Nearly 100 sports and film fans were treated to an intimate conversation Wednesday evening between Citizen co-founder Larry Platt and his friend of more than 20 years, Mike Tollin, the award-winning producer of the most talked-about show of our time: The Last Dance. The pairing felt more like being embraced by two lifelong pals than joining an online event with strangers.
For those living under a rock, The Last Dance is the 10-part, two-decades-in-the-making series chronicling Michael Jordan’s time as a Chicago Bull, and the personal and professional road that led to his final, drama-ridden season. It’s that show everyone from your mother-in-law to your Twitter crush to your childhood best friend has been watching. Obsessively.
Conferencing in from his L.A. home (where, fun fact, many on-screen interviews in The Last Dance took place), the Philly native shared behind-the-scenes details about the production of the series, as well as the motivations behind (and widespread impact of) his philanthropic foundation, PACE, and a sneak peek at his next big project.
He also set the record straight on the pervasive rumors that have been swirling around the production. For one: Michael Jordan did not have final say on what did and didn’t air.
“There was nothing off limits, no question was avoided or denied,” Tollin said, pointing out that the documentary didn’t shy away from addressing provocative topics like Jordan’s gambling, the death of his beloved father, the conspiracy theories surrounding his premature (first) retirement. “I think he was just at that stage in his life that he was really ready to open up.” Later, Tollin added: “When Michael’s in, he’s all the way in.”
While Jordan had turned down the opportunity to release The Last Dance footage each year for nearly two decades, Tollin shared the endearing details of the meeting in which the NBA legend ultimately came around. Tollin watched, as Jordan read a letter he’d prepared for him, which read as follows:
“Dear Michael, every day kids walk into my office who work for me, wearing your shoes who’ve never seen you play. It’s time.”
Much like Jordan’s famous comeback press release, which said only “I’m back,” Tollin’s note made a deep impact.
Later in the conversation, Tollin talked about his hilarious, and ultimately successful, attempt to meet his childhood hero, Dick, née Richie, Allen, back when Tollin was a student at Stanford, and the lifelong friendship the two forged
That bond is the subject of Tollin’s next project. It will be about hero worship and about how and why you get attached to someone, and it will explore the themes that largely defined Allen’s life: racism, public perception, family, dedication, loyalty.
Of the record-breaking popularity of The Last Dance, Tollin humbly acknowledged that it can be attributed to a confluence of factors, but that it’s been a total joy to hear how the show is bringing families together and giving them something to look forward to each week.
And he ended the night on these words, which felt particularly poignant: “Especially at a time when we really aren’t allowed to have a community, you realize there’s nothing more important.”
If you missed the chat, check out the video above. And be sure to join The Philadelphia Citizen’s three virtual events next week.
- May 18: Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro
- May 19: Dayton, Ohio, Mayor Nan Whaley
- May 20: Philly novelist and Committed podcast host Jo Piazza
All of them are free, but you must RSVP in advance here to reserve your spot. Hope to see you there!