In Episode 6 of ESPN’s “The Last Dance,” the intra-organizational strife evoked by the publishing of “The Jordan Rules” was detailed.
Michael Jordan, in a present-day interview, blamed then-teammate Horace Grant for leaking inside-the-locker-room information to Sam Smith, who authored the book. Grant countered that he never “divulged” anything to Smith, despite the two sharing a friendship. The documentary doesn’t get past the point of “he said, he said” on the matter, but it’s clear the book was a distraction to the Bulls at the time of its release.
Now, Smith is out to set the record straight. He was clear in an appearance on the Bonta, Steiny and Guru show on San Francisco’s 95.7 "The Game" Thursday that the idea Grant was his only source for the book is "nonsense."
“I've been around that group since Michael arrived, and I knew Phil Jackson from the CBA in Albany. I've done a story on him when he was there," Smith said on the show. "(Bulls assistant) Johnny Bach was from Brooklyn. I knew him when he was coaching the Warriors in the 1980s. And so I knew all these people and had been around them.
“But it sort of brings me back to that era, because Horace was sort of a thorn with Michael, personally. He didn't take well to Michael sort of taunting some of the players who had fallen in line."
Smith said “The Jordan Rules” might have surprised people upon reading, given the book’s portrayal of Jordan's harsh personality. At the time, Jordan’s reputation — buoyed by marketing and advertising — was sterling, and his relationship with the media all positive.
"I always remembered I would joke with the players," Smith said, "Horace would have a game of 28 points, 16 rebounds, and the media would all crowd around him and ask him what he thought about Jordan's game. It was always like that with all the guys.
"Michael was so much quicker verbally than Horace. He would pick on him, get the last word, you know, much more articulate, as you've seen.”
Smith added that Grant and Scottie Pippen enjoyed an especially close friendship as teammates, one that endures to this day.
“Horace was a stubborn guy in his own right. He was very close with Scottie (Pippen). That was always Scottie's closest friend,” Smith said on the show. “And I think that's what all this is about. He's talking to Scottie. Scottie hasn't said anything publicly. Hasn't said a single thing about this and everything has been forced, if you will. I think he's defending Scottie. I think they still talk almost every day. This is probably partially coming from Scottie as far as a reaction to the things Horace is saying."
Grant has spoken out in vehement opposition of his portrayal in "The Last Dance" as the only source for “The Jordan Rules,” saying recently to David Kaplan on ESPN 1000 in Chicago earlier this week, that it was a lie.
On the Bonta, Steiny and Guru show, Smith expanded on the key dynamics in the Bulls’ locker room at the time.
“Actually Michael should have liked Horace in that respect,” Smith said of Grant’s thorn-in-the-side nature, “because Horace challenged him, like Bill Cartwright did at one time — and Michael backed off — and Steve Kerr, and the famous fight and all.
“Horace had come back at Michael and all that stuff was going on. But as you saw, Michael was not always easy to get along with."
A prescient point, indeed.