Willie Spears

Willie Spears

Michael Jordan was a Bully

April 18, 2020

Proximity changes perception and perspective. This new documentary will bring us too close to Michael Jordan. So close in fact that we will see he is human. This is a new revelation. Our analog view of Jordan is now in high definition. This closeness will reveal the ugly truth.

The purpose of The Last Dance documentary is to protect the legacy of Michael Jordan. In 2009 30 for 30 creator Bill Simmons watched the never before seen footage of the 1998 season captured by NBA Entertainment and was prepared to make a documentary. However, the carefully guarded Jordan did not want his image tainted for the sole purpose of another documentary. When you are the best, there is no need to risk contaminating your legacy by allowing transparent footage to be viewed by the general public. Enter the barbershop.

Stephen A. Smith, Skip Bayless and others have made the debate show format famous. This over glorified barbershop setting has caused devoted sports fans to question Jordan’s legacy. After launching CNN in the summer of 1980, Ted Turner discovered there are not enough interesting news items for a twenty-four-hour news network. Therefore, news stories have to be manufactured and repeated. This is the problem with sports debate shows. There is only so much you can debate for so long. The argument of ‘who’s the greatest’ was never real until sports debate shows made this a popular topic.

If there was no LeBron James The Last Dance miniseries would not be a reality. This highly anticipated sports documentary would have no purpose in the eyes of its stakeholders. I believe Michael Jordan and his camp want to remind us all that Jordan is the greatest of all time. He is in the same conversation as Babe Ruth and Muhammad Ali. But, at what price?

Did we really want to know that Babe Ruth was a womanizer and alcoholic who died at the age of 53 of throat cancer from chewing tobacco? Did we really want to know the people in Ali’s camp allowed him to continue fighting even after he showed signs of Parkinson’s Disease? Do we want to know that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was an avid smoker who had extra marital affairs and plagiarized some of his speeches? No. We do not want to know our heroes are human.

The dichotomy of showing us the greatness of Michael Jordan is the inevitability of revealing his unrelenting ruthlessness. The Steve Kerr punch to the face wasn’t the exception to the rule, it was the rule. It was the norm, not an aberration. Jordan was intentionally guarded. He never showed us who he really was and the media respected that because of his power and societal norms. Ask Sports Illustrated about his power, i.e. Bag it Michael. We didn’t know his everyday language was laced with profanity or how often he gambled and how he would take advantage of anyone who would allow it. Bill Cartwright once told Jordan, “If you ever do that again, I will break your legs.” This was after Jordan tried to bully Cartwright.

The Last Dance will reveal a side of Jordan that will cause our stomachs to turn. When we see how he bullies Scotty Burrell we will ask the question, “Why?” Burrell was never going to be called upon to win a game or play significant minutes. Why would Jordan pick on this guy and force him out of the league? Because that’s who he is. Jordan is a bully.

Burrell currently lives in his home state of Connecticut where he is the head basketball coach at Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU). SCSU is forty-five minutes from Bristol, Connecticut the home of ESPN. Documentaries are told from the perspective of the producers, the people who put the money into the film. Director Jason Hehir is at the mercy of Jordan and his camp in this art of storytelling.

I have not seen the documentary and will not see it until it airs, but I doubt we will learn Scott Burrell is the first American athlete to be a first round draft-pick of two major sporting organizations. In 1990, he was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays of MLB and by the Charlotte Hornets of the NBA.

This suggests he was a better baseball player than Michael Jordan.

In 2013, a nine-year-old Robby Novak as ‘Kid President’ gave us a pep talk. He asks the question, “What if Michael Jordan had quit? Well he did quit.” He quit to play baseball and failed miserably. What if Michael Jordan landed on the best team in Major League Baseball and was bullied by the best player in the league? What if Jordan was the Scotty Burrell of Major League Baseball?

Michael Jordan is the greatest, but he was not great with the Wizards and he was not great with the White Socks. He was human.

In the end Michael Jordan was the one who was bullied by Jerry Krause. There is always a bigger bully.  

Thank you ESPN for giving us something to watch during our time of quarantine. This will be fun.

I am not Michael Wilbon, J. A. Adande, or Ahmad Rashad. I did not have a behind the scene look at the greatest team of all time which featured the greatest basketball player of all time.

I am a fan who wrote his opinion for you to read, since the barber shops are not open.

Willie Spears is a teacher, coach, author, minister, and motivational speaker. He has been awarded teacher and coach of the year. He speaks to thousands each year through his business The Willie Spears Experience. Willie may be reached at www.williespears.com.

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