Michael Jordan wasn’t always known as the NBA’s greatest champion. Before Jordan would win six titles and stake his claim as the best player in the history of the sport, his Chicago Bulls first had to get past an immovable object: the ‘Bad Boys’ era Detroit Pistons.
ESPN’s The Last Dance focused on the Bulls’ climb to the top during episodes Nos. 3 and 4, telling the story of the young Bulls’ greatest foil while continuing to intertwine multiple timelines that eventually lead to their demise. These episodes gave us “The Shot on Ehlo,” an explanation of “The Jordan Rules,” and the Bulls’ first championship on the early timeline. The second timeline gave us the story of Dennis Rodman’s in-season vacation to Las Vegas, the return of Scottie Pippen from injury, and the start of the Bulls’ climb back up the Eastern Conference standings.
Along the way, viewers were treated to a clip of Jerry Krause dancing, an aside from Carmen Electra, and a lot of swearing. As we hit the 40 percent mark of the docuseries, The Last Dance continues to capture the attention of a country starved for sports.
Here are the six most memorable moments of episodes Nos. 3 and 4.
“Whoever’s not with us, all you f****** go to hell.”
That was Jordan reaction to hitting the famed shot on Craig Ehlo that pushed the Bulls past the Cleveland Cavaliers in the decisive game of the Eastern Conference semifinals in 1989. Future teammate Ron Harper told the story from the opposite perspective as a member of the Cavs. Harper says he begged his coach to let him guard Jordan on the final possession. His reaction when he was denied: “yeah OK, whatever ... f*ck this bullsh*t.”
Rodman’s Vegas vacation
As the Bulls were navigating through their final championship season in 1998, head coach Phil Jackson could tell he was losing Rodman. In an attempt to get him to focus for the stretch run, Jackson let Rodman have a 48-hour vacation in Las Vegas during the middle of the season. The story of Rodman’s trip was hilariously retold by Jordan, Jackson, and Rodman’s former girlfriend, Carmen Electra, who said she once hid behind a couch as Jordan came to knock on Rodman’s door.
While the in-season vacation isn’t exactly unprecedented throughout NBA history, it’s a safe bet that no one had more fun than Rodman during his.
Jordan still holds a grudge against the Pistons
Jordan still hasn’t forgiven Isiah Thomas and his Detroit teammates 30 years after the Pistons walked off the floor in the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals without shaking hands. Jordan’s candid reaction to Thomas’ version of the story — essentially that it was Bill Laimbeer’s idea — was one of the docuseries’ great highlights so far. You can tell the animosity Jordan once felt toward Thomas still hasn’t subsided.
Former teammate Horace Grant put his own spin on the Pistons’ actions in defeat:
Krause is dancing
As the Bulls finally beat the Pistons in the playoffs on their way to their first championship, the docuseries showed behind-the-scenes footage from the team bus. It featured none other than the series’ biggest villain — former general manager Krause — dancing with Pippen with a red Solo cup in his hand.
Jerry Krause dances like Frank Reynolds. pic.twitter.com/Y1sixMb1Tk— ........SY ABLEMAN???? (@therealaaronk) April 27, 2020
As The Last Dance retells the story of the Bulls’ dynasty, the best parts are the scenes and stories we haven’t seen before. Dancing Krause certainly counts for that.
Jackson’s Puerto Rico coaching days
“...que iba a dirigir a los Chicago Bulls en la NBA, aparentemente eso está en veremos...”, dice Rafa Bracero sobre un joven Phil Jackson, quien fue coach de los Gallitos de Isabela del 1984-86. pic.twitter.com/6U122a1yBU— BSN Puerto Rico (En Casa) (@bsnpr) February 4, 2020
The Last Dance spotlights one character from the Bulls’ dynasty per episode, and this week we got Jackson in addition to Rodman. Born in Montana and raised in North Dakota, Jackson would go on to win two championships as a player for the New York Knicks before moving onto coaching. Long before he led the Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers to championship after championship, Jackson cut his teeth coaching in Puerto Rico. ESPN found some exclusive footage of Jackson’s early coaching days that was mesmerizing to watch.
Jackson remains one of the most eccentric figures in NBA history as well as one of the most successful. We would watch an entire 10-part docuseries on his days dropping acid, too.
Tex Winter appreciation
While Jackson was making the Bulls do book reports and spouting Native American spiritual practices, assistant coach Tex Winter was installing the offense that would make the Bulls champions. Winter was the creator of the “triangle offense,” which helped teach the Bulls to share the ball rather than relying on the all-around dominance of Jordan. His Xs and Os acumen were the perfect complement to Jackson’s less tactical leadership.
Early footage from Winter drawing up the offensive sets at Kansas State in 1960 just felt so pure and so wholesome. The Bulls’ dynasty couldn’t have happened without him.