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Dennis Rodman's NBA Legacy Will Never Remove His Bad Boy Image

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Rodman was a unique character in the Jordan-era NBA, an unheralded player who did the dirtiest jobs on the Bad Boy Pistons to Chicago Bulls before reinventing himself as a hair-dyeing, ref-abusing, dress-wearing cartoon.

Rodman was a unique character in the Jordan-era NBA, an unheralded player who did the dirtiest jobs on the Bad Boy Pistons to Chicago Bulls before reinventing himself as a hair-dyeing, ref-abusing, dress-wearing cartoon.

Michael Jordan will be remembered as the greatest basketball player to ever step on the court, Scottie Pippen as the ultimate wingman, and Dennis Rodman will be remembered for having the worst character of any player to ever play in the NBA.
Rodman is either loved or despised. If he didn't play for a team you supported, chances are you despise him. Dennis Rodman rose from the ranks of the Bad Boy Pistons to become a Bulls legend. He had one of the most unusual career arcs in NBA history. The Hall of Fame forward would eventually become known for his bravado and wacky alter egos, but that was not how Rodman began his basketball career. ESPN, with one of the episodes focusing on Rodman's role in the Bulls dynasty in the late 1990s. Before delving into Rodman's impact in Chicago, let's take a look at his overall career trajectory, from a former Bad Boy and Bulls rival to a Windy City icon. His antics cost the NBA a bad reputation, and he was openly hostile to everyone and everything when he played. Rodman was a unique character in the Jordan-era NBA, an unheralded player who did the dirtiest jobs on the Bad Boy Pistons before reinventing himself as a hair-dyeing, ref-abusing, dress-wearing cartoon. He was the league's most divisive figure, but The Last Dance demonstrates that Rodman was ahead of his time, not just in terms of tattoos and piercings, but also in his determination to be exactly who he wanted to be. To their credit, the Bulls got it. Dennis was strange, but what made it work on the court was Phil and Michael's understanding that to make it work on the court, you had to give him some rope. Even after he left the league, his numerous arrests and problems did nothing but reinforce the bad boy persona he developed while playing. His appearances on reality shows such as The Celebrity Apprentice only add to his negative image. The more we learn about Rodman, the fewer people like him. It's not fair to say that it's the tattoos or piercings that turn people off. Most people, I believe, are accepting enough to accept a likable person with an edgy exterior. Rodman is not likable in the least. If someone as clean-cut as Derek Fisher acted like Rodman, he'd get the same infamous rep. To say he's just being himself is a load of fecal issues. That's a lame excuse. If he's just being himself, he should be locked up in a mental institution. People are expected to behave in certain ways in society. Imagine if you acted as he did on the court at your job. His character also has nothing to do with it. Rodman enjoys being in the spotlight, and despite his troubled past, he is still well-liked. He's done nothing to demonstrate that he's changed since retiring and never made a concerted effort to improve his public image. He was known as a bad guy when he played and has done nothing to demonstrate that he has taken the necessary steps to change his life. Even if he went through a series of drastic changes and spent the rest of his life trying to repair his image, the damage was done. We'll always remember him as the NBA's bad boy, and it's difficult to believe he cares.

Rodman is one of ten players to have won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award twice, in 1989-90 and 1990-91.

Rodman is one of ten players to have won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award twice, in 1989-90 and 1990-91.

The Late bloomer

Rodman's basketball career began in many ways eerily similar to that of future Bulls teammate Scottie Pippen. Rodman was raised in the Dallas area, and his father abandoned the family when he was a child. His mother had to work multiple jobs to provide for him and his two younger sisters, Debra and Kim. Dennis' path was not nearly as public in nature. Rodman worked as a janitor at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport after graduating from high school before pursuing basketball due to a late growth spurt. Rodman attended what is now North Central Texas College for a semester before being forced to leave due to academic issues. On the other hand, was given another chance at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, an NAIA school. Rodman, like Pippen, eventually emerged as one of the best NAIA players in the country, and he began to garner serious NBA attention. Rodman's sisters were the family's standout athletes. Debra would go on to become an All-American and win two NCAA national championships at Louisiana Tech, while Kim would go on to be an All-American at Stephen F. Austin. Rodman would end up in the ideal situation, as fate would have it.

The Bad Boys
Rodman was selected by the Detroit Pistons in the second round of the 1986 NBA Draft, and it did not take long for him to establish himself as a key piece in Detroit's future. Rodman had the good fortune to play for the legendary Chuck Daly, a demanding force of nature who demanded the best from his players and sought to impose his team's will on opponents through a stifling defense. The young Rodman would become a key cog for the team that would later be known as the "Bad Boys."He was only 6'7" tall, but he was one of the NBA's most athletic wing defenders, and his length allowed him to guard multiple positions. Between 1988 and 1992, he was named to the All-Defensive First Team four times." The Worm" won Defensive Player of the Year awards in 1990 and 1991 while also scoring and rebounding for a Pistons team that reached three straight NBA Finals at the end of the 1980s and early 1990s.

Furthermore, Rodman was a thorn in the side of the Chicago Bulls, harassing Pippen and Michael Jordan during their playoff battles. While Rick Mahorn and Bill Laimbeer were the intimidating rim protectors, Rodman was the annoying pest who would play mind games and swarm ball-handlers. Rodman had not only carved a lane for himself in the NBA, but he had also become one of the league's most valuable players. However, while Rodman would continue to be productive after his Pistons years, the perception of him began to shift.

"The Worm" transforms into "Dennis The Menace."
When Daly resigned as head coach in May 1992, Rodman's career took a turn for the worse. Rodman lost the closest thing he had to a father figure when Daly resigned, and marital problems added to the stress. Rodman even considered suicide. Rodman eventually asked for a trade, and the Pistons traded him to the San Antonio Spurs. Rodman's persona began to change at this point. When he first began dying his hair in San Antonio, his off-court antics began to garner as much attention as his incredible rebounding instincts. He also slapped several players, including former Bulls forward Stacey King.

Rodman will appear on Celebrity Apprentice alongside Donald Trump.

Rodman will appear on Celebrity Apprentice alongside Donald Trump.

Rodman defending Dikembe Mutombo in 1996.

Rodman defending Dikembe Mutombo in 1996.

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Rodman led the NBA in rebounding in each of his two seasons

In San Antonio, he also had a contentious relationship with the Spurs front office, which resulted in suspensions and constant bickering between the two sides. Then in 1995, the Spurs reached the Western Conference Finals but were defeated by Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets. However, Rodman's career would resume in the fall of 1995.

The ideal "third star"
Rodman had proven by this point in his career that he could have an impact on the game without scoring or even having the ball in his hands. As a result, he was an ideal fit for the Bulls. With Jordan playing minor league baseball, Chicago failed to reach the NBA Finals in 1994, and his return in 1995 could not save them. Bulls General Manager Jerry Krause recognized the team's need for toughness and defense in the frontcourt, so he struck a deal with the Spurs in exchange for Rodman.

This would be one of the best moves in franchise history.

In Chicago, Rodman was the ideal "third star." Though Rodman's penchant for troublemaking remained—he threw another head butt at Jordan—he knew his role and played it to perfection, feeding off Jordan and Pippen while bringing unrivaled desire to a team looking to reclaim their place at the top of the NBA.

Despite Rodman's penchant for causing havoc, he threw another headbutt at a ref he dominated the offensive glass and set the tone for Chicago's defense.

The Bulls would win the NBA championship in 1995-96 after a historic 72-10 season

Despite being in the final year of his contract, Rodman would return for two more seasons and a three-peat. Rodman reciprocated the affection. He became well-known for giving away his jerseys after each game. Though Rodman's career was effectively over following his stint with the Bulls, that stint cemented his place among the game's greatest players and forever endeared him to a fan base that once despised him for his role with the "Bad Boy" Pistons.

Rodman had one career triple-double for the Bulls (January 16, 1996). He was the oldest player in Bulls history to record a triple-double at the age of 34. Only Pau Gasol, 35, had done it at an older age since then.

Rodman had one career triple-double for the Bulls (January 16, 1996). He was the oldest player in Bulls history to record a triple-double at the age of 34. Only Pau Gasol, 35, had done it at an older age since then.

Strange Facts About NBA Legend Dennis Rodman

  • He once conducted a radio interview while having oral sex. Rodman's refusal to go down on Madonna was the juiciest tidbit in Bad As I Wanna Be, but when it comes to his own pleasure, he has fewer boundaries: in 2013, Rodman called into a sports radio station to discuss the Miami Heat's team chemistry, only for listeners to discover he was engaged in a rarely attempted form of multitasking.
  • For many, Rodman's style was shocking. It captivated some people. Others despise it. However, there is no denying its influence. Given the recent run of episodes from ESPN's multi-part documentary, The Last Dance, we began to wonder just how legendary The Worm's style truly was. Whether you like it or not, Rodman was a trailblazer even if he didn't realize it, as some of his fashion cues, such as nail polish, choker chains, and gender-neutral clothing, set trends.
  • To say that Rodman is unique is probably an understatement. In his prime, he was raking in rebounds with slime green hair as a member of some of the league's most important teams. He "married himself," so he attended a book signing in a wedding gown, and he competed in professional wrestling matches. On the red carpets of events, he wore women's clothing. Following his induction into the Hall of Fame, the legend became a spokesman for ostentatious brands such as Von Dutch and Ed Hardy.
  • During the Finals, he skipped practice to attend a professional wrestling event.
    The Last Dance focuses on Rodman's habit of blowing off steam in Vegas whenever he felt like it. During the 1998 Finals, however, Rodman took a vacation of a different kind, skipping a mandatory film session to appear alongside Hulk Hogan at a WCW event in Michigan.
  • He interrupted a Pearl Jam show and stayed onstage for 45 minutes.
    Rodman, a longtime Pearl Jam fan, leaped onstage during the band's 1998 Dallas tour stop and remained there, drunk and shirtless, for the majority of their set. Rodman eventually left the band after attempting to perform backing vocals on "Courduroy" and "Alive."
  • He was once fined $50,000 for making disparaging remarks about Mormons.
    Rodman received the largest player fine in NBA history the same night as Michael Jordan's iconic "flu game" against the Utah Jazz for complaining about the "fucking Mormons" in the stands, which violated the league's hate speech policy. "If I had known it was a religious deal, I would never have said it," he later explained.
  • Post-NBA, one of his closest friends was film director Penny Marshall.
    Marshall's frequent courtside presence at NBA games led to the pair becoming friends, and they would spend Thanksgiving together. Marshall was working on a documentary about Rodman at the time of her death in 2018, which had been in the works since 2012. "I think she saw a little of herself in Dennis because she, too, had been through difficult times," Marshall's son-in-law told THR.
  • His best friend in the league was a preppy UCLA glue guy.
    During his eight seasons in the NBA, Jack Haley was primarily an end-of-the-rotation big man. According to Bulls beat writer Sam Smith, "he had a set shot and couldn't really jump, didn't see the floor that well, handle the ball, or even take his sweats off effectively." (And that was in his obituary!) But Haley stayed in the league in part because he was "the only person who speaks fluent Rodman."The two first met in San Antonio, where Rodman invited Haley and his wife on a double date to a gay bar, where Haley was impressed with his unflappability. They were so close that when the Bulls acquired Rodman, they brought Haley along with them to ease his transition. He only played in one game during the championship season of 1996, but he proved his worth in the Finals by convincing Rodman not to quit before the pivotal Game 6 — allegedly by promising him a fun afterparty.
  • He was once late for a stadium opening due to hair dyeing.
    Rodman's new lease on life was exemplified by his experiments with outrageous hairstyles. Rodman's first attempt coincided with the opening of San Antonio's Alamodome, where he arrived 30 minutes late and sporting a platinum-blonde look. "The bleach job took too long," he reflected.
  • He was fired from Celebrity Apprentice after spelling Melania Trump's name incorrectly. Rodman has kicked off the long-running reality show three years before the Slovenian model became First Lady when his team misspelled her name "Milania" on a poster for her skin-care line.
  • During a preseason game, he headbutted the Spurs' mascot, the Coyote.
    "I bring excitement to the game," he explained later. "I, like many fans, get bored with basketball at times." So I do things to make it more interesting for both me and them."
  • Rodman had three games in a three-week span in late 1993 in which he grabbed over 24 rebounds but scored zero points.
    The third episode of The Last Dance features a hilarious sequence in which Rodman explains his knack for grabbing errant balls. Never was his "relentless, kamikaze, no-holds-barred pursuit of missed shots" more evident than in his rookie season with the San Antonio Spurs, when he combined an ultra-hot stretch on the boards with absolutely no scoring. (He only attempted seven shots in those three games.) His masterpiece came in a game against the Hornets on December 1, when he had a 0-28-3 statline — the most rebounds ever for a player who didn't score.
  • He lived with Mavericks owner Mark Cuban while playing for the team. Rodman's final NBA season was a month with the Dallas Mavericks in 2000. Depending on who you ask, he was signed for his rebounding ability or to help with ticket sales, but Cuban was so excited about Rodman's arrival that he let him stay in his guest house. Rodman was let go after 12 games, and while there were a few jabs aimed at Cuban — "He doesn't need to be hanging around the players like he's a coach or something" — there were no hard feelings. Rodman is credited with teaching Cuban how to gain media attention.
  • He would drive into downtown Detroit early in his NBA career and hand out $100 bills to the homeless.
    In 1990, he told the New York Times, "There are a lot of people out there who are more deserving of this money." "You can't help everyone, but you can help a few." I'm now worth millions. What's $250? ”
  • His retirement routine included a night at the strip club, an early-morning Starbucks run, an Equinox session, and days of sleeping. A depressing portrait of Rodman's post-playing life was painted in a 2013 Broward New Times profile. "We only go to like five places," Rodman's girlfriend told the paper.
  • He once removed his shoes and sat on the bench to read a magazine.
    Rodman was so mentally checked out by the end of his time in Detroit that Michael Wilbon wrote after one game that he looked "like he was sitting on the lido deck of a cruise ship waiting for the cabin steward to deliver a gin and juice... As God is my witness, Dennis Rodman was reading a magazine." Throughout the game! As he was at B. Dalton’s.”.
  • He was a late bloomer Rodman's background is mentioned in the documentary, but it's worth going over in detail. He went unrecruited by college programs as a sub-six-foot high schooler who grew up in poverty, and after graduation worked a series of odd jobs, most notably as a janitor at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, where he was fired for stealing watches on a dare. Then he got lucky: a late growth spurt propelled him to six feet, eight inches. Rodman received a scholarship to Southeastern Oklahoma State, a Division II school, after a year of junior college. He was 25 years old when he was selected by the Pistons in the second round of the 1986 draft. (It took him a while.)
  • Craig Sager, a legendary sideline reporter, is credited with saving his life.
    Both men confirm that Sager once talked a depressed Rodman out of suicide after tracking him down to a strip club for a heart-to-heart. (It's unclear if this happened on the same night Rodman arrived at the arena.) "He was going to do it," Sager told Sports Illustrated. "I told him how stupid that would be," Rodman said after Sager died in 2016, thanking him on Twitter for "saving my life when I was in desperate need of help."
  • His collapse at the Pistons' stadium sparked his reinvention.
    The Last Dance briefly discusses a 1993 incident in which Rodman arrived at the Palace of Auburn Hills with a rifle in his car, having fallen into despair as a result of a failed marriage and the departure of his beloved coach Chuck Daly. Rather than harming himself, Rodman decided that night to completely remake his life: "I killed the Dennis Rodman who had tried to conform to what everybody wanted him to be," he wrote in his book.
  • As a child, he began cross-dressing.
    Rodman's experimentation with gender performance drew a lot of attention in the 1990s, but as he wrote in his memoir Bad As I Wanna Be, it was something he'd done as a young boy growing up in a predominantly female environment. "I'm not sure when I first decided to do it as an adult," he wrote. "It was more of a gradual thing, where it progressed from earrings and fingernails to halter tops and tight leather shorts," Rodman explained. "When I cross-dress now, it's just another way I can show all the sides of Dennis Rodman." I'm going to give you the whole shebang. "I'm evolving into an all-purpose individual."

Dennis Rodman Personal Life

The incident highlights an important goal in Dennis's life, even back then: to feel good. He didn't try to sell the watches, and that wasn't the reason he took them. He simply distributed them to people he knew. "I was trying to please everyone." "All I wanted was for people to like me," he once said. He often thinks about his mug shot from that night. It shows all of his fear and loneliness sunken into his face. He's in the midst of a late-stage growth spurt after turning 18; he's gone from 5 feet 11 to 6 feet 7 but the way his head hangs doesn't feel adult. He'd been crying, and every flaw that people had labeled as ugly now stands out even more. He's a kid here, a kid looking for the kind of love he didn't find at home. Dennis now has four children of his own. From his third marriage, two children were born in 2001 and 2002: D.J., who plays college basketball for the Washington State Cougars, and Trinity, who plays professional soccer for the Washington Spirit. His second marriage was to Carmen Electra in 1998, the result of a drunken night in Vegas. He also has a son Chase, born in the late 1990s by a woman Dennis never married. His relationship with his children is strained, and he frequently recalls the birth of his first child, Alexis. His first child was born in 1988. Dennis wasn't always present when she was growing up. Professional athletes have demanding schedules, and Dennis was always out partying. Dennis was always aware that he was failing them. With all four Rodman children in the audience, he apologized for not being a better father in his 2011 Basketball Hall of Fame induction speech. He's still working on it ten years later. "I'm going to have a relationship with my kids." "That'll be here soon," he says from the W's balcony. "I just have to get them together." Dennis imagines a scenario in which all of his children are present and he is in the hot seat, answering all of their questions. "I want to hear it because I want to know what they've been going through all these years." Dennis Rodman says he's prepared for a showdown. He wants to mend the hurt he's caused in his relationships. He wants to make amends for his mistakes. However, the common denominator in his reasoning "soon" suggests he may not know how, and he continues to seek validation in unexpected places.

Maybe I'm mistaken. Maybe Dennis' unwavering optimism is exactly what we need to thaw our schisms. Maybe everyone needs to go to the club with Dennis, drink a few shots of tequila, and forget about the worst parts of their lives in order to move on. Except that it hasn't worked for him. He is exactly who he is. I still admire him for his NBA legacy as well as some community service he contributed. Dennis Rodman is credited with providing David Robinson with his one and only scoring title. Michael Jordan had won the scoring title for the previous seven years in a row, but due to his first retirement, the 93-94 season would not feature the previous year's champion. Dennis Rodman had recently been acquired by the San Antonio Spurs. When he arrived, he basically told Robinson not to worry about rebounding and to just focus on scoring. And he scored. Robinson went on to average 10.7 RPG but a whopping 29.8 ppg, while Rodman carried the remaining rebounding load for both of them, averaging an incredible 17.3 RPG. Dennis Rodman was also instrumental in the Chicago Bulls' historic 72-10 season. With Michael Jordan returning from retirement for his first full season, he would team up with Scottie Pippen and a newcomer to the team, Dennis Rodman, to embark on a legendary record-breaking season, posting a still unrivaled regular season 72-10 win-loss record. Rodman's arrival would give the Chicago Bulls the best rebounder in the NBA, as well as a third ALL-NBA defender to go along with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Dennis Rodman's addition to the team is what took them from good to nearly unbeatable. I know it will be tempting to bring up the controversy, the hairstyles, the piercings, and so on whenever the name Dennis Rodman is mentioned, but from now on I challenge you to remember not only the negative, but also the hustle, determination, grit, defense, and willingness to sacrifice himself for the good of his team. He personifies the concept of a team player. He doesn't ask for the ball. He understands his role and plays it to historical perfection.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Faith Nacario

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