Silver Screen Artists

Dennis Rodman: High School Benchwarmer to the NBA Draft

Go to page 1

Dennis Keith Rodman was born on May 13, 1961 in Trenton, New Jersey. Rodman was the product of an unstable household. He was the son of Shirley and Philander Rodman, Jr., an Air Force enlisted member, who later fought in the Vietnam War. When he was young, his father left his family, eventually settling in the Philippines.  Rodman has many brothers and sisters: according to his father, he has either 26 or 28 siblings on his father's side. However, Rodman himself has stated that he is the oldest of a total of 47 children. Hmmmm...

After his father left, Shirley took many odd jobs to support the family, up to four at the same time. In his 1997 biography Bad As I Wanna Be, he expresses his feelings for his father: "I haven't seen my father in more than 30 years, so what's there to miss ... I just look at it like this: Some man brought me into this world. That doesn't mean I have a father".  (He would not meet his father again until 2012.)...

Rodman and his two sisters, Debra and Kim, grew up in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas, at the time one of the most impoverished areas of the city. Rodman was so attached to his mother that he refused to move when she sent him to a nursery when he was four years old. According to Rodman, his mom was more interested in his two sisters, who were both considered more talented than he was in basketball, and made him a laughing stock whenever he tagged along with them. He felt generally "overwhelmed" by the all-female household.  Debra and Kim would go on to become All-Americans at Louisiana Tech and Stephen F. Austin, respectively. Debra won two national titles with the Lady Techsters.



While attending South Oak Cliff High School, Rodman was a gym class student of future Texas A&M basketball coach Gary Blair. Blair coached Rodman's sisters Debra and Kim, winning three state championships. However, Rodman was not considered an athletic standout. According to Rodman, he was "unable to hit a layup" and was listed in the high school basketball teams, but was either benched or cut from the squads. Measuring only 5 ft 6 in. as a freshman in high school, he also failed to make the football teams and was "totally devastated".  After finishing school, Rodman worked as an overnight janitor at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport. He then experienced a sudden growth spurt and decided to try basketball again despite becoming even more withdrawn because he felt odd in his own body...




After graduating high school in 1979, Rodman's future appeared uncertain. He found work where he could, including a janitor position at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. In his off-time, though, he could be found at local basketball courts, where the now 6-7 player, was a force.

Through a family friend, Rodman's exploits soon caught the attention of the coaches at Cooke County Junior College in Gainesville, Texas, who offered Rodman the chance to attend the school. He accepted and to nobody's surprise, proved to be a dominant player for the program.

But Rodman couldn't keep up with the schoolwork and after a year, flunked out. Still, his play hadn't gone unnoticed, and he was soon invited to enroll at Southeastern Oklahoma State.


Rodman's on-the-court tenacity overwhelmed opponents, and during his three years at the school he averaged close to 26 points and 16 rebounds per game. In the 1986 NBA draft, the Detroit Pistons made the gangly but overly athletic 25-year-old Rodman a second round pick...And I believe most of us know what happened from here. NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman certainly traveled a rough road plagued by a down-in-the-dumps upbringing...But you can tell his love and his passion drove his mission...


(Citation Information: Article Title: Dennis Rodman Biography
Author: Editors)

Go to page 1