A fascinating byproduct of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” is the relitigation of events that occurred over two decades ago.
Old wounds have reopened. Old jealousies have resurfaced.
Dynasties don’t just feature winning. They feature strong personalities and plenty of testosterone.
So it shouldn’t really surprise that teammates are starting to clap back at some of Michael Jordan’s claims from throughout the 10-hour documentary.
Speaking Tuesday morning on ESPN-AM 1000’s “Kap and Co.,” Horace Grant in particular took offense to Jordan’s claim that he was the primary source for journalist Sam Smith’s seminal book “The Jordan Rules.”
“As I stated to everybody, that is a downright, outright, complete lie. Lie, lie, lie. And as I stated, if MJ has a grudge with me, let's talk about it or we can settle it another way. But yet still, he goes out and puts this lie out that I was the source,” Grant told Kaplan, who also works for NBC Sports Chicago. “Sam and I have always been great friends. We still are great friends. But the sanctity of that locker room, I would never put anything personal out there. The mere fact that Sam Smith was an investigative reporter, that he had to have two sources to write a book, why would MJ just point me out, Ok? It's only a grudge man, I'm telling you.
“During this so-called documentary, if you say something about him, he's gonna cut you off. He's gonna try to destroy your character. I mean, Charles Barkley, they've been friends for over 20, 30 years and he said something about Michael's management with the Charlotte Hornets and then they haven't spoken since then.
“My point is that he said I was the snitch but yet still after 30, 35 years, he brings up his rookie year going into one of his teammate’s rooms and seeing coke and weed and women. Why the hell did he want to bring that up? What's that got to do with anything? I mean, if you want to call somebody a snitch, that's a damn snitch right there.”
Grant also fired back at a story told by Smith during a radio appearance that Jordan told flight attendants aboard the team’s charter plane to keep the power forward from eating when he didn’t play well.
“Anybody who knows me as a rookie knows that if anybody comes up and tries to snatch my food away, I'm gonna do my best to beat their ass. And believe me, back then I could've took MJ in a heartbeat,” Grant told Kaplan. “Yes, it's true that he told the flight attendant, ‘Well, don't give him anything cause he played like crap.’ And I went right back at him. I said some choice words that I won't repeat on here. But I had some choice words and stood up. If you want it, you come and get it. And of course, he didn't move. He was just barking. But that was the story. Anybody that knows me, where I come from or what I stand for, come on man, there's nobody on this earth that would ever come and try to take food off my plate and not get their rear end beaten.”
In a roundtable presented by BetOnline.ag called “The Final Dance,” Grant went a step further.
“Let me clear something up about this food thing that he tried to take my food. Listen to me. I would’ve beat his ass, guys. It wouldn’t be no Air Jordan now,” Grant said. “It wouldn’t be no six championships, I guarantee you that.”
Bill Cartwright, Craig Hodges and Ron Harper also participated in “The Final Dance” roundtable and made light of Jordan’s reputation as a tyrannical teammate.
“MJ knew who he can talk to and knew who he had to push. He was one of those guys who made you work harder because you see how he works,” Harper told BetOnline.ag. “You ain’t gonna talk crazy to me and don’t think I’m going to talk crazy to you. He would talk to Scott Burrell and Scott wasn’t man enough to stand up for who he was. You ain’t doing that s**t with me.”
Added Cartwright: “Let’s be kind. I think that the documentary meant to be something positive. That’s what I want to be. We saw really three guys — Will Perdue, Steve Kerr, Scott Burrell. Really, that’s the only people I’ve seen. So we’ll just leave it with that. I didn’t see all that holding people accountable. I saw us, our guys. And these guys here, I promise you these guys are extraordinarily competitive. They’re not going to put up with anything. You can tell any story you want. I didn’t see it.”
Grant said the documentary didn’t show teammates challenging Jordan back.
“We were grown men out there. We were professionals,” Grant said in the roundtable discussion. “For MJ to critique our basketball, OK, well listen, I don’t think he was hard per se because the documentary didn’t show that over half the guys he got on went back at him. You know damn well that I did. He wasn’t difficult at all because if you stand up for yourself — and you’re not Will Perdue or Steve Kerr…
“I wasn’t there for the second three-peat but I know some of the guys on that team. And I know damn well if you’re gonna call Harp and a few other guys b**ches and h**s, they wasn’t gonna stand for that. I’m pretty sure they edited that out of the documentary — Harp going back at him on that.”
In fact, the players felt plenty landed on the cutting-room floor.
“I felt that it could’ve been more about what the team did and what the players done,” Harper told BetOnline.ag. “But you know I understand they gave the copyrights to MJ. So it was more like ‘Come Fly With Me, Part 2.’ But it was good.”
Said Cartwright: “We knew it was going to be really one guy’s perspective of what happened. I think everybody here would have their own perspective. It was interesting to watch. The main thing for me is being able to recognize different guys like (strength coaches) Al Vermeil (and) Erik Helland, other teammates that were out there. Just making sure that people have a clear understanding of why our team was successful. We had the best team, the best bench and at that point in time we happened to have the best player in the league. I was watching it for entertainment value mostly because I knew what happened.”
Concluded Grant: “That documentary was for MJ, to be honest.”