Ahmad Rashad was a near ubiquitous presence in The Last Dance, as he popped up in Michael Jordan’s car driving to playoff games, in the back of the locker room chopping it up with Jordan, and, of course, hosting the infamous sunglasses interview in 1993 when Jordan addressed his gambling.
The former NFL Pro Bowler turned host and reporter for NBC had a close friendship with Jordan that began in the early 90s, and his proximity to Jordan — which continues to this day — often led to jealousy from his peers in the media. Rashad recalled getting torched in columns after the 93 interview, as other members of the media felt he was too soft on Jordan or wasn’t the right person to handle that interview after weeks of silence from Jordan — even though Rashad had NBC Sports chief Dick Ebersol write the questions for him to avoid exactly that issue.
Rashad recently spoke with The Undefeated’s Marc Spears about The Last Dance, as well as his path from the NFL to NBC, and in it he relayed another story about how his close relationship with Jordan and the Bulls led to a frustrated Jim Gray calling David Stern to complain.
One time they were playing in Utah, and [journalist] Jim Gray came in the training room. And [Bulls head coach] Phil Jackson walked in and kicked him out. [Jackson] said, ‘Hey, hey, hey, hey, no meeting in here, you’ve got to get out of here.’ And Jim Gray looked over at me and said, ‘What about Ahmad?’ And Phil Jackson, without missing a beat, said, ‘Ahmad’s family, you’re media, get the f— out,’ in front of the whole team.
Jim Gray went back and told David Stern, and David called me. He goes, ‘Oh, God. He complained, he complained. Maybe if you go in there again, sneak in another door. … I don’t want to tell you that you’re not supposed to be in there.’ But it had been like five years, I’ve been going wherever I want to go in there.
While he had carte blanche to roam the Bulls locker room, Rashad’s relationship with Jordan sometimes played to the detriment of his ability to do his job.
One of the funny things we laugh at to this day is Pat Riley [when he was with the Miami Heat] wouldn’t let me come in his locker room because of my relationship with Michael. And then when Michael retired, I remember he goes, ‘Hey, Ahmad, you can come in now.’
It’s a pretty funny story, particularly David Stern saying he might should sneak into the back of the locker room next time. It also is further evidence of how Rashad was not exactly a favorite of the rest of the media who all were chasing Jordan stories at the time but could never get anywhere close to the access Rashad did. That reputation still irks Rashad, who detailed to Spears his journey from radio to local TV to national TV and how hard he worked to get in that position and simply became friends with Jordan after a Magic Johnson charity game in 1990.