The Last Dance Episodes 3 and 4 review: What happens in Vegas

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 14: Dennis Rodman speaks onstage during the Comedy Central Roast of Bruce Willis at Hollywood Palladium on July 14, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 14: Dennis Rodman speaks onstage during the Comedy Central Roast of Bruce Willis at Hollywood Palladium on July 14, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images) /

The latest set of episodes of The Last Dance hone in on an eclectic roster of personalities, including Dennis Rodman and Phil Jackson.

In last week’s recap/review, I mentioned how a lot of the potential interest in The Last Dance hinges on its ability to be more unfiltered. We’re all keen on the idea of chronicling Michael Jordan’s legacy, or simply enjoying incredible highlight videos, but we also seek to hear the man behind it all without any barriers.

While last week’s episode served as a fine introduction to Jordan’s basketball persona and dominance, this week was about personalities.

Episodes 3 and 4 of The Last Dance focus heavily on three particular unique entities of basketball history: The Bad Boys Pistons, Dennis Rodman, and Phil Jackson. If you’re a basketball fan, odds are that hearing these distinct areas would be covered sends you into a whirlwind of excitement. Fortunately, the series does a splendid job at capturing what makes them so exciting but also delivers the exact kind of candidness that fans have wanted.

Firstly, the Bad Boys era of Detroit Pistons teams is probably what you’d get if the word “candid” was a sentient NBA team. They’re one of the most unique relics of a past era in NBA history, known mostly for their physicality on the court, and they seemingly never cared an ounce about what others thought of it.

Those familiar with ESPN’s 30for30 documentary on the team will certainly appreciate the return of these memorable faces, but the same can’t be said for Jordan and the Bulls.

Jordan and others, to put it delicately, are not fans of the Detroit Pistons. Perhaps the greatest moment of the week comes from Jordan’s completely unapologetic characterization of Isiah Thomas. It’s moments like these that will truly decide just how memorable The Last Dance will end up being; Episodes 3 and 4 were an onslaught of F-bombs, somewhat risque stories, and brutal honesty. It’s a tone that was truly befitting of the Pistons and their hard-nosed culture.

Aside from the team, there was some depth into both Dennis Rodman and Phil Jackson — which played as a fascinating, albeit brief, insight into their respective personas. Rodman’s story represented a certain flamboyance and eccentric chaos while Jackson was a more studious, zen-like figure that seemed to channel a degree of hippy culture as well.

Was that a poor set of descriptors to describe these two sports titans? Absolutely. But there truly is something interesting about the documentary telling these stories in this particular way. The dichotomy between Rodman and Jackson is profound, yes, but also appropriate.

There’s an understanding in both of these episodes that, despite his lifestyle is one that you might call “reckless”, Dennis Rodman was a genius in his own way. Everyone’s been talking about the story of his trip to Las Vegas, and for good reason; the whole thing is outright hilarious.

The documentary does a good job, however, of touching on the surface of what makes him so unique aside from just his non-basketball-related activities. He was a defensive superstar and to this day one of the most intriguing athletes we’ve ever had — one that sounds like a he’d be a movie character rather than a real person.

Vegas may be the highlight, but I found one minor moment when Rodman describes his rebounding technique to be my favorite. The Last Dance hammers home the fact that, yes, Rodman may have been a societal deviant in many ways, that didn’t mean his play suffered. Remarkably, the whole thing feels natural as a story element, too. Enough time is spent on both Rodman’s playing style and lifestyle, which I can imagine the latter might’ve been tempting to do more of.

Underrated moments didn’t just feature Rodman, though, as the guru Phil Jackson had his own unique tale to tell. I particularly enjoyed his description of Puerto Rico as he regaled us with stories of his coaching days there. I do admit that, as I myself am Puerto Rican, seeing it represented in a minor way was entertaining to watch. Excuse my bias’, but I refuse to ever gloss over anything having to do with Puerto Rico (feel free to message me offline to discuss the current power rankings of famous Puerto Ricans!).

The Last Dance is, in such a short stretch of time, managing to capture the consciousness of the sports world exactly as one would expect. It’s got the highlights of incredible achievements and sports success that fans crave, but it also manages to feel genuine. This isn’t being handled with kiddy gloves, and nor should it. Plus, there are still three more weeks of the series that we have yet to be released for our sports-deprived consumption.

If The Last Dance continues on the trajectory that this week’s crop of episodes channeled so brilliantly, we’re in line for plenty of more nuggets of sports goodness that sports fans will chew up like Michael Jordan chewed up anyone that dared cross his path. Was that analogy a bit too on the nose? Yes, but I figured I might as well try my best at making one since my writing abilities have been subpar of late.

Here’s to hoping that The Last Dance stokes up the competitive fires in all of us. Fierce, unfiltered competition between athletic titans isn’t exactly what comes to mind as entertainment for people during the dark times we’re currently living in, but maybe it’s exactly what we didn’t know what we needed.

Based on the preview of what to expect next week, I can imagine that things are only going to be as fierce as ever.

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Episodes of The Last Dance continue every Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN and ESPN2.