Lee's Wayne Larrivee, who broadcast the Bulls during Jordan's 'Last Dance,' calls the documentary true
There are as many opinions about "The Last Dance" as there were minutes of television. But for at least one person who was there when it happened, Jason Hehir's 10-part series about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls rang pretty true.
"It held pretty much to the points, I would say it was very accurate in that regard," said Lee native Wayne Larrivee. "For a 10-part series, it wasn't quite as deep as I thought it might be. I thought Jason Hehir did a great job, and to be honest with you, it did reflect in many respects and it touched upon the main points of what happened in that era."
Larrivee was in the middle of the maelstrom because he was the television play-by-play voice of the Chicago Bulls.
Larrivee, a Lee High School and Emerson College graduate, was the voice of the Bulls on TV from 1991 until 2008, and was there for both of the Bulls' three-peats.
The broadcaster, who has spent the past two decades as the radio voice of the NFL's Green Bay Packers, was asked about how the main subject — Jordan — came out over the 10 hours.
"He was concerned about his portrayal, but the one thing about that production is that he sat down and did three major interviews with the producers and they asked him anything they wanted to. He took on all questions. It was a very honest portrayal," Larrivee said. "I thought it was very accurate of Michael, who he was, a driven competitor."
The Lee native said that while the documentary did capture Jordan's drive, Jordan was not a favorite of the other Bulls.
"He was the driving force. He was going to be the guy who kicked you in the butt," Larrivee said. "Scottie's the guy who was going to pick you up after Michael knocked you down. Scottie was the conciliatory person in this relationship. Good cop, bad cop. If you were going to take a private poll: Who was your favorite Bull? Michael Jordan, on those teams, his teammates would not vote him their favorite person. They would vote Scottie Pippen for that. Who was your most respected teammate? Michael Jordan would win, unanimously. I hope that doesn't paint Michael in a bad light. That's not the case. Everybody understood that Michael took them to places they never could have gone on their own."
According to ESPN, 5.9 million viewers watched chapters 9 and 10 this past Sunday night, and over the five weeks, viewership averaged between 4.9 and 6.3 million. That number, of course, won't include the upcoming numbers from ABC's re-airing of the documentary.
Over 10 hours, reviewers and sportswriters who did or did not cover the Jordan Bulls saw much that surprised them. How about from someone on the inside? Was there anything that caught Wayne Larrivee by surprise?
"I almost kind of forgot about Scotty's back injury on the last game of the Last Dance, game 6 in Utah. I almost forgot about that because Scottie gutted it out. He went back out there and played as well as he could. I do remember it now, but I had forgotten about it at the time because the Bulls ultimately won the game and everything was fine after that."
One question for Larrivee concerned the double three-peat, and how different does it feel today, after watching "The Last Dance," than it might have at the time.
In that final season, NBA Entertainment had embedded a film crew with the Bulls, with the permission of Jerry Reinsdorf, Jordan and Phil Jackson. They all signed off on it, Larrivee recalled.
"What I really enjoyed seeing was the old security team around Jordan, two of whom are no longer with us," Larrivee said. "Seeing those guys and seeing how Jordan handled them and treated them like family, that brought back great memories. You would see those guys every time you would go to the United Center or Chicago Stadium. You'd see those guys and talk to them."
Unlike the beat reporters and newspaper columnists who make their own travel arrangements during the course of an NBA season, the radio and television broadcasters for the Bulls travel on the team charter. Larrivee said what you saw in "The Last Dance" was an accurate depiction of travel.
"That, in itself, we saw it a little bit of that with the film crew. But a lot of times, they had the cameras off because that's the sanctuary of the players," he said. "The card games that went on, that kind of thing. In those days, they served liquor on the plane. A long flight with the Bulls — going to and from a game — was like being in Vegas. There was a card game going on, the cigars, you had a beer or two. Of course, none of us in the media got into those card games. The team broadcasters were in the back. We had our section. The card game was in the next section over. It was usually, Pippen and Jordan, Bill Wennington and Ron Harper, for some pretty high stakes."
Howard Herman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.
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