No sportswriter has covered the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan quite like Sam Smith has. Smith currently writes for Bulls.Com, and was an NBA writer with the Chicago Tribune during the entire Jordan era. He also wrote The Jordan Rules, a 1992 bestselling book that was discussed — with controversy — on The Last Dance (Smith also made several appearances on the docuseries).
Well, Smith has made the radio rounds following the completion of The Last Dance, and claimed Thursday on San Francisco’s 95.7 The Game that there were “several things” Jordan “made up or he lied about” in the docuseries.
Smith said the food poisoning pizza story explanation in The Last Dance for “The Flu Game” was “complete nonsense.” He added that Jordan’s explanation at the end of the docuseries on wanting to return to the Bulls in 1998-99 for a run at a seventh title, with the organization being focused on rebuilding, “was a complete, blatant lie.”
“There were several things in the documentary that he (MJ) made up or he lied about…”
— 95.7 The Game (@957thegame) May 22, 2020
“There were several things in the documentary, what I saw, I would know, that he made up or he lied about.
You know, there weren’t major things, but it was like… when a TV movie comes on, and they say, ‘This is based on a true story.’ That’s what that was. It was based on a true story.
There were all of the outlines of what happened, but a lot of the detail… like the pizza thing, the poison, that was complete nonsense. There were a couple of other things like that I won’t go into.
They weren’t major, but the thing at the end was a complete, blatant lie.”
Smith followed that up with a Friday appearance on The Dan Patrick Show, and suggested that Jordan had “altitude sickness” during The Flu Game in Utah. The Bulls were traveling back and forth between Park City (their hotel) and Salt Lake City (practice and games) during the 1998 NBA Finals.
“He was ill. There’s no question. I think he had something that wasn’t as manly as maybe some other episodes.
What they were doing… they were going up to Park City in the mountains, in the ski area, to stay. So they had to practice in Salt Lake City. So they kept coming in and out, in and out. And I think it was altitude sickness. The symptoms that he had fit that much more than anything else that he had.
There was some sort of illness. There’s no question he was ill. I wouldn’t deny that. He definitely was. He was sick. But he wasn’t poisoned.”
Smith also went into more detail about Jordan’s comments on wanting to return for a seventh title (around the 10:40 mark of the Dan Patrick interview).
He didn’t want to play that next year. He could’ve, in any number of ways. So he made that up too at the end. That ‘I wish I could’ve come back.’ ‘I wanted to come back.’ He didn’t want to come back.
… If he wanted that one year and the $40 million, he could’ve gotten it. He just didn’t want to play.
I mean, we saw it with Ahmad (Rashad) in all those scenes. ‘Hey, I’ve had enough. I’m outta here. I gotta move on.’
But it was a better story to end it that way. To say, ‘Hey, one more chance.’ ‘Going for seven.’ ‘We could’ve done that.’ Nah, he didn’t want to do that.
Earlier in the week, Horace Grant — who played on the Bulls from 1987-1994 — ripped The Last Dance. Jordan claimed in the docuseries that Grant leaked much of the information Smith used in The Jordan Rules. Grant called Jordan a “snitch” on Tuesday, and said the claim “an outright lie.”