The third episode of ESPN's documentary called 'The Last Dance,' which profiles Michael Jordan and the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls, aired on Sunday night. Here are five takeaways from the episode...

1. The first two episodes of 'The Last Dance' were excellent and delivered on the hype that preceded them, but apparently they were just warming us up for the third. Because the series went up several levels on Sunday night and probably left many out there thankful there are seven more to come.

Perhaps it should have been expected, knowing this was the Dennis Rodman episode. He was not only a great player, but one of the more enigmatic personalities sports has ever seen.

Rodman also has a unique backstory including two years, as he called it "living on the streets. He said his mother kicked him out of the house when he was 18 and he was essentially homeless until he was 20. During that time, Rodman says, he hung around drug dealers but was able to keep his nose clean and emerge to have a Hall of Fame basketball career.

In addition to a Rodman deep dive, the third episode chronicled Michael Jordan's emergence as the NBA's best player and the Bulls rise as champions. The storylines intertwined well as Rodman was on the Detroit Pistons team in the 1980s that Jordan and the Bulls had to overcome in order to take over the league.

2. The episode began with Rodman describing his philosophy as a basketball player and it included an exceptional quote. 

 

"I want to go out there and get my nose broke. I want to go out there and get cut," Rodman said. "I want to do something that will bring out the hurt, bring out the pain. I want to feel that."

Many athletes say they would do anything to win or to help their team. But Rodman embodied that on the basketball floor by diving for rebounds and doing the dirty work others didn't want to do.

As the episode detailed, however, there were moments in Rodman's career where his trademark energy and effort wasn't there. That included a stretch in the beginning of the 1997-98 season when Scottie Pippen was out recovering from surgery. 

And that brought us a great behind-the-scenes story about the night after Rodman was ejected from a game. With Pippen out, Rodman left Jordan hanging and he wasn't happy about it.

So, Rodman apologized by walking to Jordan's hotel room and asking him if he had an extra cigar. Jordan said he never actually apologized, but he knew what the gesture meant and from then on Rodman's demeanor on the court was completely different.

That's exactly the type of backstory we were all hoping for from this documentary series.

3. Part of Jordan and the Bulls' rise included the three years Doug Collins served as head coach and his tenure provided some of this episode's best moments. Like, during Collins' coaching debut when late in the game he looked nervous and Jordan handed him a cup of wathcer and told him: "coach, I'm not gonna let you lose your first game." Jordan then took the game over and delivered the win.

There was also the time Jordan walked out of practice because he thought Collins was cheating the score to make him lose. They then made up the next day in front of the media by kissing each other on the cheek.

And the episode also showed us a press conference following a playoff game where Collins said of Jordan's late-game heroics that the play he called was: "give the ball to Michael and get the f--- out of the way."

4. One of the best parts of Episode Three was an extended look at the Bulls-Cavaliers series in 1989 that gave us 'The Shot' where Jordan hit one of his most famous buzzer-beaters. Hat tip to the ESPN editors, too, for basically showing us the final sequence of the game as it played out in real time. We saw how the game went back-and-forth down the stretch to set up Jordan's shot over Craig Ehlo.

We also learned that Jordan was surprised to have Ehlo guarding him.  

"They had Craig Ehlo on me at the time and, honestly, that was a mistake," Jordan said.

Jordan thought Ehlo's teammate, Ron Harper, would have been a tougher match-up. Harper, of course, went on to join Jordan for the second three-peat in Chicago.

We also learned a funny anecdote from before the game where Jordan went up to the Bulls' three main beat writers and rubbed predictions they made in their faces. One predicted the Bulls would lose in three games, one in four games and the other in five. So, before Game 5, Jordan pointed them out individually, saying: "we took care of you, we took care of you and we'll take care of you today."

 

5. ESPN is playing the uncensored version of the documentary on their main channel and the one with bleeps on ESPN2. The first night, though, featured few cuss words.

Episode Three made up for it. There were so many F-bombs and, on a related note, so many great quotes. The fact ESPN is airing the uncut version is interesting and, one can imagine, something they have never done before, at least to this extent. 

If you don't have a problem with swear words, the ESPN version is much better. Just maybe put your kids to sleep first.

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