In episode 3, the documentary series The Last Dance switches yet again in perspective.
The point of view switches from its protagonist, Michael Jordan, to future teammate and defensive rebounder Dennis Rodman. The episode describes his story. Rodman grew up in a very tough environment, as his mother kicked him out of their house early on, and he was basically on his own.
According to Rodman, in the midst of such a dark time, basketball became the light at the end of the tunnel when he was offered to play it with some local teams. Rodman later went on to play D1 (Division 1) basketball, and then moved up to the college level. Once all these stages were set and done, the NBA Draft was the next step. In the 1986 NBA Draft, Dennis Rodman was selected by the Detroit Pistons. We then are shown Rodman’s development on the court, and how important he became to the team. It also showcased how Rodman saw the then-head coach of Pistons, Chuck Daly, as a father figure.
In episode 4, the documentary returns to the perspective of Jordan and the Bulls during the 1988-89 and 1989-90 seasons whenthey faced the Detroit Pistons consecutively in the Eastern Conference Finals. During their first encounter, the Bulls seemed to have a slight edge against their opponents. However, the “bad boy Pistons” soon devised a plan called “The Jordan Rules,” which were designed to stop and overwork Jordan to the point that he could no longer push the Bulls over the line to victory.
As a result, all Piston players overnight became overly physical with Jordan, dropping him continuously to the floor in fouls which would add up to exhaust him. This, therefore, gave the Pistons an advantage over both encounters, leading to them beating the Bulls on both occasions and winning the NBA championship consecutively as well. This angered Jordan, who in the summer of 1990, along with his teammates, decided to have extensive gym sessions to build muscle in order to keep up with the physicality of the Pistons. This, added up with the fact that most Bulls players were reaching their physical prime, made for an even contest during the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals. The Bulls would turn out victorious in this series as the Pistons could no longer contain Jordan or be physically threatening to his teammates.
This led the “bad boy Pistons” of Isaiah Thomas to infamously walk off the court just before the game ended without giving any congratulations to any of the opponents. Thomas tried to justify such a decision by comparing it to when the Boston Celtics did the same thing against them when the Pistons won, but Jordan was having none of it, as he claimed that the Pistons lacked the sportsmanship the Bulls had shown in the previous two encounters they had lost.
The documentary then shows the final segment, which is the 1991 NBA finals between Jordan’s Chicago Bulls versus Magic Johnson’s Los Angeles Lakers. All five games are shown between the two rivals until the final seconds of Game 5, in which Michael Jordan wins his first NBA Championship.
After so much trial and error, Jordan was filled with emotion as he held the trophy alongside his father, a now iconic picture. Johnson described how happy he felt for Jordan. Later, when he went to the Bulls’ locker room, Jordan hugged Johnson and started crying on his shoulders. The series ends with acknowledgments of previous failures by the Bulls to win, and how much emotion had been built in Jordan after this moment happened.
Personally, I’m torn with episode 3 on whether or not I enjoyed it. This is because as intriguing as some of the details are about the other two members of the Big Three (Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman), my main focus while watching this series has always been on Jordan. As a result, when the series diverts and takes an entire episode to talk about the other members, I always have the constant feeling of wanting to go back to the main Jordan story.
That being said, objectively, it was a good episode and it doesn’t stand out as either one of the best or worst so far. The episode, in my opinion, is decent, but a quick summary would be enough to catch up with what is going on with Rodman.
I personally loved episode 4 fully, and it is one of my favorites. This is because many times when I’m watching Jordan versus LeBron debates, commentators like Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless always brought up the topic of Jordan vs the Pistons. They spoke about how their encounters demonstrated that Jordan had tougher competition, and how Jordan had greater determination.
Having seen the episode, I can arrive to the same conclusion as them. For example, in terms of physicality, the NBA did not have such harsh rules on fouls and contact back then as it does today. Another thing I found very interesting was when Jordan won his first championship. The moment is made sweeter because of the historical context within the NBA, which was the fact that many critics and media outlets labeled Jordan as someone who “could not lead a team to a championship.”
This infuriated and motivated Jordan, who thought it was ridiculous that he could not be held to the same standard as Larry Bird and Magic Johnson because he had not yet won a championship, even though he believed himself to be better than them both. This made me appreciate Jordan, how he dealt with massive amounts of pressure from both fans and the media, and how he worked to prove them wrong. With all that said, in terms of both episodes, I would personally recommend watching a quick replay or summary of episode 3, and watching episode 4 in its entirety.