Barack Obama was both a former Illinois senator and the 44th president of the United States. But during the premiere episode of ESPN’s “The Last Dance,” he was given a much less flattering title: “Former Chicago Resident.”
The hilariously downgraded descriptor for Obama was light-heartedly mocked on social media, but director Jason Hehir told TheWrap he had a specific reason for identifying Obama that way in the 10-part docuseries about Chicago Bulls great Michael Jordan. “At that point in the story that we’re telling, he was a broke Chicago resident who couldn’t afford a nosebleed seat to a Bulls game.”
Jordan’s debut for the Bulls in 1984-85 brought a level of excitement to the city’s NBA franchise that it hadn’t seen before. Obama shared his own story about not being able to buy tickets to see Jordan play that season because of the increased demand. “That certainly wasn’t meant to be disrespectful,” Hehir says. “I feel pretty adamantly about not including celebrities in a documentary just to offer platitudes, or say things that the general public would also say. But if they have a specific story or an anecdote, or they can voice something that is specific to them and it organically fits into the story.”
After all, Obama is not the only one who gets ID’d with a title that doesn’t align with his true accomplishments. Obama isn’t even the only president who gets a lesser title. In the second episode, Bill Clinton is identified as “Former Governor of Arkansas.”
Sporstcasting legend Bob Costas is also described as the Bulls’ former play-by-play announcer for WGN (he called Bulls games for one season in 1979-80).
“That’s why we said that Bill Clinton was the former governor of Arkansas, because he went to see Scottie (Pippen) play” in the 1980s, Hehir adds. “That, to me, is way more powerful than Bill Clinton saying, ‘I was president during the 1990s when the Bulls were great.’ Bill Clinton driving through rural Arkansas to go see this kid play? That’s interesting.”