Everyone is talking about ESPN’s The Last Dance. The docu-series is routinely pulling down big audiences and drawing interest across a wide spectrum of media. Richard Deitsch of The Athletic sat down with director Jason Hehir for a column that came out on Monday to discuss how the interviews with Michael Jordan came together.
Hehir revealed that a lot of the way the film was made was influenced by a conversation he had with Ezra Edelman, director of the Oscar-winning 30 for 30 docu-series OJ Simpson: Made in America.
“He asked me why I wanted to interview Michael first and I said that that’s just what I normally do,” Hehir told Deitsch. “I told him I get the first big one out of the way and then kind of have all these other interviews rotate around them like a satellite. Ezra said that’s not the way he would do it. By the end of that dinner, I decided that he was right for a story this big. I needed to get certain basics down first before I went to Michael.”
One device Hehir has used that has become a favorite of the audience is Jordan reacting to video of other people talking about interactions with him. The director revealed that it was a practice designed to make sure The Last Dance featured new quotes and perspectives from someone that has had every moment of his basketball career dissected and fawned over.
“My goal all along was: He’s been asked every question so let’s deviate from the format in which he’s been asked these questions in the past. And that might mean pulling out an iPad or showing him the clip on an iPhone.”
Michael Jordan sat down with Hehir and his crew for three separate interviews during a span of 15 months in the making of The Last Dance. The first conversation and the final one each lasted three hours. Hehir told Dietsch that spending that much time with the main characters of a documentary is a common practice. In fact, in comparison to some of his past documentaries, the total time Hehir spent with Jordan was minuscule in scale.
“To put it in perspective: Andre the Giant (which Hehir directed for HBO) was 80 minutes long and we got Vince McMahon for five and a half hours over the course of two days,” He told Deitsch. “The Fab Five was 100 minutes long and I got Jalen Rose for seven hours. So I wasn’t asking Michael to have those same proportions. I wasn’t going to ask him to give me 80 hours to get 10 hours.”
The full interview sheds light on how Hehir approached difficult subjects including Jordan’s gambling, the death of his father, and the rumor that his 1993 retirement was a way to cover up what was really a suspension.
Gus Johnson: ‘Nobody Ever Told Me I Was Doing It Wrong’
“I just want to delight in the excellence of these young men and women that I have the chance to call because I know it’s so important to them because it’s important to me.”
While fans get to hear Gus Johnson call big college football and college basketball games and get to see his reactions to memorable moments, he unfortunately never gets to see his own reaction, but he just enjoys being a part of sports, such as when he called Michigan-Ohio State for FOX this past Saturday.
Johnson was a guest on The Rich Eisen Show last week and he said while calling a game, he never wants to be too controversial and he appreciates that people choose to watch him during their times of relaxation.
“They say you never see yourself, you only see a reflection. You’ve never seen your face. You’ve only seen a reflection of your face as a human being. I can’t see myself. I would love to see myself during those moments because I sometimes don’t really understand the reaction. To me, I’m just watching the game, I’m a fan. I’m a journalist and I take that seriously, but more than anything, I’m just a fan of sports. Thank God for sports.
“People for the last almost 30 years have allowed me to come into their homes during their times of relaxation, rest, to spend time with their families. That’s important to me. When I call the game, I don’t want to be too controversial. I’m not trying to be 60 Minutes. I just want to delight in the excellence of these young men and women that I have the chance to call because I know it’s so important to them because it’s important to me. It connects you to great moments in your life and in your mind.”
Before he got to FOX, Johnson was at CBS Sports from 1995-2011 calling some memorable NCAA Tournament games and NFL games that went down to the wire. In an era where criticism can be found easily, Johnson told Eisen that he never received criticism about his broadcast style from any of his bosses:
“Nobody ever told me that I was doing it wrong. That’s one thing I loved about the CBS experience. At CBS Sports, we had different kind of broadcasters. Our leader back then and still is Jim Nantz. He had his own style. We had Verne Lundquist, we had Dick Enberg there during that time. Don Criqui was there during that time. Not one time did anybody ever tell me that I wasn’t doing it right. Nobody ever said ‘Gus, don’t do it that way’. I would get negative criticism when the Internet started, but not from my bosses.”
Ricky Keeler is a reporter for BSM with a primary focus on sports media podcasts and national personalities. He is also an active podcaster with an interest in pursuing a career in sports media. You can find him on Twitter @Rickinator555 or reach him by email at RickJKeeler@gmail.com.
Scott Hanson Clarifies NFL RedZone Missteps During Raiders/Seahawks
Hanson believed in the moment that CBS was airing the overtime period to a national audience. But due to NFL broadcasting rules, the game was only available on select stations.
NFL RedZone host Scott Hanson ruffled feathers for many football fans Sunday when he told viewers to switch from the channel to their local CBS affiliates to see the conclusion of the Las Vegas Raiders and Seattle Seahawks game.
Unfortunately, for both viewers and Hanson, the game was only being shown in a small portion of the country, with the rest of the nation’s CBS affiliates already airing 60 Minutes. The game was also available to NFL Sunday Ticket subscribers.
Hanson took to Twitter Sunday evening to explain what happened on the air and to apologize for the miscalculation.
Hanson believed in the moment that CBS was airing the overtime period to a national audience. But due to NFL broadcasting rules, the game was only available to stations in the Las Vegas, Fresno, Sacramento, Reno, Eugene, Portland, Boise, Seattle, and Spokane markets on the west coast. Additionally, the game was available in Chicago, Tampa, Atlanta, and Charlotte.
He apologized for the mistake and said he would have more details at a later date.
ESPN Creates ACC/SEC Challenge
The series will begin for the 2023-2024 season, launching with 28 games played between the two sports.
ESPN, in conjunction with the ACC and SEC, is slated to announce the creation of the ACC/SEC Challenge for men’s and women’s basketball.
The series will begin for the 2023-2024 season, launching with 28 games played between the two sports. That number will grow to 30 contests when the SEC expands for the 2025-2026 season.
Every game in the challenge will be aired on an ESPN platform, with each side hosting the same amount of home games.
“The future ACC/SEC Men’s and Women’s Basketball Challenges will be outstanding events for our student-athletes, member institutions and fans,” said ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips, Ph.D. “The SEC, led by Greg Sankey, and our partners at ESPN have been terrific, and there’s great excitement for the first annual ACC/SEC Challenge next season. As part of this announcement, we’d like to acknowledge the Big Ten for its partnership on the ACC/B1G Challenge that spanned more than 20 years.”
“We are excited women’s and men’s basketball student-athletes will have the opportunity to compete with their colleagues from the ACC as we initiate a new Basketball Challenge experience,” said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey. “I appreciate the collaboration of Jim Phillips and the ACC members, along with our broadcast partner ESPN, to make possible the SEC/ACC Basketball Challenge which will provide our fans with exciting basketball early in the 2023-24 season. I also thank the Big 12 for the many great challenge games we experienced together in past years.”
The creation of the event comes on the heels of the Big Ten’s new media rights deal with FOX, NBC, and CBS, ending a nearly four-decade relationship with ESPN. The ACC/Big Ten Challenge began in 1999, with the SEC/Big 12 Challenging beginning in 2013. Both events will cease to exist following this season.