Best Quotes From “The Last Dance” Documentary


Neil: I’ve watched every documentary in the original 30 for 30 ESPN series and most of the documentaries ESPN has made since then, including my new favorite, The Last Dance.

(My other favorites are No Crossover, The Two Escobars, The Fab Five, Broke, Ghosts of Ole Miss, Survive and Advance, Bad Boys, Sole Man, Seau, Vick, and Lance.)

Michael Jordan is the definition of an elite performer, and his ability to compete and drive others to win with him is an inspiration to me.

The stories of Jordan’s struggles are also a reminder to me that our greatest strengths are often also our greatest weaknesses. With great power comes great heat!

  • Book Recommendation: The Jordan Rules by Sam Smith (1993)
  • Link to Video: ESPN
  • This is part 8 of my series of Notes collecting quotes from my favorite documentaries, interviews, and speeches.

1. “We’re entitled to defend what we have until we lose it. If we lose it, then you look at it and you say, “okay, let’s change, let’s just go through a…” Rebuilding… no one’s guaranteeing that rebuilding’s going to be 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 years. The Cubs have been rebuilding for 42 years.” — Michael Jordan [In his 1997 Post-Championship Press Conference]

1. “To his credit, he did his job. But Jerry had the Little Man Problem. He grew up a little fat kid, not a lot of money, he was always the underdog. And he just couldn’t control that part of him that needed credit.” — Mark Vancil (author, Rare Air)

1. Michael Jordan: “I was demoralized and didn’t want to play any more sports. I felt like the coach didn’t like me.” Deloris Jordan (mother): “If you really want it, you work hard over the summer. That ball never left his hand.”

2. “Whenever they speak Michael Jordan, they should speak Scottie Pippen. Well, everybody says I won all these championships. But I didn’t win without Scottie Pippen. That’s why I consider him my greatest teammate of all-time.” — Michael Jordan

2. Jerry Reinsdorf (Bulls owner): “Michael asked: “If I play what percentage is there that I’m going to get hurt again?” Doctor said: “Eh, 10%.” MJ: “And I just lost it. I said, look, it’s 10% chance, but it’s 90% chance that I won’t.” JR: “And then I chimed in to the doctors. “What happens if the 10% kicks in? And then they said his career would be over.” MJ: “Well everyone is just thinking about the negative. Where I think the glass is half full. Everybody think it’s half empty.” JR: “So I said to Michael. You’re not understanding the risk : reward ratio. If you had a terrible headache, and I gave you a bottle of pills, and nine of the pills would cure you and one of the pills would kill you. Would you take a pill?” MJ: “ And I looked at him and I said, “It depends how fucking bad the headache is.

3. “You got the great Michael Jordan, the great Scottie Pippen, the great Phil Jackson. But if you take me away from this team, do they still win a championship? I don’t think so. I love Michael Jordan to death. I love Scottie Pippen, all these guys. But they really don’t do the things that I do.” — Dennis Rodman

3. “Basketball is simple. It’s a simple game. But when you leave this confined zone, it’s hard. It’s hard.” — Dennis Rodman

4. “You can show me anything you want. There’s no way you’re not going to convince me that he (Thomas) wasn’t an asshole.” — Michael Jordan

5. “Any African American in this society that sees significant success has an added burden. And many times America is quick to embrace a Michael Jordan, or an Oprah Winfrey, or a Barack Obama so long as it’s understood that you don’t get too controversial around broader issues of social justice.” — Barack Obama

5. “Republicans buy sneakers too.” — Michael Jordan in response to a question about whether he supports or endorses Harvey Gantt (D-NC), the first African American nominee for Senate in North Carolina who ran against pro-segregationist incumbent senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) in 1990.

  • “I said it in jest… It was thrown off-the-cuff. My mother asked to do a PSA for Harvey Gantt and I said, “Look, Mom,I’m not speaking out-of-pocket about something I don’t know. But, I will give a contribution to support him.” Which is what I did.” — Michael Jordan
    • There’s no joy in Mudville tonight.” — Jesse Helms, in his 1990 victory speech.

6. “It’s funny. A lot of people say they’d like to be Michael Jordan for a day or for a week. But let them try to be Michael Jordan for a year. See if they like it… Let them see that it’s no fun.” — Michael Jordan

6. “If I had the chance to do it all over again, I would never want to be considered a role model. It’s like a game that’s stacked against me. You know, there’s no way I can win.” — Michael Jordan

7. “Winning has a price, and leadership has a price. So I pulled people on when they didn’t want to be pulled and I challenged people when they didn’t want to be challenged. And I earned that right because my teammates came after me. They didn’t endure the things that I endured.” — Michael Jordan

7. You ask all my teammates, the one thing about Michael Jordan was he never asked me to do something that he didn’t fucking do.” — Michael Jordan

7. “When people see this, they’re going to say, well he wasn’t really a nice guy, he may have been a tyrantWell that’s you, because you’ve never won anything.” — Michael Jordan

7. “Look I don’t have to do this (documentary). I’m only doing this because it is who I am. That’s how I played the game. That was my mentality. If you don’t want to play that way, don’t play that way.” — Michael Jordan

8. “That’s the sign of a good man, if you can talk shit when it’s even score or talk shit when you’re behind score. When you’re ahead, it’s easy to talk.” — Michael Jordan

8. “It’s unfortunate, you know, because I think I had a great game that game as well. But no one remembers that.” — Patrick Ewing [eliminated 4x by Jordan in the Playoffs]

9. “He and I have somewhat of a unique relationship. Most people feared Michael Jordan. And rightfully so. But I didn’t fear him like the rest of the league did. And we had to lock horns quite a bit.” — Reggie Miller

9. “He was one of the best trash-talkers in our game. Early in my career, we were playing against Chicago. And you’re going to go 110% because you’re trying to impress the vets on your team. In the first half I played well and I was riled up. MJ didn’t shoot the ball particularly great. And so I’m like, “Yeah, you’re Michael Jordan? The guy who walks on water?” He looks at me… Second half, I had like 2 points and he ended up with a lot more. And I remember him walking off the court and he said, “Don’t ever talk trash to Black Jesus.” — Reggie Miller

9. “My innate personality is to win at all costs. If I have to do it myself, I’m going to do it.” — Michael Jordan

9. “I think Michael recognized that there were guys who were sort of overachievers, guys who maybe didn’t have that star power but came in and did what we could, and I’m sure he looked at me as an overachiever.” — Steve Kerr

10. “Most people struggle to be present… Most people live in fear because we project the past into the future. Michael’s a mystic. He was never anywhere else.” — Mark Vancil (author, Rare Air) [Neil: That’s not really true. Michael Jordan had his own struggles to be present.]

10. “The big downfall of a lot of players who are otherwise gifted is thinking about failure. Michael wouldn’t allow what he couldn’t control to get inside his head. He would say, “Why would I think about missing a shot I haven’t taken?” — David Aldridge (ESPN)

10. “In ’91-’92, I was young, full of energy, hungry. In ’98, when, winning 6 out of 8, and yet being just as dominant as you were in ’91, that’s where the craftsmanship came in, and I think ’98 was much better than any of the other years because of how I was able to use my mind as well as my body.” — Michael Jordan

10. “It’s maddening because I felt like we could have won seven. I really believe that. We may not have, but man, just to not be able to try, that’s something that I just can’t accept.” — Michael Jordan

Published by Neil Thanedar

Neil Thanedar is an entrepreneur, investor, scientist, altruist, and author. He is the founder & GP of Utopic, a pre-seed biotech VC fund investing in the future of science. He is also the founder & chairman of Air to All, a 501(c)3 nonprofit medical device startup, and Labdoor, a consumer watchdog with $7M+ in funding and 20M+ users. He previously co-founded Avomeen Analytical Services, a product development and testing lab acquired for $30M+ in 2016. He has also served as Executive Director of The Detroit Partnership and Senior Advisor to his father Shri Thanedar in his campaigns for Governor, State Representative, and US Congress in Michigan.