Sunday night from 9-11pm has quickly turned into my favorite two hours of the entire week. Last night, ESPN aired episodes three and four of the The Last Dance, after episodes one and two successfully brought in an average 6.1 million viewers in the U.S. alone.
In part II, “The Last Dance” season of the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls continued to progress, but episodes three and four also jumped backward in time to offer insight into the lives of Dennis Rodman and Phil Jackson, while also reflecting on Michael Jordan’s —and Chicago’s—first championship title in 1991.
“Bad Boy” Basketball: The NBA in the ’80s
You here it all the time. The NBA has become “soft”. LeBron James, James Harden, Marcus Smart—they wouldn’t last a single game in the 1980s. They flop and complain too much. Part II of the The Last Dance gave genuine insight to this idea. The infamous “Jordan Rules” was a defensive strategy employed by the Detroit Pistons to clobber MJ anytime he left the ground.
The refs would call fouls, but the aggressively violent defense discouraged MJ and the Bulls to drive to the hoop. They knew if they left the ground to try and finish a layup, they were going to be hit—hard. In today’s NBA, half of the “Bad Boys” would probably pick up flagrant fouls and eventually be ejected from the game. The physical toll of playing the Detroit Pistons fueled the Eastern Conference rivalry for several years.
Detroit eliminated Chicago in the playoffs for three seasons in a row (1988-1990), before the Bulls swept them in 1991. After being swept at The Palace, the Pistons exited the court with 7.9 seconds remaining, refusing to shake the hands of eventual-NBA-champions Jordan, Pippen, and Jackson.
Some would call this a lack of sportsmanship or maturity, but Horace Grant elegantly described the 1991 Pistons as:
Iconic Jordan Moments
Part II also presented moments that contribute to Michael Jordan’s legacy as a basketball icon. Three different moments from part two of The Last Dance emerge as particularly historical. Keep in mind, the docuseries flashes back to 1991; Jordan hadn’t won a ring yet, and his reputation was the MVP, ROY and scoring leader who could not win the most important award—an NBA championship.
Clutch shots and spectacular plays might not have seemed legendary in the moment, but looking back, define MJ as the heroic figure he is today.
- “The Shot”
Down by 1 to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Jordan received the inbound with 3 seconds left, hung in the air for several seconds and buried the game-winning jumper as time expired.
2. Jordan’s Mid-Air, Switch-Handed Layup
In game 2 of the 1991 NBA Finals, Jordan drove to the hoop against Magic Johnson’s Los Angeles Lakers. Instead of throwing it down with his right hand, Jordan decides to switch hands and lay the ball in left handed as he falls down. The basket was part of 13 consecutive field goals made by Jordan; a playoff and Finals record that stands today. Marv Albert with the call:
3. Jordan’s 1st Title
Pure emotion. Jordan’s first ring. Although more trophies would come, it seemed as if everything in Jordan’s life led up to this moment. Jordan earned his first national title at the Superdome during his time at UNC. After acheiving the ultimate collegiate accomplishment, Jordan had now brought a ring to the Bulls, the team that drafted him with the third overall pick in 1984. Having his father right next to him made the celebration significantly more special.
Dennis “The Worm” Rodman
Perhaps the central figure of part two, Dennis Rodman becomes the focal point of episodes three and four of The Last Dance. The viewer gets glimpses of Rodman on the Pistons—before the dyed hair and piercings—as well as his early life, before his eventual debut with Chicago.
Growing up to in a poor Dallas neighborhood, Rodman was raised by his single mom after his father left at an early age. Rodman did not excel in high school sports, and later worked as an overnight janitor at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport before experiencing a growth spurt that landed him at Cooke County College, where he averaged 17 points and 13 rebounds. After failing academically, Rodman transferred to Southern Oklahoma State University where he was a three time NAIA All-American. Rodman went on to be the third pick in the second round of the 1986 Draft (27th overall).
Perhaps the most entertaining segment of the entire docuseries thus far, Dennis Rodman’s 48-hour vacation to Las Vegas had viewers yearning for more information about the trip. Other audience members theorized what it would be like for Rodman to play in today’s social-media-driven NBA atmosphere.
Aside from all the hypotheticals, there are some attributes that can be described to both Rodman and Vegas; enigmatic, unpredictable, and unequivocally entertaining. One can only hope ESPN decides to create a sequel to The Last Dance; a new docuseries titled 48 Hours in Vegas: Featuring Dennis Rodman. Let’s make it a reality.