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NBA 75 Series: #71 Dennis Rodman

Updated: Feb 24, 2022

Ranked #71 in my 75 Greatest NBA Players of All Time is the great Dennis Keith Rodman. Rodman was born on May 13, 1961, in Trenton, New Jersey to his father Philander and mother Shirley. Rodman was the product of an unstable household that included him and his two younger sisters. After his father left, his mother moved the family to Dallas, Texas, where she struggled to provide food for her children and put clothes on their back by taking any job that came her way.

Luckily, for her and the family they had Rodman who at first didn’t appear to look like a future professional athlete, being a shy, frail kid, standing just 5-foot-6 for most of high school where he would get cut from the football team and would quit the basketball team due to a lack of playing time.

After graduating high school, Rodman’s future was uncertain as he would work as a janitor at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport where he once got in trouble for stealing 15 watches, which further strained the relationship between him and his mother. After the incident Rodman’s mother issued him an ultimatum: he was to go to college, enlist in the armed services, or get another job. Like most kids would do to their parents, Rodman ignored her and would eventually get kicked out of the house.

Basketball would save Rodman’s life though as he had a phenomenal growth spurt that would change his life by growing a foot in a single year, now standing 6-foot-7. He would play at Cooke County Junior College in Gainesville, Texas and dominate there as a player before enrolling at Southeastern Oklahoma State.

At first, he was unsure about his skills upon arrival in 1983, but in his three years at Southeastern he would average over 26 points and 16 rebounds per game, including leading the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) in rebounding, with 16.1 per game in 1985 and 17.8 in 1986 as a college junior and senior.

Rodman would go on to become a second round pick by the Detroit Pistons in the 1986 NBA Draft and help usher in a new era of Pistons basketball under legendary coach Chuck Daly and one of the greatest guards ever in Isiah Thomas. Rodman would help them win back-to-back titles in 1989 and 1990 in a style that was disdained and hated by their opponents and fans by physically beating up their opponents and psychologically taking them out the game as well.

Overall, ”The Worm," as they call him, Rodman was a menace on the boards, seeming to have a GPS route in his mind of where the ball was going off every single missed shot. It was insane how great he was at rebounding despite his slender 6-foot-7 frame in an era with dominant big men and physical play. He was a big part of five championship winning teams, the Bad Boy Pistons (1989-90), and the Bulls Dynasty of the 90s during their second three peat (1996-98). He was someone who would guard the opposing team's best offensive player and make their night a living hell.

Rodman also was a polarizing, and one of the most peculiar, colorful characters in NBA history, from wearing a wedding dress disguised as a woman, to dyeing his hair various different colors, to going out to Vegas in the middle of the season! Shoutout to you Phil Jackson lol. Anyways Rodman was a true warrior who didn’t care about the flashiness of scoring, he wanted to do the dirty work on the less glamorous side of the floor and made his legacy on that end of the court.

He is a five-time champion, two-time All-Star, won back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year awards (1990, 1991), was a two-time All-NBA third team selection, and an eight-time All-Defensive selection. Rodman also was a seven-time rebounding champ, with an insane six consecutive year stretch of leading the league in rebounds at 6-foot-7 in a league of giants that had Olajuwon, Ewing, The Admiral, Alonzo Mourning, Shaq, and so forth! Talk about effort and hustle!

He also came as one of the most, if not the most flamboyant and expressive character in NBA history by dyeing his hair all different colors from orange, to blonde, to purple, and so on. Rodman also was a ladies man as he dated celebrities such as singer Madonna, actress Carmen Electra, and supermodel Cindy Crawford to name a few. He also rocked many piercings and tattoos on his body and had a habit of conducting interviews in gay bars… odd right?

Despite all the controversy Rodman caused off the court, he helped change the game and show you don’t need to be a flashy scorer or offensive player to be a great player in this game, but showed that hustle, heart, and playing hard on defense and crashing the boards can help teams win titles and lead to a Hall of Fame career. He helped pave the way for guys like Ben Wallace and Draymond Green after him.

Salute to “The Worm!”


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