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Spike Lee Explains Why He Basks in the Glory of Michael Jordan’s Obscenities

At the intersection of sports and cinema sits director Spike Lee; his role in shaping the history of both is singular. 

From directing legendary films such as Do the Right Thing and 25th Hour to famously jawing with Pacers guard Reggie Miller during the 1994 Eastern Conference finals, Lee has taken on larger-than-life stature in pop culture for decades. Admirably, he has never taken himself too seriously through thought-provoking projects and Knicks losses alike.

On Thursday afternoon’s episode of Variety‘s “Directors on Directors” series, Lee discussed his relationship with former Bulls and Wizards guard Michael Jordan with another sports fan/auteur: actor/director Bradley Cooper.

As Lee told Cooper, Jordan’s Nike contract gave him control over the company’s advertisements of his products. Nike turned to Lee, fresh off the success of his 1986 debut She's Gotta Have It, to direct and act in their commercials.

“A couple years ago, the All-Star Game was in Toronto,” Lee said. “I finally got enough courage to say, ‘Mike, why did you choose me?’… He said, ‘Motherf—er, you wear my shoes.’”

Cooper and Lee both burst out laughing, with Lee noting he viewed the obscenity as a term of endearment.

“I’d like to say: I’ve had the honor being called a motherf—er by Michael Jordan many times,” Lee said. “Especially courtside at Madison Square Garden, the world’s most famous arena.”