was during that period of time."
Laimbeer was on the "Bad Boys"–era Detroit Pistons team with Thomas, and Thomas claimed in the docuseries that it was Laimbeer who said they shouldn't shake hands with the Bulls after the Bulls swept the Pistons in 1991. While Thomas ultimately came to regret the incident, in an ESPN interview, Laimbeer remained unrepentant.
"I was about winning basketball games and winning championships and did whatever I had to do to get the most out of my ability and our team -- and we did," he explained. At the end of the day, we're called world champions."
He clearly still has no love for Jordan and his teammates at the time.
"They whined and cried for a year and a half about how bad we were for the game, but more importantly, they said we were bad people," Laimbeer said. "We weren't bad people. We were just basketball players winning, and that really stuck with me because they didn't know who we were or what we were about as individuals and our family life."
"But all that whining they did, I didn't want to shake their hand," he continued. "They were just whiners. They won the series. Give him credit: We got old, they got past us. But OK, move on."
Barkley and Jordan were fierce competitors on the court as well as teammates on the Dream Team. Although their relationship has since soured due to Barkley publicly criticizing Jordan's running of the Charlotte Hornets (then the Charlotte Bobcats) a few years ago, Barkley is definitely still watching The Last Dance.
"You got to see Michael Jordan as the greatest competitor I've ever been around," Barkley said during an appearance on The Dan Le Batard Show With Stugotz on ESPN Radio. "And it's amazing to play against him. And you can see at times he can be like a bully. It's giving us something different to watch."
"You know he has selective prosecution over there, right? He knows who to pick on," Barkley added of Jordan's famous competitiveness. "Michael is awesome, but there's certain guys you can't treat like that. You have to know what guys you can treat badly and they're gonna accept it. Screaming at guys all the time and punching guys? Come on, man. there's certain guys that would whoop the hell out of you if you tried doing that. He has selective prosecution. I mean, Scott Burrell and Steve Kerr. I mean, come on, man."
Barkley also said that fans hoping for a potential reconciliation between the two basketball greats shouldn't hold their breath.
"That's never going to happen," he said bluntly. "You can let that go. Stop it. We're good. Michael Jordan is great. Chuck is doing great. I'm too stubborn for that. I'm never going to admit that I'm wrong if I'm not wrong. That's never going to happen."
The New York Knicks legend participated in the documentary and talked about the experience during an appearance on The Dan Patrick Show.
"They asked me a million questions," Ewing said. "I think they might've shown me on a small piece of it, but I think they interviewed me for about an hour."
He said that he didn't actually enjoy watching the docuseries, particularly reliving some of his losses.
"I had to live through that," Ewing explained. "I had to live through him and all the battles we had to go through, and now y'all have a documentary that you have to keep rubbing it in my face."
"As fans, people are in awe of him," he added. "But we're the ones that had to battle him. As a competitor, you can't think of him as 'Michael Jordan: one of the greatest players to ever play the game.' You're out there trying to kick his butt, and you and your team are trying to do everything possible to try to beat that team."
Like Ewing, Miller appeared on The Dan Patrick Show and said he wasn't enjoying watching The Last Dance, reliving his crushing losses to the Bulls as part of the Indiana Pacers.
"I did, yes, reluctantly I watched," Miller said. "I will say this, if I was not coming on the show this morning, I doubt I would have watched last night... I don't want people to think, 'Why is he hating?' I'm not hating, it's more out of hurtful respect, because for those of us who were called by Central Casting to be in this movie versus the Bulls in the '90s, we lived it. I lived it."
As for sitting down for an interview for the documentary, he again expressed being reluctant, but ultimately said it helped him to move on.
"I tried to fight it, I didn't want to do it," he shared. "I had everyone from the league office saying you need to be a part of this and everyone at Turner telling me I need to be a part of this, and I was like, 'No, no, no, go. No, no, no, go. No, I don't need to be a part of it.' And then I was like, look, maybe it was a healing part of it, to talk about -- I don't want people to think it was some big rivalry, because a rivalry to me is we are on equal footing. I was not on equal footing with MJ, OK? But I loved the battles, and I know a lot of players would bow down to him, and that just was not going to be me. It was not in my nature to do that. Maybe I should have bowed down to him. But it was good to talk about some of those times, to help myself move on."
Miller was also asked what he would do if he saw Jordan today.
"I might punch him," Miller said. "Man, there was a lot of stuff being thrown back and forth."
O'Neal appeared on The Dan Patrick Show and said that the documentary solidified that Jordan is the greatest NBA player ever.
"The fair thing to say is we should probably break it down by eras on who was the best player ever, but it's Michael Jordan by far," he said. "Some of the things he's done, I don't see anybody being close to that. He's a 10. There's a lot of 7s or 8s around there, but there's no 9s or 10s."
O'Neal said he was enjoying the docuseries and that it gave him flashbacks of his own time in the NBA.
"It just made me remember how physical the game was," he said of Jordan's era. "That's the game I like to play. This game I'm watching now... UGH."
In one of the most memorable moments in the doc, Jordan outright laughed when shown tape of Payton saying he was a "problem" for Jordan during the 1996 NBA Finals due to his defense skills. Jordan emphatically denied this, and said he had other things on his mind at the time, like the death of his father still weighing heavily on him.
Payton admitted Jordan laughing at him got to him.
"Oh you know I was hot," he said during his appearance on The Opinionated 7-footers podcast with Ryan Hollins and Brendan Haywood. "I was thinking about calling him at the time. … But you know what, that's what I expect out of Mike because I would've said the same thing. I would've said the same thing. You know me, B. I'm not gonna admit to nothing, man. I'm not gonna admit to somebody that D'd me up or did nothing."
"I'll always tell you that any time in my career, nobody gave me problems but one person, and that’s John Stockton to me," he added. "That is just the way the game goes. I'm not mad at Mike because Mike didn't have too many games that nobody D'd him up."
The NBA coach responded to a scene during episode 8 of the docuseries, when Jordan said Karl snubbed him at a restaurant in Chicago and he used it as fuel to ruthlessly take the Seattle SuperSonics down during the 1996 NBA Finals.
"He walked right past me," Jordan said. "I said, 'It's a crock of s**t.' ... You're gonna do this? OK fine. That's all I needed. That's all I needed -- for him to do that -- and it became personal with me."
During an appearance on SportsCenter, Karl admitted to purposely not saying hello to Jordan but explained his reasoning.
"I had Brendan Malone on my staff from the Detroit Pistons, and he said, 'Michael plays head games with you all the time,''' he recalled. "And he said, 'You don't want to mess with him in the series. Say hello at the beginning of the series, shake his hand at the end of the series, but during the series, don’t let him use anything to motivate himself to be a better player than the greatest player in NBA basketball.'"
Karl also came to the defense of Payton over Jordan laughing at his claim that his defense got to him.
According to The Last Dance producer Mike Tollin, his 2014 documentary on Iverson, simply titled Iverson, convinced Jordan to participate in his own docuseries after initial concerns that it would tarnish his reputation.
"Jordan took his glasses off, looked up and said, 'I watched that thing three times. Made me cry. Love that little guy,'" Tollin recalled. "Then he walked around the desk, extended his hand and said, 'Let's do it.'"
In an interview with Complex, Iverson recalled how Jordan was not only famously tough on his teammates, but rookies in the league as well.
"The first time I ever talked to him was that year playing in the Rookie [All-Star Game]," he shared. "That was the year they did the top 50 of all time when they had the jackets on and all that. I saw him walking through and I'll never forget it because he said, 'What's up you little b**ch?' I'll never forget it. I looked at him like, 'Alright, man.'"
Of course, Iverson later earned Jordan's respect, when during the 1996-97 season, he famously crossed up the legendary player during a game.
On Monday, Iverson tweeted that he tried "the best [that he] could" when it came to following in Jordan's footsteps.
For more of Johnson's thoughts on The Last Dance, including the late Kobe Bryant's role in the docuseries, watch the video below:
'The Last Dance': Michael Jordan Gets Emotional Talking About How His Father's Tragic Death Changed Him
This Michael Jordan-Loving Dad Brings Excitement of the NBA and 'The Last Dance' to His Living Room
Kobe Bryant Raves Over Michael Jordan in Emotional 'Last Dance' Scene