Whether it be the Chicago Bulls winning their first NBA title under Phil Jackson, Mike Jordan becoming “Michael” Jordan, or Carmen Electra hiding when Jordan comes to retrieve Dennis Rodman from an in-season vacation, there have been no shortages of drama in ESPN’s “The Last Dance.” The 10-part documentary on the Bulls’ 1997-98 championship season and the era that was has now aired its first four episodes. Now that we’ve had a chance to see roughly half of the documentary, let’s see what we can take away.
The biggest problems for the 1997-98 Bulls were self-inflicted. From the outrageous decisions by Bulls general manager Jerry Krause, the dangerous leadership styles of Michael Jordan, or the aging core group of talent that had previously won five titles, the Bulls were steamroller with no brakes heading off a cliff.
We learned during this past weekend’s episodes that head coach Phil Jackson and assistant Tex Winter implemented the triangle offense, which has been a key proponent to several team’s titles since those Bulls teams. It was designed to spread the wealth around on the offensive side of the ball, forcing the ball out of Michael’s hands from time to time, which created waves of controversy within the huddle. Winter explained to Jordan that there’s no “I” in team…to which Jordan replied famously, “but there’s an ‘I’ in win.”
The documentary goes deep inside the story behind Jordan vs. the “Bad Boy Pistons”, who bested Jordan to win titles in both 1989 and 1990.During the 1990 offseason, Jordan and the Bulls bulked up so they wouldn’t get crushed by the rough style of play that the Pistons presented. They further embraced the triangle offense, which allowed for 33 options with each pass, and overcame the Pistons and then Magic Johnson’s Lakers to win the 1991 NBA title, the first of six for Jordan, Pippen and Jackson.
One of the highlights in the second round of episodes was Rodman’s several day bender in Las Vegas during the season. Staying with actress girlfriend (and future wife) Carmen Electra, Rodman described that he needed to get away, tired and stressed with the constant drama surrounding the team daily. Jordan would show up to his hotel on day 4, stating that he had to drag Rodman out of the hotel and get him back to practice. While we may find this humorous upon looking back at this time, we’d be going ballistic if anything remotely close to this happened in today’s world by a professional athlete during the season.
The story behind Jordan’s final title run with the Bulls has been nothing short of a sigh of relief for the sports world while it is starved for content due to the coronavirus pandemic. Three parts of the docu-series remain, with the fifth and sixth episodes to air on Sunday, May 3rd on ESPN.