Michael Jordan was concerned before The Last Dance began airing that the documentary would make him look bad. To some extent, it has. Jordan’s hypercompetitive nature led to several incidents with teammates, some of which have been chronicled and some of which certainly will be before the documentary ends. But documentarian Ken Burns was concerned in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that Jordan’s involvement might prevent some of the worst stories involving Jordan from being broadcast.
It seems as though he was correct. Sam Smith, famed writer of “The Jordan Rules,” was one of the first journalists to expose Jordan’s darker side. He appeared on the Tolbert, Krueger and Brooks Podcast and told exactly the sort of story Burns was afraid might not end up in the documentary. According to Smith, players used to tell him that Jordan would deprive teammate Horace Grant of food after bad games.
“Players would come to me over the years and said, ‘You know what he did? He took Horace [Grant’s] food away on the plane because Horace had a bad game,'” Smith said. “[Michael] told the stewardesses ‘Don’t feed him, he doesn’t deserve to eat.’
The obvious question that arises out of this is why it hadn’t been revealed before. Jordan may have been involved in the documentary, but he was not part “The Jordan Rules.” The trouble for Smith was that nobody else was willing to be, at least on the record.
“They would tell me stuff like that and they’d say ‘Why don’t you write this?’ And I would say ‘Well I can’t write it unless you say it.’ I don’t do ‘league sources.’ You can’t do that kind of stuff on these kind of things. ‘If you want to be quoted I’ve got no problem with that.’ ‘No, no, no we can’t say that about Michael Jordan.'”
Jordan’s motivations for doing so are unclear. Grant was largely productive while playing with Jordan and was typically in shape. That wasn’t the case for all of Jordan’s teammates, as Jordan was notoriously upset with Stacey King’s weight and conditioning.
The Last Dance is meant to give an accurate overall portrayal of Jordan. The notion that he was not perfect is certainly covered. But a documentary he participated in was not going to air every piece of his dirty laundry. Certain stories were never going to see the light of day. This was nearly one of them.