How Michael Jordan & Bulls, The Last Dance, Shows They Were Able To Finally Become Winners, A Former Rival Help Their Second Three-Peat

“We finally got over the hump of a loser’s mentality.”  That quote from Michael Jordan in the third episode of ESPN Films, The Last Dance.  The 10-part mini-doc that aired it’s third and fourth episodes Sunday night on ESPN.  Can best describe the latest episodes of the series.  As it delves into the Bulls hated rivalry with the Detroit Pistons and the hurdles they had to go through to get past the Pistons.  Which included Jordan’s famed free throw line, “The Shot” over Craig Ehlo of the heavily favored Cleveland Cavaliers in their 1989 first round NBA Playoffs matchup.  A true turning point for the franchise.  Even though the Bulls wouldn’t make it to the NBA Finals until two years later. 

Aside from their hated rivalry with the Pistons be an impactful subject in Sunday night’s episodes and more so episode four.  It also really delves into how Dennis Rodman’s crazy and wild card of all crazy wild card mantras.  Really fit into the media and larger than life almost Hollywood-like following those 90’s Bulls had and how it grew even more when he arrived.  From the crazy party’s and all nighters he would take place in, to the dyeing of his hair and the countless tattoos and nose rings he got. To the legendary celebrity figures such as Madonna and Carmen Electra that he would date.  

Rodman was such an enigmatic figure that when he seen his role expand to the No. 2 guy behind Jordan with Scottie Pippen out to start the final Bulls championship year of 1998.  It lead to him asking for a mini-vacation to Las Vegas in the middle of the season once Scottie Pippen returned from injury.  That head coach Phil Jackson approved of despite Jordan’s objections.  With MJ saying, “We look at Dennis and say, ‘Dennis, what are you gonna do?’  He says, “Well, I need to go to Vegas.’  I said, ‘Phil, you let this dude go to vacation, we’re not gonna see him.  You let him go to Vegas, we’re definitely not gonna see him.  He looks at Dennis and says, “Dennis, well can your vacation be, like, 48 hours?”  And Dennis is like, “I got no other choice, I’ll take whatever you can give me, I’ll take the 48 hours.”

That eventually lead into the legendary story of how Electra, who was dating Rodman at the time and even briefly got married to him.  Was in the room butt naked and had to hide.  When Jordan came to get Rodman after he didn’t return in the allocated 48 hours.  That truly showed how much of a wild-card and some would say erring on the side of crazy figure that Rodman was.  Which is why the Bulls and more specifically Jerry Krause didn’t want to take Rodman on at first.  With the late Krause being quoted as saying, “If we had not had Michael and Scottie and the the people in that locker room.  We would have not taken on Dennis.  And if Phil wasn’t there.  I don’t think we take him on.  Cause I know Phil can handle him.”  Also the fact that the Bulls welcomed Rodman with open arms after he was a rival for so many years with Detroit.  It was why a lot of us here in the Chicago area, who grew up on those 90’s Bulls weren’t to keen on him joining at first.  But as Pippen said once things smoothed over, “He fit like a hand in a glove.”  The crazy and even bigger than life persona that Rodman built.  What eventually made us all love Rodman so much still till this very day.  For all he did with his energy, rebounding, defense and intangibles on the floor in helping the Bulls complete that second three-peat in the 90’s during the dynasty run.  

That if you don’t have Rodman, does Chicago complete that second three-peat or not?  He himself being quoted as saying, “You’ve got the great Michael Jordan, the great Scottie Pippen, the great Phil Jackson.  But if you take me away from this team, do they still win a championship?  I don’t think so.”

Starting off episode four, after delving into the whole Rodman middle of the ‘98 season, 48-hour Vegas vacation story.  More detail is gone into the Bulls back story and their very hated rivalry with Isiah Thomas and the Pistons.  “Everyone in Chicago really hated Detroit at the time.  It really was personal.”  For many reasons from the “Jordan Rules” to the not shaking of the hands, it become one of the biggest rivalries in not only basketball and sports history, but one of the most revered ever.  A rivalry that still spews bad blood between some even till this very day.  It’s why so many a Bulls fans could hardly stomach to see when another Chicago product and former Bulls MVP, Derrick Rose, joined the Pistons.  At the beginning of this recently delayed NBA season.  

Like the Lakers and Celtics or the Lakers and Spurs as two examples.  The Pistons for the Bulls were that team they had to go through so many struggles to get past before finally becoming champions for the first time in ’91.  Those struggles and not getting the respect they deserved from Thomas and company when they walked off the court without shaking hands after Chicago finally beat them that year.  After being eliminated by Detroit three years in a row in the playoffs.  Is why Mike and many of the Bulls developed even more of a hatred for Thomas and much of those Pistons players.  Which is why when Thomas tried to defend his actions and how much regret he developed later about not shaking hands.  Mike wasn’t buying it.  Saying, “Well, I know it’s all bulls**t.  Whatever he says now, it wasn’t his true actions then.  He’s had time enough to think about it, or the reaction of the public has changed his perspective.  You can show me anything you want.  There’s no way you can’t convince me he wasn’t an a**hole.”  Jordan keeping that energy as something he will probably go to his grave never wavering from.

It wasn’t just Jordan who felt that way about the Pistons actions after not shaking the Bulls hands either.  As former Bull Horace Grant, had if not the top quote of the series so far, definitely among the very top two or three.  When he said, “Straight up b***hes, is what they acted like.”  When describing what he thought of Detroit walking off the court without shaking the Bulls hands, after Chicago not only finally beat Detroit, but did so by sweeping them.  Also adding, “We were tasting victory over a team that had beat our ass the last three years.  It truly was satisfying.”  When describing how satisfying it was for the Bulls to finally beat the Pistons.

It was the eventual trusting of head coach Phil Jackson and the embarrassing 93-74 Game 7 loss to the Pistons in the 1990 Eastern Conference Finals.  That truly changed Jordan and all the Bulls fortunes forever.  As after that loss instead of the team all leaving for vacation.  BJ Armstrong said they, “All went straight to the gym to start working out.”  Jordan adding 15 pounds of muscle that offseason, “to administer pain” to match the physical play of the “Bad Boys” and to help defy the “Jordan Rules.”

Though Jordan and the Bulls would eventually go on to win their first title in the ’91 Finals over the final installment of the “Showtime Lakers.”  Where for the first time in his career really showed a true amount of emotions never seen before by teammates or other players up till that point of his career.  It was the Bulls beating the Pistons that truly satisfied Jordan and quite a few of the Bulls players even more so in some ways than eventually beating the Lakers.  Cause of how much it took for them to eventually beat Detroit and then the disrespect that the Pistons showed them.  Jordan saying the following, “I shook everybody’s hands two years in a row when they beat us.  There is a certain respect to the game that we paid to them.  No matter how much it hurts.  Believe me, it fvcking hurt.  They didn’t have to shake our hands.  We knew we whooped their ass already.  To me that was better in some ways than winning a championship.”