The first two episodes of “The Last Dance” were entertaining, but parts three and four undoubtedly upped the ante.
This makes sense given one of the focal points of the latest episodes, Dennis Rodman. “The Worm” truly is unlike any character the NBA ever has seen, and the enigma that is Rodman was well-encapsulated over the two hours.
Rodman was only a fraction of the entertainment, though, as it truly was an action-packed night.
Here are the five biggest takeaways from episodes three and four of “The Last Dance”:
No Love Lost
Michael Jordan and the Bulls were no fans of the “Bad Boy” Pistons as the two teams battled for Eastern Conference supremacy in the late 1980s.
In fact, it appears the animosity is still alive and well.
Isiah Thomas and Co. ended the Bulls’ season in three consecutive years dating from 1988 to 1990. When asked about Chicago’s rivalry with Detroit, Jordan didn’t mince words.
“Hated them,” Jordan said. “And the hate still carries even to this day. They made it personal. They physically beat the (expletive) out of us.”
The Bulls finally got over the hump in the 1990-91 season, sweeping the Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals en route to the franchise’s first NBA title. The series ended with some controversy, though, as the Pistons stormed off the court as Game 4 wound down and blatantly dodged shaking hands with the Bulls.
Thomas seemed to chalk the lack of handshakes up as a product of the times. But before “The Last Dance” producers could even show Jordan what Zeke had to say about the situation, MJ sounded off.
“I know it’s all (expletive),” Jordan said. “Whatever he says now, you know it wasn’t his true actions then. He’s had time to think about it, or the reaction of the public has changed his perspective. You can show me anything you want. There’s no way you can convince me he wasn’t an (expletive).”
Rodman rose to the occasion and helped Jordan carry the load while Scottie Pippen was absent to start to the 1997-98 season. But when Pippen finally returned, Rodman felt he needed a break.
We’re not talking about a single night off, however. Rodman requested a vacation, which the Bulls somewhat agreed to, granting the big man 48 hours away from the team.
But as Jordan predicted, Rodman didn’t exactly follow the agreed-upon timeline. As such, the Bulls were forced to go seek him out. One of Rodman’s guests on the trip, model and actress Carmen Electra, recalled Jordan and Co. arriving at Rodman’s hotel room to retrieve their teammate.
“There’s a knock on the door, it’s Michael Jordan,” Electra said. “I hid. I didn’t want him to see me like that, so I’m just like hiding behind the couch with covers over me.”
“C’mon, we gotta get to practice,” Electra remembered Jordan saying.
The transition back to the court was seamless, as it was business as usual upon Rodman arriving back to Chicago.
With 11 championships as a head coach under his belt, it’s easy to forget Jackson’s interesting path to becoming one of the best to ever do it.
Jackson, a second-round pick by the Knicks in 1967, helped New York win the franchise’s only two titles in the early 1970s. After wrapping up his playing career with the New Jersey Nets later in the decade, Jackson headed to Puerto Rico to begin his coaching career.
This Puerto Rican league wasn’t your typical one, however. A co-author of one of Jackson’s books, Charles Rosen, explained a team as an intimidation tactic once killed a chicken and poured the blood on the opposition’s bench. Jackson also recalled the mayor of the town he coached in once shooting a referee in the foot.
The Bulls first expressed interest in Jackson in 1985, but then-head coach Stan Albeck didn’t take very kindly to how the laid-back Jackson was dressed and effectively ended the interview before it started. Chicago ultimately hired Jackson as an assistant in 1987 before he took over as head coach two years later.
To say the Pistons had a plan to slow down Jordan would be an understatement.
Detroit had an actual list of tactics laid out in hopes of subduing MJ. The strategy, labeled “The Jordan Rules,” was explained by former Pistons assistant coach Brendan Malone:
1. “On the wings, we’re going to push him to the elbow and we’re not going to let him drive to the baseline.”
2. “When he’s on top, we’re going to influence him to his left.”
3. “When he got the ball in the low post, we’re going to trap him from the top.”
So, what was Detroit’s plan if Jordan somehow made it to the baseline?
“That’s when (Bill) Laimbeer and (Rick) Mahorn would go up and knock him down to the ground,” Malone said.
Cavs Choose Wrong Guy
As all basketball fans know, one of Jordan’s most memorable buckets came at the expense of Craig Ehlo.
But as Jordan explained in episode three, the task never should have been presented to Ehlo in the first place.
Ehlo’s Cleveland Cavaliers held a one-point lead over Jordan’s Bulls in Game 5 of the teams’ 1989 first-round series. You know what happens next: Jordan receives the in-bound pass, pulls up from just beyond the free-throw line, hesitates in the air and drains the series-winning shot at the buzzer.
One has to imagine Jordan could have gotten up a shot regardless of who the Cavs put on him, but he seems to believe Ron Harper would have given Cleveland a better chance.
“You know, they had Craig Ehlo on me at the time which, in all honesty, was a mistake because the guy who played me better was Ron Harper,” Jordan said.
It’s safe to say Harper agrees.
“We up by one. I said, ‘Coach, I got MJ. I got MJ,'” Harper said. “So the coach tells me, ‘I’m gonna put Ehlo on MJ’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah, OK. Whatever. (Expletive) this (expletive).'”
As fate would have it, Harper joined the Bulls in 1994 and was a part of three championship-winning teams in Chicago.
“The Last Dance” returns this Sunday, May 3, with episodes five and six.