Why Isn't Michael Jordan's Then-Wife In ESPN's 'The Last Dance'?

Michael Jordan's ESPN docuseries is missing a critical voice: Juanita Vanoy, Jordan's wife at the time. Director Jason Hehir says it was a deliberate decision.

The Last Dance, the ten-part ESPN docuseries that focuses on Michael Jordan's last year with the Chicago Bulls, has drawn rave reviews from fans and critics alike. But one omission keeps coming up: That Jordan's wife at the time, Juanita Vanoy, is missing from the series (which dropped on Netflix July 19). Director Jason Hehir has made it clear why this is the case, noting that the series deliberately doesn't cover Jordan's personal life, but instead dives into the Bulls' historic 1997-8 season just before it lost its coach and several basketball stars. (The series includes new information about the events and tons of never-before-seen footage.) But the lack of Vanoy has left viewers scratching their heads, since many other friends and fans did contribute with interviews to the series, including family members and former partners.

Director Jason Hehir has explained his reasoning.

"I wasn't interested in the opinion of any wife or kids in this," Hehir told The Athletic's Richard Deitsch. "We had the storytellers we wanted, and I felt like we had the story covered from every angle."

Jordan has since divorced Vanoy and married Yvette Prieto, and the couple have two daughters together; Jordan and Vanoy also have three children together. While it makes sense for the kids to not be included in the docuseries—they may have been too young to remember the details—it's likely that Vanoy would have had insight on that time in Jordan's life. Furthermore, Jordan's mom makes an appearance, so it's not like there are no family members in the documentary.

Vanoy and Jordan's divorce wasn't finalized until 2007.

Technically Vanoy filed in 2002, citing irreconcilable differences, but then withdrew it. Then, in December 2006, it became official. "Michael and Juanita Jordan mutually and amicably decided to end their 17-year marriage," according to the couple's lawyers. "A judgment for dissolution of their marriage was entered today. There will be no further statements." So the end of their marriage occurred later than the events depicted in the docuseries—but at the same time, she was an important part of his life until then.

Vanoy explained in 2013 that they still have an amicable relationship. "Mostly our conversations are about the children. I don't remember him saying, 'By the way, I'm getting married,' " she laughed. "Divorce was certainly new to me. I had to learn that you have to communicate. That it's not about you or your ex-partner. It's about making sure the children are all right."

But people are super confused about the omission.

I mean, I get it!

Vanoy was a huge part of Jordan's life for a long time. But it's anyone's guess what their divorce agreement entails—Vanoy has given interviews in the past, but doesn't speak about the relationship often—since it was one of the biggest divorce settlements at the time. (Vanoy received $168 million). Vanoy hasn't weighed in since ESPN aired the documentary in the spring, either.


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Katherine J. Igoe
Contributing Editor

Katherine’s a contributing syndications editor at Marie Claire who covers fashion, culture, and lifestyle. In her role, she writes stories that are syndicated by MSN and other outlets. She’s been a full-time freelancer for over a decade and has had roles with Cosmopolitan (where she covered lifestyle, culture, and fashion SEO content) and Bustle (where she was their movies and culture writer). She has bylines in New York TimesParentsInStyle, Refinery29, and elsewhere. Her work has also been syndicated by ELLEHarper’s BazaarSeventeenGood Housekeeping, and Women’s Health, among others. In addition to her stories reaching millions of readers, content she's written and edited has qualified for a Bell Ringer Award and received a Communicator Award. 

Katherine has a BA in English and art history from the University of Notre Dame and an MA in art business from the Sotheby's Institute of Art (with a focus on marketing/communications). She covers a wide breadth of topics: she's written about how to find the very best petite jeanshow sustainable travel has found its footing on Instagram, and what it's like to be a professional advice-giver in the modern world. Her personal essays have run the gamut from learning to dress as a queer woman to navigating food allergies as a mom. She also has deep knowledge of SEO/EATT, affiliate revenue, commerce, and social media; she regularly edits the work of other writers. She speaks at writing-related events and podcasts about freelancing and journalism, mentors students and other new writers, and consults on coursework. Currently, Katherine lives in Boston with her husband and two kids, and you can follow her on Instagram. If you're wondering about her last name, it’s “I go to dinner,” not “Her huge ego,” but she responds to both.