Jason Hehir Swears ‘The Last Dance’ Was Not Michael Jordan’s Response to MJ vs LeBron Debate
A version of this story about Jason Hehir first appeared in TheWrap's Emmy magazine Race Begins. It is one of a series of discussions about the effects of the corona virus on the television industry.
Live sports have been discontinued because of the corona virus since mid-March, but fans relived the NBA era on ESPN in the 1990s, courtesy of The Last Dance. The 10-part documentaries by director Jason Hehir, which postponed their first premiere date on June 1 to satisfy sports enthusiasts, trace the story of Michael Jordan and his time at the Chicago Bulls. The series aired two new episodes every Sunday from April 19, revolving around Jordan's last season with the club in 1997-98, which ended with the franchise's sixth title in that decade.
TheWrap: The series has achieved record values. What was the reaction like for you?
It was really great to see people’s enthusiasm for it. I will get messages from strangers on social media saying, "This brought my family together." Someone told me that this was the first time since the entire shutdown started that his family was not talking or thinking about COVID-19.
Also read: "Last Dance" director explains why Barack Obama is only identified as a "former Chicago resident"
When did you realize that you could get it out early?
When the entire ban began, episodes 1, 2 and 3 were complete. We could have shown them that night. But we tried to think: "Well, how can we roll it out so that it is evenly distributed?" We knew that episodes 9 and 10 would not be fully finished and ready for air until mid-May. The final episodes will air on May 17th. However, when we're done this Friday, May 15th, we can go back in time.
It only takes a lot of work to figure out each step, to make sure it is exactly how we want it to be shown, and to pass it on to people as quickly as possible. Could we do 10 weeks in a row? That was on the table. We talked about a show every night five nights a week (in May).
This material from this season has been in a vault since 1998. Why do you think Jordan agreed to have it used now?
Part of me believes it was the Warriors (the 2015-16 team won a record of 73 games). And LeBron (James) just won a title. But the more I thought about it, the more I think Michael didn't think that way. Both of these thoughts would indicate uncertainty, and Michael could be the least uncertain person I've ever met. I think it was just the timing. It probably has more to do with the fact that he has young daughters.
He's a very private guy - he's not on social media and doesn't do a lot of television interviews. What was the most surprising thing you learned about him while filming?
He was as active as possible. He looked at rough cuts and recommended footage or games or moments that could improve the story we wanted to tell. I was really surprised at how willing he was to support the project by reaching and booking people. I can't call Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. There are certain things that I couldn't do and that he was willing to do.
Read more from TheWrap Emmy magazine's The Race Begins.
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Read the original story Jason Hehir swears that "The Last Dance" was not Michael Jordan’s answer to the debate between MJ and LeBron at TheWrap
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