UTAH JAZZ

Karl Malone And Bryon Russell Turned Down Interviews For “The Last Dance”

May 18, 2020, 11:06 AM | Updated: 4:47 pm
Michael Jordan and forward Karl Malone Credit: Jonathan Daniel /Allsport...
Michael Jordan and forward Karl Malone Credit: Jonathan Daniel /Allsport

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Utah Jazz forwards Karl Malone and Bryon Russell turned down interviews for “The Last Dance” documentary. Jason Hehir, the director of the 10 part series confirmed on The Dan Patrick Show that Malone said no to the request. Russell never responded to the series producers.

“He declined through another party,” Hehir said of Malone. “We asked him multiple times.”

The director said they even went through Malone’s Hall of Fame pick and roll counterpart John Stockton to get the star to sit down for an interview.

Karl Malone, Bryon Russell and “The Last Dance”

“Believe me, we exhausted just about every avenue,” Hehir said. “We started in January of 2018 on that one because we knew that he would be a tough sell.”

Stockton was initially hesitant to appear in a Michael Jordan “puff piece.” However, the All-Star guard finally agreed to sit down for an interview. As it turned out, Stockton would be the last player to agree to an interview.

“On Tuesday, March 10 we interviewed him in Spokane,” Hehir said, “It was so deep into this COVID crisis that we decided that I shouldn’t fly to Spokane because we’re afraid that flight would get grounded indefinitely. So we had someone from out there, a stringer from Seattle drive in and do that interview.”

At one point in the process, Hehir pitched Malone and Stockton doing the interview together.

“We tried and tried with Karl, we tried to get them to sit down together,” Hehir said. “We thought that might be a better option and he might feel comfortable with that but there was just no convincing him.”

Russell’s Fate

Malone wasn’t the only former Jazzman to decline an interview request. Russell also turned down the series.

“That was just a no response, we never got anything back from him,” Hehir said.

Despite Malone turning down an interview request, Jordan revealed at a bond between himself and the two Jazz superstars. The conversation would lead to the fateful meeting between the Bulls legend and the play that would define Russell’s career.

“When I was playing baseball, Utah was in town to play the Bulls,” Jordan revealed. “They’re practicing at the facility, I go over to say hello to John and Karl. This kid Bryon Russell comes up to me and says why did you quit? Why did you quit? You know I could guard your [expletive]. You had to quit. I said ‘Karl, you need to talk to this dude man.’

Malone dismissed the interaction without recognizing what it would foreshadow.

“Nah,” Malone said of Russell. “He’s just a young rookie.”

However, Jordan wasn’t as quick to dismiss the Jazz forward.

“From that point on he had been on my list,” Jordan recalled.

During the documentary, Stockton shared how Russell came to find himself matched up with Jordan in back to back Finals meetings.

“Bryon Russell made our team in the first place through incredible effort defensively,” Stockton said. “So he earned the right to take on some of the tougher assignments. And it doesn’t get any tougher than Michael.”

Jordan first burned Russell with a buzzer-beating shot to end game one of the 1997 Finals in Chicago. That would foreshadow the final shot of Jordan’s career when he brushed Russell aside for a pull up 18-foot jump shot in 1998’s game six to secure the Bulls their final championship.

“I knew how he played,” Jordan said of Russell’s defense. “He played on the front of his toes–give him a head and shoulder fake and he couldn’t stop.”

Hehir said he understood why Russell would deny an interview request for the series.

“Out of respect for Bryon, I think he knew what questions we were going to ask,” Hehir said. “So, maybe he didn’t want to go there, but there’s really nobody else of note that declined.”

However, Stockton didn’t blame Russell for the Jazz Finals losses.

“Bryon is a very playful guy and he said things all the time,” Stockton remembered. “I have no doubt Michael had a number of edges he could have shaped for whatever reason.”

 

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