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ESPN's Michael Jordan documentary: Big takeaways from Episodes 3 and 4 of 'The Last Dance'

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'The Last Dance' First Look: The Bulls introduce Phil Jackson (0:56)

On July 10, 1989, the Bulls introduce new head coach Phil Jackson and his triangle offense. (0:56)

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 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 to this day. It wasn't until I moved out of Michigan that I realized 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 Isiah Thomas & Co. 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 reintroduces 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 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 Haley during the 1996-97 and 1997-98 season when I worked for the Nets. During those two seasons, Haley signed seven contracts (including four 10-day contracts) and played a total of 36 games. The last contract was 10 days before the Nets played Chicago in the 1998 playoffs, and Haley 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. Haley hated the word babysitter and wanted it to be known that he was a mentor and confidante to Rodman. At the time, I was naïve and didn't understand how someone who played one game (Game 82) could have an impact. Haley 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 Haley died 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 Haley who talked Rodman into playing Game 6. Rodman would go on to grab 19 rebounds and score nine points. The Bulls would go on to win the series that night.

  • Jesse Rogers: I spent a couple of 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. Wild 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.

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'The Last Dance' trailer: How 'Like Mike' became a worldwide phenomenon

On Sunday, relive the sensation that was "I want to be like Mike." Episodes 5 and 6 of "The Last Dance" debut at 9:00 p.m. ET on ESPN.

  • 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 docuseries, 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.

  • Mike Schmitz: Although it's easier now than ever to discover prospects from all different levels given the extensive film and statistical services available, NBA scouts would have poked all kinds of holes in Dennis Rodman's résumé if he were 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 were coming up today, Rodman might 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 and 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 Winter from the Bulls bench, it hastened Jackson's ascension because of Krause's loyalty to Winter.

    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 might not have witnessed the evolution of Michael Jordan and the Bulls becoming the champions 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 have shaken hands with the Bulls.

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MJ blames Horace Grant for information leak

Michael Jordan places blame on Horace Grant for leaking team information to the media.

  • Ohm Youngmisuk: Over a year ago, I talked to Isiah Thomas about the 30-year anniversary of the Bad Boys' championship team. Of course, when Michael Jordan came up, Thomas couldn't resist taking a jab.

    "Keeping it real right," Thomas said. "We weren't the only team that shut down Michael Jordan ... people like to say, well Isiah, you're hating. ... Chicago wasn't a factor in the 80s... They couldn't get by us, they couldn't get by Boston. ... That's just real talk."

    Three decades later, nothing can convince Jordan that Thomas "wasn't an a--hole." Some feuds -- and pettiness -- should live forever. Look no further than Horace Grant, who delivered the greatest "real talk" gem by describing the Pistons walking off after being swept as "straight-up b----es."

  • Malika Andrews: When I flipped on "The Last Dance" on Sunday night, I wasn't expecting comedic relief. My eyes bugged when Michael Jordan called Phil Jackson's theory "bulls---" that the triangle offense was an equal opportunity system. I giggled when Horace Grant flung insults at the Pistons ("straight-up b----es"). And while I appreciate Trae Young's tweet that Jordan was the greatest trash talker of all time, I must respectfully disagree. The newscaster that said, "If you're getting ready for work today, you're probably not Doug Collins" made me spit out my drink.

  • Nick Friedell: The need for credit that Jerry Krause felt at the end of Phil Jackson's tenure is interesting because it parallels what happened at the end of Tom Thibodeau's run with the Bulls 17 years later. As was the case in Jackson's final season, there were many layers that led to Thibodeau's firing. But one of the things that irritated executives John Paxson and Gar Forman most at the end was the fact that they felt Thibodeau was getting too much credit, but their players, and by proxy the executives themselves weren't getting enough plaudits for picking the right players for the roster. Just like Krause had flirted years earlier with then-Iowa State coach Tim Floyd, Forman (a former Iowa State assistant coach) knew that then-Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg was the man with whom he wanted to replace Thibodeau when the time came.

  • Nick DePaula: "Let me show it," Jordan smiled, as he held up a firm $100 bill to the camera.

    Michael made $33.14 million during the 1997-98 season -- $6 million more than the rest of the roster, combined -- so the money won from a Super Bowl bet with Ron Harper hardly meant much. Still, seeing exactly how Jordan never turned off his competitive fire away from the floor has been incredible. He was always competing at something, finding random quirks of teammates to poke at or looking for a way to get the last word in during any conversation -- anything to keep that edge.

  • Dave McMenamin: So much of the viewing experience is corroborating what we're seeing with Michael Jordan's mystique. Sometimes it debunks our preconceived notions, sometimes it fortifies them. We're accustomed to seeing Jordan, the winner, weeping as he clutches the Larry O'Brien Trophy for the first time in 1991, with his father by his side.

    What we've never seen was the scene he described in Episode 4. The Bulls fell to the Detroit Pistons in Game 7 of the 1990 Eastern Conference finals. Jordan, the loser, was accompanied by his dad weeping then as well.

    "I was devastated, I was absolutely devastated," Jordan says. "I cried on the bus. My father came on and said, 'Look, it's just one game. Bounce back. Come back next year.'" Tears of joy were something we were let in on. Tears of pain were something that didn't fit the calculated persona he projected.


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.

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Dennis Rodman details the demise of the Chicago Bulls

Dennis Rodman details his experience in Chicago and is a firm believer that the Bulls could have won a fourth straight title.

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.

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B.J. Armstrong tells 'embarrassing' story of 1-on-1 with MJ

B.J. Armstrong details how Michael Jordan challenged him to a game of 1-on-1 while he was still in his street clothes.

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