Sugar and spice and everything…colorful, spicy, bold, up, down, left right B, A, B, A select start…BOOM...ladies and gentleman we give you Dennis Rodman! Ahhhhh…where to start where to start? Shall we jump right into the subtleties of, oh say, Hall of Fame induction speeches? Championship rings?? Pick a card any card…all jokes aside the man has proven to be one of the games’ greatest players to ever float atop the hardwood and he also has some pretty interesting stories to tell beyond basketball…as in, WAY beyond basketball! Let us focus, for a bit, on basketball and what this game did for the life of someone who came from a pretty dark and challenging past. There certainly was a little ray of light cast down upon a darkened corridor in the life of Dennis Rodman…or shall we say a spotlight, not a ray of light, a spotlight?
Dennis was born in New Jersey and his father, Philander, left him and the rest of his large family when Dennis was just a wee three years old. This was especially hard on his mother, Shirley, who was left to raise Dennis and his 2 younger sisters. As Dennis grew up he did express an interest in sports but was always just sort of average at all of his endeavors due to his smaller stature. He, himself, has been quoted as labeling himself as just sort of “regular”. Through high school Rodman made several attempts to join the varsity basketball squad but always came up short, literally, being that he was a sub-par player standing just under 5ft, 11in! Upon leaving high school he was up against the wayward, lost puppy dog, syndrome and was having a hard time finding his spot in this world. He bounced around from job to job and at one point he landed a job as a janitor for the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. An example of trotting down the wrong path would be the time he, on a dare from a friend, stuck the handle from his mop through a gift shop grate and stole fifteen watches (at this airport job). According Playboy Magazine, "he was arrested and jailed for a night and released after he told the cops where the watches were." Naturally this incident became water under the bridge but it contributed to the problems Rodman was having with his “lost at sea” lifestyle. Shirley, Dennis’ mom, was outraged with this arrest and his flat out inability to “grow up” and be a man. Shirley was clearly at her end with the antics of her son and threw an ultimatum at him. He simply had to make a choice… he could either sign up for college, find another job or join the military... just like Philander. So Dennis chose not to choose and being that there was no response his mother packed up his belongings and kicked him out of the house.
Right around this point in Dennis’ life he began to “beanpole” and he hit an incredible growth spurt that brought his height to an impressive six foot eight…Although Rodman later stated that he's really only six foot six! It was at this moment that he developed a new lease on life and entered Cooke County Junior College in Dallas, where he played basketball for a year. This stint was just long enough for him to be noticed by the coach at Southeastern Oklahoma State University. He then entered on a basketball scholarship in 1983. During his run in Oklahoma, Dennis led the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) in rebounding, averaging over sixteen boards per game in 1985 and almost eighteen per contest in 1986. Sound like an interesting spin on what lies ahead??
All of a sudden this once “regular” baller was stirring pots that hadn’t even had time to boil. He was creating a stir that was turning the heads of scouts across the board. So, sure enough, The Detroit Pistons picked up Rodman in the second round of the 1986 NBA Draft. Rodman was sure to fit in with Coach Chuck Daly’s aggressive line-up. It didn’t take very long for the Pistons to take control of the NBA. The Pistons then won back to back national championships in 1989 and 1990. Rodman achieved Defensive Player of the Year honors in 1990 and 1991, and, more importantly had finally found himself driving straight and hard on his newly paved road. Now, there were clearly some reasons why Detroit wasn’t a final resting spot for this now on fire baller. The team was slowly starting to fall apart at the seams and players began getting traded off. Being that this was his first true taste of the business behind sports he grew skeptical of how this whole game works. He certainly wasn’t bashful about expressing his true feelings about how the NBA was handling its players saying such things as “this ‘business’ is rotten. Shortly after this he was heading back to his new home state of Texas with the San Antonio Spurs. Once there he, again, led the league in rebounding and helped drive the bus to another NBA playoff run.
Sounds like a new found life of budding roses, right? However, Rodman’s disgust with the business end of the NBA began to pour a foundation of disenchantment and distrust. It was at this time that he began thrusting towards a troublemaker status as he began to be public about his frustrations with the league and the overall system. This would thrust us into the age of dyeing his hair, getting tattoos and piercings…but this was not a reason to label Rodman a problem. He took no issue with voicing his problems with the league in front of the media, and he began to act out. This was the start of getting into altercations with players and referees and even, at one point, headbutted a referee and got suspended for eleven games. Another issue was his, more often than not, interruption of play due to his numerous unnecessary technical fouls.
So change was in the forecast yet again. In 1995, Rodman was traded to the Chicago Bulls for Will Perdue which would certainly cause a forever rift in the world of basketball. Enter a new galaxy for professional sports and especially the Windy City! The magician of the rebound was now hard at work for Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen! Enter the championship ring of 1997! It was at this time that the off-court antics of Dennis Rodman were reaching tabloid strength and the word was out that he was one of the most heavily watched player away from the hardwood. The now superstar was no stranger (at this point) to a high profile relationship. He was “dating” Madonna but this all SUPPOSEDLY came to a close due in part to Madonna wanting the two to tie the knot and Rodman refused. Shortly after this relationship run Rodman made a guest appearance on “Baywatch” and started to tangle with Carmen Elektra. After a quick and crazy (and quite public) dating period the pair were married in 1998 but were divorced shortly thereafter.
As Rodman’s career and life in general was now surpassing the tabloid status he found himself seeking new paths once again. A pretty grand example of this was Rodman’s stint as a professional wrestler. Yes, you read that correctly. We jumped from sweeping floors at an airport, to the NBA to the wrestling ring. Sure, there were many blanks filled in along the way but that surely is a fun way to look at things right? Who remembers the 1997 of wrestler Rodman? He joined the WCW (World Championship Wrestling) and in this same year starred in the motion picture Double Team! Wait…quick, add that to the list! Ready: Sweeping floors at an airport to NBA superstar to pro wrestler to movie star! Yes, acting was officially a thing! He had a bit part in Eddie with Whoopi Goldberg in 1996. Though his feature performance in DOUBLE TEAM was a less than knockout debut, Rodman felt he was on to something. He followed up this debut with roles in Simon Sez (1999) and Cutaway (2000). But this new found profession was not limited to the big screen! He then joined the cast of the TV series, Soldier of Fortune (1997), and signed a sweet deal with MTV for a show that followed him around (the deal was for 20 episodes). Sure there were more on-screen appearances but as far as the “big picture” was concerned some decisions were about to be made. The accumulation of these “extra-curricular” activities was starting to take their toll on Rodman's NBA presence. Throw into the mix a bestselling book, Bad As I Wanna Be, (1996), and then another book: Walk on the Wild Side (1997), and it was at this point that it was becoming crystal clear that he was wearing himself out.
In true Rodman style he continued to press on. In 1998, he was picked up by the LA Lakers, who were super excited about adding this caliber of a rebounding game to their plan. However, the now personality of this great baller was a huge clash with the team. Actually, at this point, his “personality” wasn’t seemingly fit for the NBA in general. After only twenty-three games with the Lakers, he was cut when the head office ran out of patience. Again, moving forward as only a superstar power forward can, he joined the Dallas Mavericks in the year 2000. The Mavs released him after a short twenty nine days and Rodman’s realization of life going full full-circle to the town where he grew up, had led to his retiring from basketball.
To tie this all together; Dennis Rodman loves the image he created and his ability to truly be himself . He has often been quoted that he views himself as a being “beyond an athlete” and someone who is actually an entertainer. "I tried something bold," he told Playboy magazine, referring to his lifestyle. "I created something that everyone has been afraid of … the Dennis Rodman I was born to be."
Quite honestly it really doesn’t matter where your “lifestyle” opinions sit when it comes to the Worm…some fans of the game and critics think Rodman's behavior should negate his high standing. Whether they find it absurd or entertaining, the numbers he achieved as a rebounder during his fourteen seasons in the NBA speak for themselves and clearly can shut down any opposing argument. He's been compared in his rebounding prowess with the likeness of Wilt Chamberlain, Moses Malone, and Bill Russell, all of whom had a clear height and weight advantage over the shorter, slimmer Rodman…Clearly, numbers don’t lie.