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Our NBA experts’ biggest takeaways from episodes 3 and 4 of ‘The Last Dance’

ESPN’s 10-part documentary series “The Last Dance,” which chronicles Michael Jordan and the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls, continued on Sunday with Episodes 3 and 4.

Jordan and the Bulls allowed NBA Entertainment to follow them throughout the season and document their final championship together. The series features never-before-seen footage, as well as interviews with more than 100 people close to the team.

Here’s what you need to know from the third and fourth episodes, which covered Phil Jackson’s ascent to head coach of the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan’s prime nemesis, the Detroit Pistons.

MORE: Replay Episodes 3 and 4


ESPN’s NBA experts on ‘The Last Dance’

Our team weighs in with their biggest takeaways from the third and fourth episodes of the series. This will continue to update throughout the night.

  • Jackie MacMullan: People don’t realize Dennis Rodman is an introvert. As a rookie, he wore jeans and sneakers; no tattoos, no piercings. He was bullied as a kid, his father was AWOL, and his mother kicked him out of the house, so he slept in his friend’s backyard in a chaise lounge. All he wanted was to be loved – so Pistons head coach Chuck Daly put his arm around him and kept it there until Daly left Detroit in 1992. Rodman went off the rails without him- until Phil Jackson loped his arm around him, told him he knew what it was like to be different, and transformed Rodman into the Bulls’ X-factor.

  • Eric Woodyard: As a Michigan native, I can’t express enough just how beloved the Bad Boys Pistons are in the state – even until this day. It wasn’t until I moved out of Michigan that I realized that the rest of the NBA community, especially in different markets, didn’t feel the same as we do about those guys. I did respect the way that Isiah Thomas and company were portrayed in this film because it could’ve gone in a different direction knowing the bad blood between the Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons during that era. This also re-introduces Dennis Rodman to the younger generation. His Pistons career doesn’t get acknowledged as much as it should in my opinion. He was a beast!

  • Andrew Lopez: Through the hair color and piercings and just overall eccentric nature, it’s easy to forget how much Rodman thoroughly cared about basketball itself and becoming the best rebounder of his era – and one of the best of all-time. The clip from early in episode 3 where Rodman talks about rebounding was astounding to me. He knew how Jordan’s shots would come off, and the same with Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. That’s why he was able to average the rebounding numbers he did. Jordan called him one of the smartest teammates he had ever had on the defensive end. Pippen mentioned how much film Rodman studied. His rebounding didn’t happen by accident.

  • Bobby Marks: Watching Dennis Rodman brought back flashbacks to his old friend (and mine) Jack Haley.

    It was a widely known thought that Haley was signed before the 1995-96 season to act as the babysitter for Rodman. Both played together in San Antonio in 1993-94 and 1994-95 and developed a strong relationship. I got to know Jack during the 1996-97 and 1997-98 season when I worked for the Nets. During those two seasons, Jack signed seven contracts (including four 10-days) and played a total of 36 games. The last contract was ten days before the Nets played Chicago in the 1998 playoffs, and Jack would eventually transition to be part of the coaching staff for the 1998-99 season. I was curious about his relationship with Rodman and would often ask about it. Jack hated the word babysitter and wanted it to be known that he was a mentor and confidante to Dennis. At the time I was naïve and didn’t understand how someone who played one game (game 82) could have an impact. Jack gave me a history lesson of the 1995-96 Bulls season and took me back to the 1996 Finals. It was one that I will never forget.

    When Jack passed away in 2015, Sam Smith wrote about the critical role Haley played before Game 6 of the NBA Finals. After the Bulls dropped two games in Seattle, Rodman decided that he didn’t want to play anymore. It was Jack who talked Rodman into playing Game six. Dennis would go on to grab 19 rebounds and score 9 points. The Bulls would go on to win the series that night.

  • Jesse Rogers: I spent a couple long nights with Dennis Rodman in some Chicago nightclubs. He could party with the best of them but he never lost control, as far as I could see. There were no fights or calls to the police. I often wondered how he could play the next day but then I realized this was normal for him. Crazy for the rest of us but normal for him. And of course, everyone wanted to be around him. He enjoyed Chicago and Chicago enjoyed him.

  • Kevin Pelton: While Dennis Rodman might have been more difficult to manage after Scottie Pippen’s return in January 1998, the numbers don’t bear out that his play declined. Rodman’s game score actually improved slightly from 8.1 through Pippen’s absence to 8.6 thereafter, per Basketball-Reference.com. Rodman’s shooting percentage declined from 46% to 40.5%, but he helped offset that with improved free throw accuracy. After shooting just 41.5% from the line in the season’s first 35 games, Rodman shot 74% the rest of the way — which would have been a career high if maintained for a full season.

  • Tim Bontemps:Consider this: Michael Jordan is the best player on the planet. He loves Doug Collins, his head coach. The Bulls just went to the Eastern Conference Finals and gave the heavily-favored Detroit Pistons a surprisingly hard time in that series.

    In what scenario is that coach fired?

    This is exactly how Phil Jackson became the coach of the Chicago Bulls. As Jordan himself said in the doc, he wasn’t a fan of Jackson at first. It’s hard to think of many other scenarios where a player of Jordan’s caliber was this big of a fan of a coach and they were dismissed.

    There is a common theme throughout Chicago’s run: whether it was trading Charles Oakley, Jordan’s close friend, or firing Collins, a coach he liked and respected, the Bulls – and, specifically, general manager Jerry Krause – didn’t always do what Jordan wanted. And, in the end, it worked out quite well for all of them.

  • Schmitz: Although it’s easier now than ever to discover prospects from all different levels given the extensive film and statistical services out there, NBA scouts would have poked all kinds of holes in Dennis Rodman’s resume if he was coming up today. Drafting a 25-year-old from an NAIA program is as unprecedented as it gets. In fact, since 2000 only two players have been 25 or older on draft night – Bernard James and Mamadou Ndiaye. If he was coming up today, Rodman may have had to work his way up through the G-League to prove his production at the NAIA level wasn’t a product of the level. As it turns out, Rodman was without question a true diamond in the rough and an exception to most of the scouting guidelines NBA front offices often subscribe to.

  • Ramona Shelburne: Yes, Jerry Krause is cast as the villain who broke up the Bulls dynasty because everyone else was getting the credit. But Episodes 3 & 4 also remind us of what a great scout he was- particularly when it came to identifying Phil Jackson as a coaching talent. And wouldn’t you know it, like many of the protagonists in this story, Krause learned basketball from Tex Winter. He went to Kansas State and sat in endless sessions with Winter, learning the game.

    Not many people know this story, but when Doug Collins got into an argument and banished Tex Winter from the Bulls bench, it hastened Jackson’s ascension because of Krause’s loyalty to Tex.

    And even when Krause and Jackson fell out at the end of the Bulls run, they were united in their admiration for Winter- whom they each advocated to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

  • Eric Woodyard: Without the Detroit Pistons, we may not have witnessed the evolution of Michael Jordan and the Bulls becoming the champions that they would ultimately become. That relentless drive to be the best was on display through Jordan’s passion to add weight training to his regimen while pushing his teammates to get better for Detroit. I wasn’t necessarily surprised by his reaction to Isiah Thomas’ comments about leaving the floor without shaking his hand. MJ has the right to feel that way. Guys were so competitive back then that you can still see the disappointment in Jordan and his teammates even today from that gesture. Basketball was way different then, but even being a fan of the Bad Boys, they should’ve shook hands with the Bulls.


More on ‘The Last Dance’

ESPN’s Michael Jordan documentary: Big takeaways from Episodes 1 and 2 of ‘The Last Dance’

ESPN’s NBA experts weigh in with their biggest takeaways from the first two episodes of ‘The Last Dance.’

How the greatness of Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman lives on

The duo not only helped the Bulls win a bunch of rings, they also foreshadowed some of the NBA’s major trends.

Ferraris, nail salons, and armed guards: Two weeks with Dennis Rodman in the mid-1990s

Spending time with Dennis Rodman in the mid-1990s meant having a front-row seat to the basketball/pop culture phenomenon of the Bulls, an experience that can only be described as surreal.

Phil Jackson on Rodman, Pippen’s trade demand and dreams of Shaq

As he was readying the Bulls for their sixth title run in eight seasons, Phil Jackson dished on MJ, Dennis Rodman and Carmen Electra, his war with the GM, and how he was already scouting Shaq and the Lakers.


Full schedule

Sunday, May 3

  • 7 p.m. ET | Re-air of “The Last Dance” Episode 3

  • 8 p.m. ET | Re-air of “The Last Dance” Episode 4

  • 9 p.m. ET | Premiere of “The Last Dance” Episode 5

  • 10 p.m. ET | Premiere of “The Last Dance” Episode 6

Sunday, May 10

  • 7 p.m. ET | Re-air of “The Last Dance” Episode 5

  • 8 p.m. ET | Re-air of “The Last Dance” Episode 6

  • 9 p.m. ET | Premiere of “The Last Dance” Episode 7

  • 10 p.m. ET | Premiere of “The Last Dance” Episode 8

Sunday, May 17

  • 7 p.m. ET | Re-air of “The Last Dance” Episode 7

  • 8 p.m. ET | Re-air of “The Last Dance” Episode 8

  • 9 p.m. ET | Premiere of “The Last Dance” Episode 9

  • 10 p.m. ET | Premiere of “The Last Dance” Episode 10

Netflix (outside of the U.S.)

  • Monday, April 20 | 12:01 a.m. PT | “The Last Dance” Episodes 1 and 2

  • Monday, April 27 | 12:01 a.m. PT | “The Last Dance” Episodes 3 and 4

  • Monday, May 4 | 12:01 a.m. PT | “The Last Dance” Episodes 5 and 6

  • Monday, May 11 | 12:01 a.m. PT | “The Last Dance” Episodes 7 and 8

  • Monday, May 18 | 12:01 a.m. PT | “The Last Dance” Episodes 9 and 10

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