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Michael Jordan Revealed What He Remembers Most About His Final Bulls Season Ahead Of ‘The Last Dance’

There’s never really a bad time to discuss the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls, one of the most captivating teams in NBA history. That’s been magnified lately due to ESPN’s upcoming 10-part documentary series The Last Dance, which takes a deep dive into that team thanks to interviews and hours upon hours of footage. Add in that the network moved its release up amid high demand from basketball fans during the COVID-19 pandemic and that Bulls squad has been a major topic of conversation recently.

Ahead of the documentary’s debut on Sunday evening, Michael Jordan sat down with Robin Roberts of Good Morning America for a rare interview. At one point, Roberts asked Jordan what he remembered most about that season, with Hall of Fame inductee looking back on how difficult it was going through the campaign.

“Well, it was a trying year,” Jordan said. “We all were trying to enjoy that year knowing that it was coming to an end. I was hoping that … the beginning of the season, it basically started when Jerry Krause told Phil that he could go 82-0 and he would never get the chance to come back, and knowing that I married myself to him, obviously, if he wasn’t gonna be a coach, then obviously I wasn’t gonna play. So, Phil started off the year by saying, ‘This is the last dance,’ and we played it that way.”

M.J. went on to express that going through such a mentally taxing year was hard, but did make it clear that playing under those expectations helped them in their championship pursuit.

“It also centered our focus to making sure we end it right,” Jordan said. “As sad as it sounds at the beginning of the year, we tried to rejoice and enjoy the year, and finish it off the right way.”

Of course, that Bulls team did end things on the highest of notes, taking down the Utah Jazz in the NBA Finals before Jackson departed and Jordan retired for the second time. Plenty has been written and said about that team, and starting on Sunday, The Last Dance promises to give an unprecedented look into Jordan and co., even if it doesn’t necessarily portray His Airness in the most positive of lights. Its director, Jason Hehir, recalled a conversation he had with Jordan regarding his skepticism about the documentary in a piece by Richard Deitsch of The Athletic.

“I said to him, ‘why do you want to do this?’ And he said, ‘I don’t.’ And I said, ‘Why not?’ And he said, ‘When people see this footage I’m not sure they’re going to be able to understand why I was so intense, why I did the things I did, why I acted the way I acted, and why I said the things I said.’ He said there was a guy named Scotty Burrell who he rode for the entire season and, ‘When you see the footage of it, you’re going to think that I’m a horrible guy. But you have to realize that the reason why I was treating him like that is because I needed him to be tough in the playoffs and we’re facing the Indiana’s and Miami’s and New York’s in the Eastern Conference. He needed to be tough and I needed to know that I could count on him. And those are the kind of things where people see me acting the way I acted in practice, they’re not going to understand it.’ I said to him, ‘That’s great because this is an opportunity. We have 10 hours here to peel back the onion and have you articulate all the things you just articulated to me.’

Part 1 of The Last Dance airs this Sunday at 9 p.m. EST on ESPN. The second chapter of the series will air immediately following. You can check out the entire broadcast schedule for the series right here.