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Bill Murray reflects on ‘The Last Dance’ and making ‘Space Jam’ with Michael Jordan

By Phil Rosenthal
Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO — Like virtually everyone else who spent time around Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls during their glory years, actor Bill Murray is watching ESPN’s “The Last Dance” closely.

“It’s fun,” Murray said Wednesday on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” “I’ve actually seen myself in the background (and shouted): ‘There! I’m in the background! Right there! … Stop, play that back!’ ”

Speaking from his South Carolina home while enjoying a bubble bath and wearing a knit that resembled the Chicago flag, Murray talked about playing golf with Jordan and co-starring in “Space Jam,” the 1996 film in which Bugs Bunny enlists MJ to help a Looney Tunes hoops team defeat space aliens.

Bill Murray cheers for the Chicago Bulls as they play against the Indiana Pacers on May 31, 1998, at the United Center in Chicago, Ill.

“People forget I got the assist on the game-winning basket,” Murray said. “It’s so easily forgotten. … I stole the ball. I made the pass. Nothing. I don’t even get interviewed after.”

Murray said during breaks in filming Jordan and fellow basketball great Larry Bird would pass the time by leaving the Warner Bros. lot to slip in a few holes of golf.

“That was a lot of fun,” Murray told Kimmel.

Murray also recalled playing in a celebrity pro-am tournament with Chicago sports stars such as Walter Payton, Mike Ditka and Ernie Banks, presumably ahead of the 1988 Western Open at Butler National.

Pro Peter Jacobsen and Murray defeated Jordan and D.A. Weibring at that five-hole event, all but assuring themselves of victory when Murray’s 30-foot chip shot wound up within four feet of the final hole.

But Murray glossed over those details on Wednesday and seemed more pleased he got Jordan to pose afterward for a picture with his mother, which he shared with viewers.

“There is the most hilarious photograph of my mother, Lucille Collins Murray, one of the paler beauties ever put on the planet, standing next to this giant man,” Murray said. “She was only 5-1 1/2 or 5-2, and the smiles on both their faces because they knew how ridiculous the photograph looked.”

That episode, not surprisingly, was not included in “The Last Dance,” which concludes its 10-part, five-week run Sunday on ESPN and ESPN2.

“That was an exciting time to be Chicago Bulls fan, to be Chicagoan,” Murray said of the 1984-to-1998 era of Bulls basketball covered by the series. “It’s a great thing and it’s very fascinating to watch, but it’s too much for some people. They can’t take both (weekly episodes) back to back. It sort of knocks them out. Some, they become exhausted — but it takes … a lot out of people who watch it.”

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