ESPN’s The Last Dance made its way through the third and fourth episodes on Sunday night.
These episodes chronicled Dennis Rodman and Phil Jackson, two of the lesser recognized members of the Bulls dynasty. Rodman, with his colorful hair, aggressive playstyle, and natural freeness, seemed like the total opposite to Phil Jackson. But it revealed that Jackson was a bit of an outsider and outcast himself coming up. While Jackson wasn’t dying his hair different colors of the rainbow, it was revealed that Jackson was into acid and was basically a hippie in the ’60s and ’70s.
It’s likely Phil Jackson’s background that laid the work for being able to handle a personality as dynamic and free as Dennis Rodman.
Rodman sported various body piercings, he was confrontational and one of the driving factors of hate with the same Bulls teams he would eventually team up with. He once was dating superstar singers and actresses, the whole nine. But the Bulls also appreciated Rodman for his ability to recognize when it was time to be serious and handle business. Because of this and him living directly in his truth, along with his phenomenal rebounding and loyalty, the Bulls offered Rodman freedom and accountability.
That freedom and accountability led to what is likely the highlight of these two episodes. In the middle of the season, Phil Jackson and Michael Jordan agreed to let Dennis Rodman take a 48-hour sabbatical to Las Vegas. This vacation was strictly to party and release all of the tension he had built up picking up the slack for Scottie Pippen, who missed the first 35 games of the season dealing with injuries and contract issues. And of course, that 48 hours turned into some extra days to the point Michael Jordan had to go to Vegas to force him back while Rodman’s than girlfriend Carmen Electra hid in the room. Once Rodman returned, it was like he didn’t miss a beat.
Jordan told a story about how they were doing conditioning drills to get Rodman back into shape quickly. One of the drills they were doing were Indian runs, where the person in the back of the line must run to the front of the line, and you do it until everyone has run to the front of the line. Well, when it was Dennis Rodman’s turn to go to the front, he was running so fast that it took the Bulls three entire laps around the court to catch him. Jordan and company were as impressed as ever that he could come back from partying that hard and assimilate back to basketball and conditioning that quickly. Rodman is what made that team special, Jackson’s ability to handle him made it all work.
This episode also touched on how the Bulls initially struggled to get past the bad boy Pistons, which featured Rodman as a member of the team. It was revealed that he absolutely could not stand the Pistons then, and he still can’t stand them now.
And one could argue it was for good reason, the Pistons had a popular set of rules called the “Jordan Rules.” They were as follows:
- Push him to his left and toward help in the middle.
- Double him in the post.
- And, above all else, beat the living hell out of him.
It’s rule number three that likely derives all the hate of the Pistons for Jordan. He believes the Piston made it personal. But something else that played into that hate was when the Pistons stormed off the court after they were swept by the Chicago Bulls in the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals. Before the game could end, Detroit walked off the court. No shaking hands. No congratulations. They just rolled right past the Chicago bench and into the locker room, and Jordan has never forgotten it.
Isiah Thomas was asked about the incident in the documentary.
“That was the only time that I think I’d ever been swept in a series. I was normally the one doing the sweeping,” Thomas said. “Their time had arrived, and ours was over. As we’re coming out of the game, Laimbeer said: ‘we’re not shaking their hands.’ … Knowing what we do now, in the aftermath of what took place, I think all of us would’ve stopped and said congratulations like they do now. But in that period of time, that’s just not how it was passed. When you lost you left the floor. That was it.”
Jordan was showed the clip of Thomas saying that’s how it was back then and Jordan was absolutely not having it, he reluctantly took the iPad to hear what Thomas had to say and the reaction? Well, it resulted in yet another Jordan meme…