For those of us old fogies who were teens in the 80's, we remember Dennis Rodman vividly. He played basketball with reckless abandon - hardly an offensive force, but when it came to rebounding, defense, diving for loose balls, and psychological warfare, he was as good as they come.

It has, at times, been quite difficult to determine whether D-Rod's antics, both on and off the court, helped or hurt his legacy. The distractions included things like the various eye-catching hair color changes, dating Modonna, promoting his book Bad as I Wanna Be by declaring himself bi-sexual, donning a wedding dress, and marrying himself, and a brief marriage to Carmen Electra.

Did these antics that called so much attention to him outside of basketball demean his talents as a player, and render them less relevant? Or were his accomplishments on the court so impressive that the sideshow was less relevant? Chicken vs. egg.

Well, the NBA has had its say: Rodman is in the Hall of Fame, and his induction speech was perhaps more shocking than anything Dennis did in his playing days.

I remember hints of the "real" Dennis, from a time before he became the "show," when he had been known to cry when discussing the important people in his life. But this speech, this was more than that. This was a man far removed from the bigger-than-life, egotistical, unhinged spectacle he made of himself for so long. Oh sure, he had a glittery name and number 10 on his suit coat and all, but the man who spoke at this ceremony had something Dennis almost never allowed us to see - perspective, humility, and remorse. Impressive stuff from someone who has always been defined as a "role player," albeit one of the greatest role players of all time. Wouldn't it have been nice if Jordan had behaved like that for his ceremony?

But this isn't about M.J., or about trying to make him humble. You could more easily rip a ham bone out of a pit bull's mouth than humble M.J. This is about Dennis Rodman, and about marveling at something OTHER than his appearance or his staged theatre. Sure, he's covered in earrings and nose rings, and wearing a pimped up outfit. You've seen that side of him before, and it is hardly shocking or over-the-top these days (thanks to pop-culture precedents that he himself has set). What makes this speech shocking is a man willing to stand in front of his peers and the press and say things like: "I wish I had been a better father" or looking down at his mother and saying things like "Me and my mother have never gotten along" and "She kicked me out" and "I resented her" and "my mother rarely ever hugged me or my siblings....she didn't know how" and yet still make everything he's saying sound like a remorseful, respectful tribute to her.

My attempts to reconstruct it don't do it justice, so just watch. It is enough to simply say: D-Rod, even today, can still shock us. Good job, man. You may not be the most talented public speaker, but nobody can doubt your heart.

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28 Comments:
Anonymous Ian said...
I speak when I disagree, now allow me to agree with you on this one.

Great post on someone I always thought was an interesting and insightful person. I remember reading his biography and being surpised at the lucidity with which he talked about his life.

This speech was more of that, he showed humility, weakness and regret in front of thousands upon thousands of folks. This is a man who has fought so hard to get where he is, yet he still knows he didn't do as much as he could and he could wind up dead any day. I have never lived my life thinking "I might die today", but this is a legitimate thought Dennis has had to live with since birth. I admire his tenacity, on and off the course and the humbleness he displayed with this speech.

And to add, Scottie was there, where the eff were you MJ, you rat bastard.

Anonymous Ian said...
Also it's crazy to think that 2 of the best offensive rebounders ever, the Worm and Sir Charles (you could argue for Moses Malone over them but he's the only one) are no more than 6'6, and Charles was more like 6'4. Pretty impressive from both men.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
MJ was there, sitting right next to Scottie. You may not have recognized him, because he is now fat and has a hobo beard instead of a Hitler mustache.

Blogger John said...
what a speech. I hope he can straighten himself out and live happily and long ever after.

Blogger Evil Ted said...
I have no confirmation as to whether MJ attended, but if he had, I'm pretty sure it would be obvious. Cameras would have taken as many clear shots of him as Scottie. The man to Scottie's right looks like Moses Malone, but I'm not sure.

Again, not about MJ's dickery - we all know plenty about that - it's about DR.

Anonymous allison said...
Nothing bawful about this! Boo.

Blogger Sjoerd said...
great piece and speech Dennis Rodman should be proud of himself for once. I think he deserves that by now, he's saying how he owes it all to others whom deserve credits of course, but he somehow forgets himself in all the good parts of his life and blames himself on the bad parts. often when these speeches come along they're consist of a bunch of clichés. thanks mom, thanks dad, thanks coach so many good memories. while Rodman is plain honest in a way only he can.

Anonymous jj said...
finally an interesting article on basketbawful!!

the worm is easily my favourite player of all time, i can´t believe some people think he does not belong in the HoF (who are you chris winter?)

one more thing: nobody, i mean nobody besides some marketing geniuses from converse, ever called him "d-rod". i thought you knew that

Anonymous JJ said...
When Bulls picked up Dennis back in the day, I thought they were crazy. Maybe they were, and so was Dennis. But, it was the right kind of crazy.

I believe it when he said he worked hard. You never heard Dennis saying, "We're talking about practice!" though you'd expect it from someone like him. Also, I believe you can get scoring titles on talent alone. But, you can't get rebounding titles without a strong work ethic and tremendous desire.

Anonymous AK Dave said...
I guess I'm confused here:

Exactly why should MJ have shown up? He played with Rodman for 3 (0 years. Granted: they won 3 rings. But still; it wasn't like MJ and DR were super-tight-BFF's-from-way-back.

Anonymous JJ said...
AK Dave - I agree that MJ doesn't owe it to Dennis to show up. Pippen showed up, but he doesn't own a team and I have no doubt his schedule is a lot more free than MJ's. Still, it's not everyday a teammate from your championship years is inducted into the Hall of Fame. So, it'd have been considerate (obviously not a trait MJ is known for) of him to show up. Also, I feel like 2nd 3-peat Bulls Team was so iconic, even more so than the 1st one, that it did seem odd to see Rodman, Pippen, and Phil Jackson together, without MJ.

Anonymous Grizzly63 said...
Nice speech, but he did blew up in San Antonio and LA, but do role players deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. Just pondering, Dennis was a great defender and rebounder, which was huge for the Bulls, but is that Hall of Fame material. I am not saying yes or no, just want to know what people think. That was Moses Malone next to Pippin.

Blogger Rhett said...
Do people really think of Dennis as a role player? I mean, sure, he wasn't a great scorer but we are talking about a guy with 2 defensive player of the year awards and a rebounding title for everyday of the week. Steve Kerr - role player. That dude from down under who played center - role player. BJ Armstrong - role player. Dennis Mother F'n Rodman - HOF.

Blogger lordhenry said...
I was always concerned that all the off-court stuff and the perception that Dennis was a role player due to his lack of offense would keep him out of the hall. (that and his promise to streak naked the day he went in) The idea that dennis was offensively challenged is funny. He scored pretty effectively when he was with the pistons, he CHOSE not to score after he remade himself--it became all about rebounds and defense.

Favorite rodman video has tobe when he got into it with Shaq, and Jordan and Pippen spear-tackle him to the ground while Dennis is laughing--MJ and Scottie NEEDED Rodman, and they knew it.

Blogger Wormboy said...
No way Rodman was a roll player. I remember picking up the paper each day, and his freakin box scores blew my mind. Dude sucked up a ton of rebounds, far more than much bigger guys (including the premier centers of his era). Plus, he may have been one of the most annoying defenders ever.

Also, I remember articles from the time describing him going to the workout room after EVERY game, home or away. The guy was in tremendous shape in his prime. He also watched tons of film, watching how different players' shots came off the rim. Given his his gifts, his game, and how he did it, I'd argue that maybe more than any other player Rodman made it with crushingly hard work. It may count for even more, given that the man was (and is) arguably mentally ill. Kudos to him for being real.

Anonymous Ian said...
Yeah Rodman had as much of a hand in affecting that Bull team as Scottie did. They were the best 2 defenders on that team and that is saying something because MJ was no slouch either.

DRod also often ran the offense in the triangle through his deft passing abilities.

People tend to gloss over numbers and assign roles. Dennis defied all numbers, he played hard and he played great. You want a HOF who was a role player? Bill Sharman is a great example.

Blogger jslater said...
Since the comments above are mostly about his days with the Bulls, I'll say he was absolutely vital to the "Bad Boys" Pistons and their back-to-back championships. Ditto what Wormboy said about hard work.

And yeah he deserves the HoF. He was one of the best defenders and best rebounders ever. It's not all about offense.

Anonymous kazam92 said...
When I was a little kid, I remember a cherished few from the mid 90's. Sans the Mourning led heat teams, I always remember the Jordan-Pippen-Rodman bulls and I ALWAYS asked my dad why Rodman's hair was green/blue/red/etc. But in my mind then, that was a big 3. Congrats to Rodman. I hope the last 3rd of his life is as normal as he seems to want it to be.

Anonymous AK Dave said...
jslater:

...and to the extent it IS about offense, to his credit, he shot over 50% from the field for his career. (Yeah he averaged like 5ppg and shot 50%-ish from the FT line, but hack-a-Rodman never seemed to be a major issue)

Agree with Wormboy and others. Rodman =/= Roleplayer.

I will also add this: he always matched up well. He was athletic and tough enough to handle the likes of Shawn Kemp (pre-Cleveland) and Karl Malone, and wasn't afraid of guarding Shaq. I mean, can anyone name a player who could consistently win the matchup with Rodman?

Anonymous Aaron said...

Anonymous Grizzly63 said...
Again, just being devil's advocate to get some basketball discussion continuing. Dennis played with some of the best players of all times on the Pistons and Bulls championship teams, which certainly added to his championship totals. If rebounding and defense by themselves are enough to get you to the HOF, is Ben Wallace a Hall of Fame player? What about Dikembe Mutombo?

Anonymous Ian said...
Dikembe is, Ben Wallace isn't. The difference between Dennis and Ben is that Dennis guarded multiple positions and was able to create in the offense. He passed out of the triangle tremendously and had the basketball IQ to stick in a complicated and intricate system (unlike say, Ron Ron). I don't think the same could be said about Ben who is a tremendous defender/rebounder but is absolutely horrendous on offense.

And team success matters too, Ben has 1 ring, Dennis has enough to fill out a hand.

As for Dikembe I think he needs to go in because he had such a long career and was so important globally (I am also in favour of gettin Yao in the league for example). He was no slouch in his prime either, great defender, passable offensive option.

Anonymous Ruedi said...
It's not just rebounding and defense. This guy knows how to play the game.

He had some of the greatest coaches in basketball. Don't you think they would trained him a jumpshot if it would be necessary for his game.
All the other aspects of his game where close to perfection. He is like Scottie Pippen. You will never find the greatness of their game in a boxscore.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
People also tend to forget that offensive rebounds are part of the offensive game, and Rodman is one of the best offensive rebounders of all time, averaging around 6 per game in his prime. Plus he was an excellent passer, so he was far from being a bum on offense.

Also neither Wallace nor Mutombo did impact games as Rodman could. George Karl pointed out after the 96 finals that Rodman had singlehandedly won two games for the Bulls.

Blogger Dan B. said...
Unrelated but worth sharing...

Jonathan Abrams has a great piece up on Grantland right now about Arvydas Sabonis, and it includes this great Bill Walton quote that just feels oh so Waltonesque:
 
Walton, who was broadcasting the game nationally, still feels remorse over the incident. "It was one of the lowest moments of my life," he said. "If I was any kind of a man, I would have got up from that broadcast table and walked across the court and punched Rasheed Wallace in the nose. But I let Sabonis and the game of basketball and the human race down that day."

Blogger Michael Hsu said...
YOU HAVE TO POST THIS I DON"T KNOW IF IT IS TOO LATE THOUGH
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Blogger Dan B. said...
Michael Hsu -- NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! It's already too late! It's a Woot-Off today on Woot, so they already moved onto the next items by now. I'm absolutely crushed and heartbroken I didn't see this earlier, but I was at a concert. :(

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Dennis slept with my mother.

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