As captivated as we all were by "The Last Dance" over the past few weeks, most of us understand that we didn't get the whole story on a lot of topics. Most events were told largely from Michael Jordan's perspective, which has led to former teammates like Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant voicing their displeasure with Jordan's recounting of events.
One of the most lasting revelations from the documentary came at the end of the final episode, when Jordan said that he wanted to return to the Chicago Bulls after winning the 1998 title, but the organization decided to commence a rebuild instead. Jordan was adamant that Pippen, Dennis Rodman and coach Phil Jackson would have returned on one-year contracts if owner Jerry Reinsdorf would have offered them.
Many have questioned the veracity of Jordan's surprising comments, and former Chicago Tribune writer and author of "The Jordan Rules," Sam Smith, is one of them. During a recent appearance on 95.7 The Game's "Bonta, Steiny & Guru," Smith said Jordan's account of being forced into retirement is a "blatant lie," adding that Jordan also "made up" or "lied about" multiple stories in the documentary.
"That was a complete and blatant lie by Michael," Smith said of Jordan wanting to return for the 1998-99 season. "There were several things in the documentary that I saw, I would know, that he made up or he lied about. They weren't major things, but it was like when a TV movie comes on and they say, 'this is based on a true story.' That's what that was. It was based on a true story."
Smith also disputed Jordan's story about getting food poisoning from bad pizza the night before the "Flu Game" during the 1997 NBA Finals in Utah.
"The pizza thing -- the poison -- that was complete nonsense," Smith said. "There were a couple of other things like that I won't go into. They weren't major, but the thing at the end [about Jordan wanting to return for the 1998-99 season] was a complete, blatant lie. I know what happened."
Smith said that Jackson had made it clear to ownership for a year that he wanted to take a "sabbatical" after the 1997-98 season, and added that Jackson already had his eye on coaching the Los Angeles Lakers. To back up his assertion that Jordan wasn't forced into retirement, Smith brought up a conversation between Reinsdorf and Jordan that took place during July of 1998, before the 1998-99 season was shortened because of a lockout.
"Jerry says, 'You know, it's a lockout. It might last a while. Just wait, maybe Phil changes his mind. Who knows what's going on, there's no hurry,' " Smith said. "[Jordan says] 'No, I'm done, I'm done. I don't wanna be around these guys anymore. I had to carry us down the stretch. Pippen couldn't play in Game 6 [of the 1998 Finals] because his back was hurt, he's limping around. Dennis is crazy.' If Michael wanted to stay, there was enough team to stay with."
Smith pointed out that the team still had players such as Ron Harper and Toni Kukoc, and had signed Brent Barry in free agency, not to mention having the entire coaching staff back besides Jackson:
"To come back in '98 and do what he did and basically walk away when he didn't have to, and then to pretend that he was the one that wanted to play and they forced him out? Who ever forces Michael Jordan out to do anything? Anyway, such a blatant lie, but hey, that's part of the mystique of Michael Jordan."
That last part of Smith's quote, about the "mystique of Michael Jordan" pretty much nails most fans' viewpoint about the documentary. Were there some fibs and fabrications? Probably. But that comes with the Micheal Jordan territory, and it's part of why "The Last Dance" has sparked so much conversation and debate.