One of the most eye-popping moments of Episode 1 of ESPN’s 10-part series on the Chicago Bulls’ last championship season called The Last Dance was the mention of cocaine and the huge belly laugh it elicited from Michael Jordan.
Jordan is asked about his early days with Bulls in 1984 when he was a 21-year-old rookie from Wilmington, North Carolina and the Bulls were a struggling franchise with a bit of a hard-partying reputation.
“One of the articles I read, they called it ‘the Bulls traveling cocaine circus,’” says the interviewer.
Upon hearing that drugged-up moniker, Jordan lets loose with a full on, head back, hand clap laugh.
“I never read that article,” says Jordan, still chuckling, before slapping his knee.
“Accurate?” asks the interviewer.
“Aah, look guys were doing things that I didn’t see,” says Jordan, before going on to detail a night during the preseason of that rookie year, back in 1984, when he knocked on a hotel door looking for his teammates.
“I get to this one door and I knock on the door and I can hear someone says ‘shhhh shhhh, someone’s outside,’” recalls Jordan. “And you hear this deep voice who says, ‘who is it?’
“I said ‘MJ’ and they all say, ‘ah he’s just a rookie, don’t worry about it,’” Jordan goes on. “So they open up the door.”
Jordan then describes a scene of drugs and debauchery that his unsullied brain couldn’t possibly imagine.
“Practically the whole team was in there, and it was like things I’ve never seen in my life as a young kid,” says Jordan. “You got your lines over here, you got your weed smokers over here, you got your women over here.”
Jordan says he looked over the whole scene, and thinking about the consequences, says “I’m out.”
“All I could think about was, if they come and raid this place, right about now, I’m just as guilty as everyone else in this room,” says Jordan. “And from that point on I was pretty much on my own.
“I don’t smoke, I don’t do lines, I didn’t drink at the time,” says Jordan, with a glass with a brown-colored by his side. “I was looking to get some rest, get up and go play.”
Cocaine and the NBA became forever linked two years later when the Celtics’ No. 1 pick, Len Bias of Maryland, died of an overdose of the drug just hours after Boston selected him with the second pick of the 1986 NBA Draft. Several players from that notorious draft, including No. 3 pick Chris Washburn and No. 7 selection Roy Tarpley, battled drug issues throughout their playing careers.
One vice His Airness surely has always had is gambling, as he’s been known to put money on just about everything, and was even spotted at an Atlantic City casino the night before Game 2 of 1993 Eastern Conference finals vs. the Knicks.
The documentary goes on to show Jordan’s humble home life those early days, living in a modest apartment, making his own bed, doing his own laundry.
“I enjoyed hanging out, playing cards, watching movies,” said Jordan. “I wasn’t going to the clubs.”
The depiction of Jordan as a stay-at-home square early in his career is endorsed in the doc by then teammate Rod Higgins.
“Whatever somebody else might have been doing off the court, if it was partying, whatever, that wasn’t part of what [Jordan] wanted to do,” said Higgins. “Orange juice and 7UP was his go to.”
With Episodes 1 and 2 of The Last Dance airing last night, the third installment premiers April 24 at 9 p.m EST.