The Last Dance, which chronicles the rise of Michael Jordan and his amazing Chicago Bulls, has dominated world sports-watching during the pandemic.

A planet in lockdown provided a major opportunity for the basketball series makers, but it also presented an incredible technical hurdle, according to executive producer Curtis Polk.

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Polk, a close friend and longtime financial advisor to Jordan, talks to Newstalk ZB's Martin Devlin about the battle to get The Last Dance out in time, and hits back at some of the critical responses.


1) Polk says Covid-19 gave The Last Dance a "captive" worldwide audience which has played a part in the massive response.

But the lockdown also provided a massive hurdle for the documentary makers, once the decision was made to rush the production so it could be shown during the mass sporting hiatus.

They had finished the first six episodes, and were well down the track with seven and eight. But the last two episodes were "very early in the process".

"So we had to rush to work on nine and 10," he said.

"One of the problems we didn't foresee the first day we made the decision to accelerate everything…primarily up to that point we had been working in a shared studio in downtown New York City.

FILE - In this May 25, 1992 file photo Cleveland Cavaliers guard Craig Ehlo (3) drives past Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls. Photo / AP
FILE - In this May 25, 1992 file photo Cleveland Cavaliers guard Craig Ehlo (3) drives past Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls. Photo / AP

"It had all the editing equipment, colour enhancement equipment, things you need for a documentary like this. We weren't able to use that facility because New York was basically shut down for business.

"Suddenly everybody was working from home on PCs and laptops. That took an enormous amount of effort to work on that basis. It was a story in itself.

"Things that took 10 to 15 minutes in the studio took hours, for everyone to collaborate over a video call… like cueing music with certain video sequences, without the sophisticated studio equipment."


2) Ex team mates are not all happy with the series, including Horace Grant who has declared 'lie, lie, lie'

Grant denies being the lone source for a book on the team, and rejects other The Last Dance claims, including that Steve Kerr was the only team mate to stand up to the domineering Jordan.

Polk said: "People have different recollections. Some of it might be revisionist history. Some things are clarified."

Michael Jordan (l) and Scotte Pippen. Photo / Getty Images.
Michael Jordan (l) and Scotte Pippen. Photo / Getty Images.


The series has received criticism for being overly slanted in Jordan's favour on issues such as his gambling

Polk said: "We didn't try to direct it where people should come out. We leave it to the viewers to come to their own opinions.

"We present it in a very frank and factual way so they can come to their own conclusion."

4) Very few people turned the documentary makers down when approached for interviews. Polk said 106 people were interviewed, and only five or six said no.

5) Critics wanted more about Jordan's family. Polk said it was never intended to be that sort of series, or a definitive profile of Jordan.

The "backbone" of the 10-part series is behind-the-scenes footage, which the Bulls allowed to happen during the 1997/98 season.

Polk said it was only when the long-running documentary format started to emerge that he and others realised how the 97/98 material could be used properly, telling the wider story of the Chicago Bulls dynasty.

6) Jordan's relentless pursuit of success and the way he drives and treats those around him is staggering. But Polk said he was always very appreciative of those around him.

"One of the things I hope came out is that although he holds people to a high standard, he is very appreciative when people come together and work with him in a collaborative way."

"He is very demanding, but at the same time he always says thank you."

This included a thank you note from Jordan to Polk after the last episode was broadcast.

"It's a reflection of his parents," Polk says.