Last Dance reflections: We all need a Rodman & a Jackson
The third and fourth episodes of the Last Dance documentary series on Netflix were as spectacular as the first two. The focus on Dennis Rodman and Phil Jackson was superb to see as they were pivotal members of this legendary Chicago Bulls team. Some of the global reaction to this series has been as entertaining as the series itself with many fans expressing their love and admiration for these iconic people all over again. It’s been refreshing to see the love for basketball and the rivalries getting the focus they deserve. I can’t help but wonder what these kinds of docuseries would be like when focused on other championship winning teams, as well as those teams and players who’ve struggled for years. The look behind the curtain is so enthralling that you want more and more.
Looking at episodes three and four, there is so much to be said for people who focus on doing the dirty work. In a lot of cases they don’t get the praise they deserve because they aren’t racking up stupid scoring numbers every night. Dennis Rodman was one of those geniuses who realized that he wasn’t a Michael Jordan or Scottie Pippen type of player but he was better at certain things than they were. He worked and worked and worked till he was an expert at rebounding and defending. He focused all of his effort on being the very best at the thing that many teams and players took for granted. He knew that if he gave the greater effort he would battle harder than his opponents.
A look at the truly legendary Phil Jackson also reveals a man with very strong principles and those are grounded in a love for his fellow man. Jackson could be combustible, but he was very much a smart, personable technical savant who saw the game differently than most coaches did. He was happy to learn from the great minds like Tex Winter and then to implement those strategies to great success. He was also a superb man-manager and that was what took him from a skilled coach to a superstar. Both Rodman and Jackson should be revered for their otherworldly abilities and their charisma. Here are my major takeaways from this week’s episodes: 1. – Every team needs a Rodman and those players need to be tended to Dennis Rodman was always a little different and you see that in episode three and episode four as he talks about his approach to learning the so-called ‘Dark Arts’ of the rebounding and defending dirty work. As he speaks about his process you realize more and more how elite his reading of the game had to be. He had to understand who he was playing against and decipher the best way to neutralize them and also how he would grab the boards before they did. He is like an Albert Einstein or Stephen Hawking of the court, doing intricate physics calculations as the shots were going up and then placing himself in the best position to pick up the trash. Rodman deserves all of the praise he gets for his dedication and application. Every team needs a player who is willing to sacrifice the personal acclaim for the good of the team. Everything he did was to help the guys win, and they often did. 2. – The best coaches and teammates know what their players need and allow them some slack. As MJ and Phil Jackson discuss giving Rodman some time off during the regular season you see that they are very skeptical but appreciate how much he gives on the court and has already given to the cause. They know that he wouldn’t ask for the time off or vacation unless he desperately needed it. Not many people will get that you have to listen to what people are telling you they need; everyone focuses on self and they don’t really listen. Paying attention to others helps them and ultimately it helps you too. Rodman was on the edge of burning out and he realized that. Rather than keeping quiet about his personal struggles he spoke up and Jackson and Jordan heard him. There is a major lesson in Emotional Intelligence here, because they both had the right to say, ‘no way!’ they chose to do what was right for their teammate and friend.
3. – Facing your internal demons can be scary, but ignoring them can be dangerous There is a person who doesn’t get nearly enough credit in Dennis Rodman’s story of his recovery from what seems like a battle with mental illness, and that is the person who alerted the authorities about their friend’s worrying behavior. Rodman was found in that car park before anything really drastic had happened, thank goodness. We need more people to express their concern for others. The thing about that incident (you have to watch the series to find out more detail) is that with the right help Rodman was able to resume his career and rebuild his life. He went on to even greater heights and formed part of something truly remarkable. It took a lot of people to see the human and show their humanity and the rest is history. It also helped that the authorities were calm and dealt with the situation with more maturity and caring than you see these days. 4. – Greatness comes in various shapes and sizes and forms The one thing about both Phil Jackson and Dennis Rodman was that they were mavericks on and off the court. They both had beliefs that strayed from the ‘norms’ of the day and they weren’t afraid to embrace those. Their beliefs made them who they were. Jackson’s love and admiration for Native American culture and teachings helped him bring people together and got them to work better as a group, as a team. Rodman’s fearless expression of his personality with his outrageous hairstyles, numerous piercings and a myriad of tattoos brought his persona to life. He felt more comfortable being himself and that made him a better player and a better teammate. So far, all four episodes of the Last Dance have showed so many different characters and has given them greater depth. This series is digging deep into the core of who that final championship-winning Bulls team were. Their legacy on world sports is still as immense now as it was in the late 90s. I can’t wait for more and thankfully there is more to come.