NBA Great Dennis Rodman Was The True, Underappreciated Star Of ‘The Last Dance’

The Last Dance, which concluded its ten-episode run on Netflix on Monday, promised unprecedented insight into the Chicago Bulls and the forces which animate superstar Michael Jordan. Yet some reviewers can’t help but feel the documentary series underlined what was already known about Jordan, a monomaniac prepared to punish opponents, and teammates, on the path to athletic immortality.

I knew jack shit about Jordan or the Bulls going in, and I’ve spoken a bit about my ignorance here. Now that I’ve completed the series, clocked Jordan’s NBA titles and his innumerable personal accolades, I’ve formed my own opinion on The Last Dance: they should have focused on Dennis Rodman instead.

The facts don’t speak for themselves. Rodman wasn’t just an integral part of that title-winning squad, a power forward who helped Jordan & Co. win three of their six trophies. He was one of the most enigmatic players the league has ever seen.

Was there a class I missed? Did I exist in a bubble where the only sports star was Weet-Bix ambassador Brett Lee? Was popular culture incapable of even handling Rodman, to the point nobody thought to tell me?

Why is the most fascinating athlete in living memory effectively tasked with outlining someone else’s story?

via Chicago Tribune / TNS / Sipa USA

It feels asinine to slap spoiler tags on events more than twenty years in the past, but to me, the basketball idiot, every Rodman Moment felt like a genuine revelation, a new impossibility underpinning the Bulls’ surreal success.

If anything, The Last Dance makes Rodman look like a bizarro world version of Jordan himself.

When director Jason Hehir looks back to MJ’s youth, we see a competitor drawn to basketball as a form of exerting dominance. We see Rodman tumble into the sport after a late-in-life growth spurt and an extended period of homelessness.

Jordan, the tireless scorer, built a basketball stadium to sharpen his game while filming Space Jam. Rodman, a defensive legend, jetted to Las Vegas with Carmen Electra during the Bulls’ 1997-1998 title defending season.

The Last Dance shows Jordan chafe against his perception as a clean-cut ad spokesperson. More than once, Rodman rolls around in a cap emblazoned with the word “Bong.”

The series also serves as a highlight reel of Jordan’s baggy suits, each big enough to clothe himself and Australian centre Luc Longley simultaneously. It dedicates roughly three seconds to the time Dennis Rodman wore a wedding dress and declared he was marrying Dennis Rodman.

via Evan Agostini / Getty Images

The show wouldn’t have been possible without Jordan’s blessing, as Hehir has admitted, meaning we are led to believe that his brutal and singular focus was the only method of obtaining NBA greatness. Yet Rodman, who spends a considerable amount of time simply fucking around, earns Jordan’s trust through his undeniable abilities on the court (wear what you want, as long as you get the job done – a true inspiration for the socially distanced).

Jordan is alternately referred to as Black Jesus, the Black Cat, or, simply, Jordan. Rodman goes by The Worm. I’m not sure how much clearer I can make this.

I’ll leave you with the closing moments of the final episode, in which former US President Barack Obama ruminates on how Jordan blurred the lines of athletic stardom to become a cultural phenomenon.

Rodman was right there, landing Rolling Stone covers, wrestling with Hulk Hogan, dating Madonna, and turning contested rebounds into an art form. The man is a pop culture polymath. Save the last dance for him.