What time is it?! Time for another entry in The Last Dance documentary. This time around the film focused on Dennis Rodman, Phil Jackson, and the Bulls dethroning the Detroit Pistons in 1991. There was surprisingly little focus on Dennis Rodman. I am glad the film minimized his story since it has already been chronicled in a 30 for 30 and in an episode of Beyond the Glory.
The Vegas Story
The filmmakers could not leave out at least one Rodman drinking binge story. Jordan shares the story of Rodman pleading with Phil Jackson. He wanted to go on vacation in the middle of the season. Scottie Pippen’s absence in 1998 had taken a toll on Rodman. Phil gave Rodman 48 hours to let loose. Rodman left straight to the airport, beers in hand, off to Las Vegas on his motorcycle.
Rodman was nowhere to be found after 48 hours. As Jordan predicted, he would have to find Rodman and bring him back himself. In typical fashion, Rodman was not phased by partying when he returned to practice. He needed the time away to be the best version of himself. Rodman luckily was kindred spirits with Jackson. Who knows where Rodman would have ended up without him.
The Bulls win! They win it! The famous highlight I have seen hundreds of times as a Bulls fan. Unfortunately, there is not enough time to dive deep into the 1989 playoff series against Cleveland. There were two moments that stood out to me. Before the start of game 5, Jordan called out all the beat writers that did not pick the Bulls to win.
Finally, Ron Harper gets his turn to talk. Boy, it was worth the wait. Harper played for Cleveland during this series. Jordan praised Harper as the best defender on the team. During a time out before “the shot,” coach Lenny Wilkens had Craig Ehlo guard Jordan instead of Harper. Harper’s response,
Yea ok, whatever, fuck this bullshit.
The rest is history.
How Phil Jackson became the Coach
The best part of the documentary is the plethora of archival footage. For Phil Jackson, he started his coaching career in Puerto Rico. The players and towns were described as ferocious. Jackson described the local animosity between rival towns,
There were fires out of town, they would throw rocks at your car. The mayor (of Quebradillas) he actually shot an official with a gun and hit him in the lower leg.
After an interesting run in Puerto Rico, Jackson coached in the CBA before he landed an assistant coaching job with the Bulls. Jerry Krause also brought in Tex Winter who would be the architect of the triangle offense. Coach Doug Collins and Jordan did not take to this new philosophy. Collins wanted the ball in Jordan’s hands and Jordan loved it.
At the time, Krause made a controversial move in firing Doug Collins after making it to the conference finals. Unlike Jordan, Krause and Jackson started out as allies. This was a necessary move for the Bulls to move forward. Under Collins it was about Jordan. Under Jackson it was about the team.
The Joy in Beating the Bad Boys
This part of the documentary was superfluous. Controversy creates cash though. The Bulls finally overcame the defending champion Detroit Pistons. This was the defining moment of the Bulls first championship run. In the 30 for 30 documentary, Bad Boys, Pistons players had to relive the moment of being swept by the Bulls and walking off the court. They also did not shake the Bulls hands in defeat. Reliving this moment brought out the anger in Bulls players even though this was almost 30 years ago.
Horace Grant on the Pistons walking out,
Straight up bitches.
The Detroit players continue to take credit for making the Bulls into a Championship team. Their claims valid but that doesn’t mean Jordan and company respect Isiah and Laimbeer. The best part of this episode was Jerry Krause dancing with Scottie Pippen following the Bulls victory.
— Steve Noah (@Steve_OS) April 27, 2020
Another week of must-see television in the books. Even though I did not learn many new aspects about the Bulls, the candid interviews leave me wanting more. As a Bulls fan, I wish this were a 20-part series. Imagine every championship run being covered in this fashion. Sign me up.