Michael Jordan was brought to tears in one of the latest episodes of The Last Dance when asked to describe his relationship with his Chicago Bulls teammates.
Episodes 7 and 8 of the 10-part documentary series aired Sunday on ESPN. The episodes detailed Jordan’s intense competitive mentality and the balance he had to have when he worked alongside the rest of the Bulls during the late 1990s.
“My mentality was to go out and win at any cost,” Jordan said. “If you don’t want to live that regimented mentality, then you don’t need to be alongside of me because I’m going to ridicule you until you get on the same level with me.
“And if you don’t get on the same level, then it’s going to be hell for you.”
Jordan discussed how hard he was on Bulls teammate Scott Burrell during his final season with the team in 1997-1998. Burrell and Jordan’s other teammates admitted they feared the basketball legend. They also called him a “jerk” and said he “crossed the line” numerous times as a competitor and motivator.
“Winning has a price,” Jordan said. “And leadership has a price. So I pulled people along when they didn’t want to be pulled. I challenged people when they didn’t want to be challenged. And I earned that right because [other] teammates came after me.
“They didn’t endure all the things that I endured. Once you joined the team, you lived at a certain standard that I played the game. And I wasn’t going to take anything less.”
Former Bulls Coach Phil Jackson said he had to ask Jordan to tone it down during practice if he was too hard on his teammates.
“He’d get feisty in a practice and maybe go up against people,” Jackson said. “I’d have to talk a little bit about toning it down and make amends and keep that level of team camaraderie. That’s your role, too, as a part of this, in being a captain.”
Episode 7 ended as Jordan became emotional and asked The Last Dance director Jason Hehir for a break before the screen went black.
“You ask all my teammates, the one thing about Michael Jordan was, ‘He never asked me to do something that he didn’t [expletive] do,'” Jordan said. “When people see this, they’ll say, ‘Well, he wasn’t really a nice guy. He may have been a tyrant.’ Well, that’s you. Because you never won anything. I wanted to win, but I wanted [my teammates] to win and be a part of that as well.”
“Look, I don’t have to do this,” he added before he was choked up. “I’m only doing it 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.”
The final two episodes of The Last Dance air at 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. EDT Sunday on ESPN.