Luc Longley’s silence has been deafening. He was the first Australian to play in the NBA, the first to win a title and the only one to have won three.
The former Bulls center started his journey in Perth and ended up forging the path for future Australian basketball hopefuls. His ended playing with the greatest of all time.
But he does not appear in any interviews in The Last Dance. He doesn’t even rate a mention until halfway through the eighth episode.
Director Jason Hehir said “geography and budget” meant Longley couldn’t be involved.
Longley won’t even comment on the documentary itself, having changed his mobile phone number after receiving so many text messages requesting interviews.
The former Bulls big man did not grow up dreaming of an NBA career but he was good enough to make it.
Now, fellow Australian Chris Anstey has now lifted the lid in a Facebook post on how Longley transformed his career when he first arrived in America after being drafted into the NBA.
“Before I was drafted to the NBA, I had never met Luc Longley,” he wrote.
“A few weeks after I had moved into my Dallas apartment, my phone rang.
“I was surprised to hear an Australian accent. “G’day Chris, it’s Luc Longley. How’s it going?” During the call, Luc offered me advice for navigating the NBA and what to look out for, from travel, to clubs and teammates.
“I hung up the phone with a greater sense of clarity about how to better tackle my rookie season in the NBA.”
As Anstey writes, Longley was playing for the team that “the sporting world was in a frenzy about” – and the fire is still burning strong.
Michael Jordan’s competitive drive made him the greatest basketball player of all time but it also came at a cost.
Longley, on the other hand, saw the NBA through a different lens according to Longley.
He hadn’t had the same life-long dream of making it, he wasn’t one of those “who battled their entire lives for the shot.”
“I gleaned a little about his perspective on fame not being real, his battles in Minnesota and most importantly, his life away from the cameras being more important than his life in front of them,” Anstey wrote.
“As is the nature of the NBA, I did not see Luc again until March when his Chicago Bulls travelled to Dallas.
“The Bulls schedule had them departing the day after our game, so Luc and I organised to catch up at a bar after the game.
“The night was great. We were given a private room attached to a cigar humidor. Luc bought along Steve Kerr, Toni Kukoc, Dickey Simpkins and Jud Buechler.
“What the group did not see just before we left was Luc putting his arm around the owner to thank him for a great night. They certainly did not see Luc hand him a wad of cash to cover the entire bill and a generous tip.”
Anstey went further to recall the criticism levelled at himself and Longley for taking $330 payments a day to prepare for the Olympics while also being paid handsomely in the NBA.
He says that what everyone didn’t know was the financial sacrifice Longley was making behind the scenes.
“What very few knew was that because only NBL contracts were covered by Basketball Australia’s insurance in the event of an injury, Luc had been required to take out his own contract insurance for his US$6 million a year contract,” he wrote.
“Luc was out of pocket over $20,000 to represent Australia at the Sydney Olympics. He never asked for a cent and never bought it up amongst the criticism levelled at him.”
Longley may be silent on the spectacle that was his time at the Bulls but for Anstey, it speaks to the making of the man – he wouldn’t be consumed by the flashing lights.
“My bet is that Luc is not silent to those around him,” he wrote.
“He is likely sharing a much broader perspective on the phenomenon that he was a part of.
“He is unlikely silent to those who are interested in more than the 3 and a bit seasons he lived in the centre of the sporting world.
“Luc’s generosity with his time and advice normalised the NBA for me. He made it ok to not be fully absorbed in my “basketball persona” and to keep a broader perspective on life.
“I hope to have another beer with Luc Longley one day. I promise not to ask him about Michael Jordan.”