“The Last Dance” celebrates Michael Jordan’s iconic legacy, and revolves around Jordan’s last season with the Bulls in 1998. The 10-part documentary is getting rave reviews and breaking all kinds of ESPN viewership records.
Jordan’s “Last Dance” … “Last Meal” ... et al, almost occurred in 1988 during an uncomfortable dinner in Chicago when Jordan and Mike Tyson were among the select few celebrating Hall of Fame Bears defensive end Richard Dent’s 28th birthday in Chicago.
Bears coach Mike Ditka, promoter Don King and Tyson co-manager Rory Holloway were among the distinguished guests who attended the party, which took place shortly after the Bulls played the Atlanta Hawks on Dec. 13, 1988.
The heavyweight champion Tyson, then undefeated and at the peak of his powers as the Baddest Man On The Planet, was in the midst of a bitter breakup with ex-wife Robin Givens.
Jordan, who is 3 1/2 years older than Tyson, had previously dated Givens during his developmental days leading the Bulls’ “traveling cocaine circus.”
Good times were being had at Dent’s dinner, only until Tyson downed a few too many cocktails and became livid and lashed out at Jordan for his previous relations with Givens, according to Holloway, who detailed the meeting between the Mikes in the book "Taming the Beast: The Untold Story of Team Tyson.”
Holloway, who was Tyson’s manager until 1998, wrote the following passage in his memoir:
“Mike Tyson’s sitting there with his drink of choice, a Long Island Tea, and when he drinks his real feelings come out.
“I’m telling the server to water his drinks down ‘cause I see where this is going. Mike stares across the table at Michael Jordan. He says, ‘Hey man, you think I’m stupid? I know you f----d with my b---h.’
“Jordan looks like he just seen a ghost. ‘I know you messed with her,’ Mike says. ‘You can tell me.’
“Jordan, it’s obvious he just wants to get up and run. He wants no part of this. Mike turns to Ditka. ‘Man, you think somebody scared of you, all that racist s--t you been talking?’ He says to Dent, ‘Y’all scared of this damn white man, Richard? He ain’t nobody. You gonna let him talk that way?’
“It was a circus, for real, that night. Don King trying to change the subject. Me and John trying to hold Mike down. Mike telling everyone he’s going to bust Jordan’s ass. Jordan’s dressed sharp as always and he can’t get out of there fast enough.”
Ditka later recounted his version of that evening to the Chicago Sun-Times.
"I think it was in my restaurant, but I'm not positive. It's silly,” said Ditka. “Michael Jordan is not going to get into an altercation with anyone. He's a class guy. First of all, the stupidest thing in the world is alcohol. When you drink, you get that mouth running sometimes. That's probably what happened."
Dent recalled an entirely different version of the night in an interview with the Chicago Tribune in 2015, saying that Ditka did not even attend dinner. However, Dent acknowledged that Tyson brought up Givens in a conversation, but declined to comment further.
"It was a little get-together after Michael Jordan's game. After the game, we had a little get-together at a restaurant. That was about it," Dent said. [Tyson] said some things to Mike. I don't recall anything of that nature. I never saw [Jordan] look scared."
Jordan declined to comment on the encounter with Tyson through a representative for the 2015 Chicago Tribune story.
"I know I'm not crazy, you don't forget stuff like that," Holloway said. "I had a lot of funny moments with Mike Tyson … and this was one of them. Michael Jordan was my hero and I'm a big football fan, so I don't forget something like that."
Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist and member of the Boxing Writers Assn. of America since 2011. He has written for the likes of the LA Times, Guardian, USA Today, Philadelphia Inquirer, Men’s Health and NFL.com and currently does TV commentary for combat sports programming that airs on Fox Sports and hosts his own radio show in Los Angeles. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan or via email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at]gmail.com.