How Dennis Rodman’s Basketball Hall of Fame is ahead of its time

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20 years have passed since his last NBA game, but Dennis Rodman has again become a hot topic for sports enthusiasts. He is a featured character in the just released third episode Last dance, a documentary series about the Michael Jordan Bulls Dynasty, which has did a wonderful job fill a hole in our hearts where there used to be live sport.

What made (and continues to do) Rodman so interesting is that he has so many different things for so many different people. Regardless of your likes, dislikes, interests, prejudices or worldviews, the Worm has something for you – positive or negative (or both). Here are some of the things that made Rodman one of the most colorful (literally) athletes of all time:

He was a good basketball player.

Rodman could not really score – he scored an average of 7.3 points per game for his career and hacked double-digit numbers for the season only once. Thus, he made his bones, highlighting two things that most players do not like to do: rebound and defense. This is the dirty work of basketball. You need talent to be effective, but it’s more about energy, desire and stamina — three things Rodman had at his peak.

He was also smart enough to understand that he could occupy his niche here, and devoted enough to devote himself to the dark arts of the game. As he says in the documentary, Rodman spent hours in the gym without taking a shot. He has a friend who launches hundreds of bricks so he can learn how the ball bounces off the rim and shield from all possible angles, and practice pulling it out of the air.

Rodman’s mastery of glass attracted him to the basketball players, his teammates and (sometimes reluctantly) opponents. He was one of those with whom no one likes to play. This is high praise in professional sports.

It was not easy to play with Rodman, as the New York Knicks star Patrick Ewing could attest. (Vincent Laforet / AFP via Getty Images)

He was a winner

Rodman has won five championships in 14 NBA seasons. He was one of the key sponsors of the two most famous teams of all time: Bad Boy Pistons, who won titles in a row in 1989 and 90, and the second stage of Jordan Bulls, who won three in a row from ’96 to ’98 after MJ returned from his first resignation.

Rodman’s rebuilding and defending were really important to these teams. Candidates for the championship need such things. But it worked in a different way: these teams were ideally suited to Rodman. His more subtle skills could go unnoticed in a mediocre team. But he was both lucky and kind, laying the foundation for all the fame that came in his way.

He was a good teammate – even when he was a bad teammate

There is a story in Jordan Bulls’ document that truly reflects this dichotomy. At the beginning of the 1997-98 season, Rodman had to strengthen his game (and maintain his best behavior) to compensate for the absence of Scotty Pippen, who was recovering from ankle surgery. By the way, Pippen himself was a bad teammate: angry with the “bulls” for a terrible contract, he postponed the operation so as not to “spoil my summer.”

Be that as it may, when Pippen returned, Rodman was worn out – and he felt uneasy that he was no longer Jordan’s right hand. So he went to train Phil Jackson with a bold request: give me a full week so that I can unwind in Vegas. Jackson gave him 48 hours. Rodman (apparently the owner of the Overton Window) probably spent spending the time on this party for the week, which he extended for an agreed 48 hours. But he came on time for the first practice after he returned. And he sprinkled his teammates with a running training designed to punish him. The essence of the story? At the end of the day (or a two-day conspiracy), Jordan and the Bulls knew they could count on him.

He came from nothing

Rodman grew up poor (and shy) in housing projects in Dallas with his mother and two sisters. His father left when he was three years old. Neighboring boys scoffed at him, and he was not a big athlete in high school. His gloomy realization: “I thought I would be in prison,” he told ESPN Jackie McMallan. 2019 story, “I thought I would become a drug dealer or die. These were my options. ”

After he graduated from high school and did not immediately get a job, Rodman’s mother kicked him out. For the next couple of years, he slept on couches with friends and worked on casual jobs. He also played basketball every day. And he grew a few inches. This led him to a team at a small college in Oklahoma, where he stood out enough to get 27th overall in the 1986 NBA Draft in Detroit. When Rodman made his NBA debut this fall, he was already 25 years old – a late flowering in every sense.

He was not afraid to say things

Today’s athletes, in general, will not even touch on slightly controversial topics (which is understandable – now there is so much money at stake). Really sensitive questions like race and their personal sexuality? Forget it. But not Rodman.

After his rookie season ended with the Pistons losing to Boston in the finals of the Eastern Conference, Rodman warmly told reporters that the Celtics star Larry Bird owes his popularity to being white. Reporters attributed this to Pistons star Ishii Thomas, who responded with her notorious “If [Bird] were black, he would just be another good guy. ” Good, so it’s a bit. Bird is objectively one of the best basketball players in history. But (especially considering the composition of the crowd in the city in which he played), did his fame reach a different level because of his race? This is a debate that intelligent people have been leading for decades, and a bold thing that Rodman had to raise in public.

Rodman also said some interesting things in his 1996 book Bad how I wanna be and a subsequent interview with Oprah. Keep in mind that almost two decades have passed before the US Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, and also long before any active player in a major North American sports league publicly appeared. Rodman said he dreamed of becoming bisexual, although he denied that he had ever acted in accordance with these desires. However, a rather revolutionary discovery for that time.

Rodman showed in his 1996 book that he dreamed of becoming bisexual. (Jeff Haines / AFP via Getty Images)

He pulled a lot of tricks

We already covered Vegas Bender. Rodman’s ever-changing hair color – and the weird designs he put in – have always been a topic of conversation back in the 90s. There was also a time when he advertised his book, announcing that he had married … and then appeared in a wedding dress and explained that he had married himself. He also appeared naked (using a strategically located basketball) on the cover of a book. More recently, Rodman made friends with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in an (alleged) attempt to make peace with the United States.

Old-school amateurs never liked such things, many of whom despised Rodman for always attracting attention. But he knew how to press the buttons of people. And how to stand out. What led to …

He became a real celebrity

Few athletes make the leap to dominant fame – the one your average just as easily recognizes Entertainment tonight viewer like hardcore Sports Complex fan. But Rodman did. He dated Madonna and married model / actress Carmen Electra, who was probably a version of Kardashian in the late 90s. He was interviewed by Barbara Walters, which at that time was of great importance. Let’s just say: if you asked a sports fan to name two bulls, they could say Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. If you asked your grandmother, she probably would have answered Michael Jordan and Denis Rodman.

He has a dark side

It wasn’t all the fun and games with Rodman. There was a time when he hit a guy with a camera on a site in an area where you can not beat people. This caused him to be suspended in 11 games, and he also served six games for the referee’s head hight.

An even more alarming incident occurred in 1993, when one night an excited friend called the police and asked them to track down Rodman. They found him in the garage of the Pistons, sitting in his truck with a rifle. Rodman later said that he thought about suicide before falling asleep.

Rodman also has a history of domestic violence. He and Electra were arrested and charged with a battery after a fight with each other at the Miami hotel in the late 90s. Rodman was also arrested and charged in 2008 for allegedly hitting his girlfriend at the time. He said he drank too much that night, and Rodman continues to fight alcohol addiction.

So Rodman is clearly not a saint. But it’s interesting to think about how you can handle (and cover with) him today. We hope that his cases of domestic violence will be taken more seriously, and it is doubtful that he will get away with as many parties as he did, given how many disciplined athletes began to take care of their body (and their public images).

But Rodman may also have found greater acceptance in the modern world, given how society tends to be inclusive and to better understand the problems of drug addiction and mental health. Maybe that would change his behavior. Maybe he would not have become so famous. But perhaps he would have found more happiness.

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