The Last Dance episodes three and four mantain the standard set by the first two, introducing more key figures behind the team drama and more revelations about the ’98 Chicago Bulls. Episode three continues right where the previous two left the story of ’98 Bulls, with Scottie Pippen still out of commission and the Bulls struggling without him. Pippen’s absence left room for another player to step up. The man happened to be one the most eccentric characters in professional sport, Dennis Rodman.
The Rodman story
Originally drafted by the Detroit Pistons in 1986, Rodman was a tenacious defense player, whose goal was to disrupt the opposing play at every opportunity. He brought this to several playoff games against the Bulls before joining them in 1995.
Off the court, Rodman was a unique individual, prone to antics that drew a lot of attention. He had crazy hairstyles, piercings, a hard-partying lifestyle and he dated Madonna. But he earned the respect of his teammates through his competitive spirit and hard work. When the time came to play, he was always on point. The docu-series shows that in spite of his circus-like personal life, Rodman became a key player in the Bulls’ defense strategy.
The story is told using archival footage and present-day interviews with key figures. For the Jordan portion of the story, the series goes back to late 1980s. The Bulls were struggling to take the next step under coach Doug Collins, whose plays mainly consisted of having the rest of the players give the ball to Jordan and supporting him while he scored the points. Since this style of playing was focused on one player, they hit a wall with physically imposing defensive teams like the Pistons. The way that the Bulls rose to this challenge made them the champions that they became.
No ‘I’ in team
The Last Dance episode covers the changes made to the Bulls’ strategy under coach Phil Jackson. Jackson is shown to be somewhat unconventional himself. He had a fondness Native American culture and wove its philosophies into his coaching. It seems that this is the reason he found a kindred spirit in Rodman, who also had an unconventional outlook.
One of the first moves Jackson made was to alter the way the team played. Jordan was no longer the focal point. Instead he favoured a triangle system that would get the best from the whole team, allowing each to play to his strengths. Jordan, while resistant to this change at first, came around as he realised this strategy would win championships.
Unsatisfied with simply licking their wounds after successive defeats to rivals Detroit, The Bulls went back to rigorous training in the off-season instead of taking a break. Jordan started weight training to become more physically imposing to opponents. It’s in this portion of the story that viewers can understand how Jordan became the legend he is. Instead of adopting a defeatist attitude in the face of loss, he rose to the challenge, displaying tremendous work ethic and inspired his teammates to do the same.
Jackson’s changes and the team’s efforts proved to be a success. However, as the Bulls beat their long time rivals Detroit in the Eastern Conference Championship and went on to defeat the L.A. Lakers, winning their first NBA Championship.
Director: Jason Hehir
Streaming on: Netflix
Episodes: 3 and 4