Michael Jordan was never easy on former Bulls teammate Scott Burrell. That's one thing sure to shine through as "The Last Dance" docuseries marches on.
"When you see the footage of it (him riding Scott Burrell), you’re going to think that I’m a horrible guy," Jason Hehir, paraphrasing Jordan, dictated to Richard Deitsch of The Athletic. "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."
In the debut of "The Last Dance," we got a peek at the ruthless competitive side that Jordan was so worried about others seeing. We even got a look at him interacting with Burrell in... Let's call it an icy manner.
But ask Burrell, and he appreciated Jordan's leadership style as a teammate. We did just that on the most recent episode of the Bulls Talk Podcast.
"I just hope people don't get a bad view of Michael after this movie," Burrell said. "What he said and what he did in practice, the way he pushed me, was all in motivation, to motivate me to be a better player, to be mentally prepared for any tough challenge that might face me during that year. There's nothing like playing for the Chicago Bulls... You have to be ready every day, and that's what he wanted me to be to make myself better and make the team better.
"There's no free rides, and that's one of the things he said. There's no free rides in Chicago, and you better earn your keep."
When all was said and done, Burrell said he was amply prepared when moments of reckoning arrived in the postseason.
"I would never have thought he should be any different. I think he prepared me to be in tough times and tough situations during the game. If you can handle a practice with the Bulls, you can handle being in the Finals or Eastern Conference finals."
Burrell conceded that leadership styles akin to Jordan in their harshness are now a relic of the past, but that he still sees "The Last Dance" as a chance to educate. Burrell is currently the head coach of the men's basketball team at Southern Connecticut State University, and said many of his pupils are too young to have any recollection of the time period portrayed in the docuseries. It will be a crash course in basketball history for them.
"They're not gonna understand it," Burrell said of the culture "The Last Dance" will depict. "They're gonna say, 'Why'd you take that, coach? I would've left.' What does that prove? You're running away from the challenge... You've got to take your challenges head on and prepare yourself and enjoy the competition of someone coming at you every day, especially when it's the best player to ever play.
"I carry that throughout life, and I'm gonna teach my kids that — in a different way. But I just love the challenge every day."
Because, ultimately, everything said and done behind the scenes during that season and every season Jordan was with the team was done with a singular purpose.
"You had to pull Michael Jordan off the court for someone else to win a championship," Burrell said. "You would have to drag him off because that's how competitive he is."
All these years later, that endures.