Michael Jordan had total control of the footage filmed during his final season with the Chicago Bulls, but the videos sat in Seacaucus, N.J., for nearly 20 years untouched.
According to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne, Jordan agreed for the footage to be released on the day of the Cavaliers' championship parade in 2016. The never-before-seen clips are being used in ESPN's 10-episode "The Last Dance" documentary.
Jordan's decision reportedly came at a scheduled meeting in Charlotte, N.C., where he listened to a pitch from producer Mike Tollin. An eight-episode documentary was originally laid out, along with pages of pictures and quotes. After he read "every page," and acknowledged how he enjoyed Tollin's documentary on Allen Iverson, Jordan finally agreed it was time.
"Let's do it," Jordan said.
The decision came after many directors, including Frank Marshall, Spike Lee and Danny DeVito, pitched to make the documentary but never made it to a face-to-face meeting with Jordan, per Shelburne. Tollin was able to get time with Jordan after he met with Curtis Polk and Estee Portnoy, two of Jordan's business associates, first.
During the 1997-98 season, NBA Entertainment producer Andy Thompson reportedly pitched the idea of filming what would likely be the last season of "potentially the greatest athlete in the history of the sport." He wanted to fully document Jordan's year, from huddles to training rooms.
Jordan agreed to it at the time because he was told he would have total control of what was done with the footage, per Shelburne. NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who was the head of NBA Entertainment at the time, first went to Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf and coach Phil Jackson, then finally Jordan.
"Worst-case scenario, you'll have the greatest set of home movies for your kids ever created," Silver told Jordan, according to Shelburne.
When Jordan agreed for the footage to be used, LeBron James and the Cavaliers had just come back from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals against the 73-win Warriors and won the franchise's first championship.
"The universe has such a funny sense of humor. Because when I woke up, I put on ESPN while I'm getting dressed, and there's LeBron [James] and the Cavaliers parading through the streets of Cleveland with the trophy that they'd just won," Tollin said.
The first two episodes of ESPN's "The Last Dance" will premiere on Sunday, April 19 at 9 p.m. EST.