Ron Harper

‘Last Dance’: Horace Grant and Bulls teammates fire back at Michael Jordan

‘Last Dance’: Horace Grant and Bulls teammates fire back at Michael Jordan

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.”

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Did Ron Harper ask to guard Michael Jordan before 'The Shot?' Ehlo, Price unsure

Did Ron Harper ask to guard Michael Jordan before 'The Shot?' Ehlo, Price unsure

It’s one of the most memorable moments from Episode 3 of “The Last Dance” and will certainly endure as an iconic quote from the series.

Ron Harper on Michael Jordan’s game-winning, series-sealing, buzzer-beating jump shot over Craig Ehlo in Game 5 of the 1989 Eastern Conference first round against the Cleveland Cavaliers: 

“We up by one. I said, ‘Coach, I got MJ. I got MJ. So the coach tells me, 'I’m going to put Ehlo on MJ.' And I’m like, ‘Yeah, OK, whatever. F**k this bulls**t.’”

RELATED: MJ’s shot over Ehlo was fueled by Bulls reporters doubting him

But now, scandal!

Ehlo and Cavs teammate Mark Price offered differing accounts of the events in interviews with Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com in the wake of this anecdote being sprayed out to millions via “The Last Dance.”

“Back then, Harp and me were on the court at the same time, and he was our big offensive threat,” Ehlo told Fedor. “So, when I came in, it was a no-brainer that I would guard Jordan so Harp could rest on defense and play on offense.

“Harp had never really talked about defense or guarding people. He wasn’t a bad defender, I will give him that much, but I think those years with the Bulls where he got those championships, he was definitely third or fourth fiddle, so all of a sudden, he becomes this lockdown defender, apparently. I don’t really remember him during our time wanting to play defense that much. He kind of shocked me with those comments, saying he wanted to guard Michael.”

Harper’s defensive prowess was renowned in his time with the Bulls during the second three-peat, so hearing him purport to want the Jordan assignment in that moment was certainly believable. And with such meme-able delivery. But apparently, this story isn't so simple.

“That caught me a little off guard. I didn’t know Ron had such strong feelings about that because I didn’t really remember all that,” Price told Fedor. “Maybe it’s because we were in the midst of everything, or maybe that was something where Ron had talked to (Cavaliers coach) Lenny (Wilkins) on the side or before. I didn’t ever really recall that situation being a big deal at the time when the game was going on. I just remember Lenny kind of telling us what we were going to do, and then going out and trying to do it. Obviously, it’s something that had bothered Ron.

“Whoever (Lenny) picked, it wasn’t really a major factor as far as I was concerned. I thought, overall, it was a contested shot. It was good effort.”

Fair enough. Jordan’s anti-gravitational bounce and clutch shot-making certainly had more to do with the outcome of that game than Ehlo’s defense. 

The Cavaliers of yesteryear don’t appear ready to stand idly by and let Harper, in their estimation, rewrite history.

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Michael Jordan’s shot over Ehlo was fueled by Bulls reporters doubting him

Michael Jordan’s shot over Ehlo was fueled by Bulls reporters doubting him

Michael Jordan has spent his entire life proving people wrong. It fuels him.

So it should come as no surprise that one of the most iconic moments of his playing career is bolstered by a backstory of people doubting him. 

Episode 3 of “The Last Dance” offers an inside account of invisible tensions between Jordan and local Chicago media members in the buildup to him hitting “The Shot” (Part 1) over Craig Ehlo in Game 5 of the 1989 Eastern Conference first round series against the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

“So game’s (Game 5) about to start and there were two other beat writers. Beat writer from the Sun-Times, Lacy Banks. And Kent McDill from the (Daily) Herald, and me,” said Sam Smith, then a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, in the documentary. “Lacy has picked the Cavs to sweep in three. Kent has picked the Cavs to win in four. And I had picked the Cavs to win in five.

“Game’s just about to start. And Michael walks over to Lacy and points to him and says, ‘We took care of you.’ Then he Looks at Kent and says, ‘We took care of you.’ And he looks at me and says, ‘We take care of you today.’”

The rest is history. Jordan scored 44 points in the game (he finished the series averaging 39.8 points), the last of which came on a gravity-defying jumper that clinched it for the underdog, sixth-seeded Bulls — who lost all six regular season matchups with Cleveland — at the buzzer.

 

Ehlo’s name is forever etched into Bulls lore. But ask Jordan and then-Cavalier Ron Harper, and he should have never been defending Jordan in the first place.

“They had Craig Ehlo on me at the time, which, in all honesty, was a mistake,” Jordan said in the documentary. “Because the guy that played me better was Ron Harper.”

“We up by one. I said, ‘Coach, I got MJ. I got MJ,’” Harper said in a present-day interview. “So the coach tells me, 'I’m going to put Ehlo on MJ.' And I’m like, ‘Yeah, OK, whatever. F**k this bulls**t.’”

F this BS, indeed. Harper eventually won three titles during the Bulls’ second three-peat in a complementary role as the team’s starting point guard. Ehlo is still best known for “The Shot.”

The Bulls went on to fall to the Bad Boy Pistons in the 1989 Eastern Conference finals in six games, which was also detailed in Episode 3. But Jordan was just getting started.

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