Seasons with Bulls:
May 13, 1961 in Trenton, New Jersey
Cook County Junior College (1982-83), Southeastern Oklahoma State University (1983-86)
1986 / Round: 2 / Pick: 27th overall
Selected by the Detroit Pistons
Dennis Keith Rodman was born on May 13, 1961, in Trenton, New Jersey, the son of Philander and Shirley Rodman. When he was just three years old, his father – an Air Force enlistee – deserted the family, leaving Dennis and his two younger sisters without a father figure.
As a teenager, Rodman stood just 5’11” and failed to make the basketball team at South Oak Cliff High School near Dallas where his family had settled. After graduating high school, he drifted from one odd job to another, including one as a janitor working over nights at Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport. One evening on dare, he stole 15 watches from an airport gift shop, and was arrested and jailed. He quickly came clean and told the police where he had hidden the watches, and all charges were dropped.
However, the incident proved to be the last straw in a rapidly fraying relationship between himself and his mother. Shirley Rodman issued an ultimatum to her son: either go to college, enlist in the military, find a good paying job right away or leave home for good. Dennis opted to ignore her pleas, and thus one day she packed a bag full of his clothes and kicked him out of her house.
That year, Dennis was 20-years old, and he suddenly hit a growth spurt, shooting up to almost 6’8” while attending and playing basketball at nearby Cook County Junior College. He later was offered and accepted an athletic scholarship to play basketball at Southeastern Oklahoma State University. It was there in 1983 while working at a basketball camp he met a young boy named Bryne Rich.
Bryne was deeply depressed due to a horrific mishap that had recently occurred while he was on a family hunting trip. Bryne’s gun accidently discharged while he was reloading, killing his best friend. Rodman helped the young boy talk through his pain, and in return Bryne introduced Dennis to his parents, who practically adopted the soft-spoken college player. Rodman moved in with the Rich family, who offered him plenty of emotional support and encouragement as his basketball career began to catch fire.
As a junior and senior Rodman led the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) in rebounding at 16.1 in 1985 and 17.8 in 1986. He was named an All-American as a senior and the Detroit Pistons took a chance on him with an early second round pick in the 1986 NBA Draft.
In Detroit, Rodman blended perfectly with a raucous, blue collar roster that would soon come to be known as the “Bad Boys,” under a highly respected head coach and future Hall of Famer, Chuck Daly. The Pistons went on to win back-to-back Championships in 1989 and 1990, taking their “Bad Boy” image worldwide. By that time Rodman had established himself as a dynamic rebounder and imposing defensive cog, earning back-to-back NBA Defensive Player of the Year honors in 1990 and 1991. He had a great relationship with his teammates and Daly, but when some of those friends were traded and Daly decided to step down from coaching, Dennis had a tough time adjusting.
On October 1, 1993, the Pistons traded Rodman along with second year small forward Isaiah Morris and a future first and second round draft pick to San Antonio for a package of forwards Sean Elliot, David Wood and a future first round pick. With the Spurs, Rodman established himself as a rebounding machine on a par with some of the greatest giants to play the game. In fact, at 6’7” and 215 pounds, he was considered too an anomaly for he was simply too short and small to do what he was doing. But he made up for his relative lack of size by intently focusing on and analyzing the behavior of the ball as it arched toward the hoop and caromed off the rim in different directions. Oftentimes he simply guessed as to how it would behave after hitting the iron and instinctively reacted.
While in San Antonio he helped the Spurs make the playoffs every year by leading the league in rebounding three consecutive seasons (18.3 in 1993, 17.3 1994, and 16.8 1995). It was also in San Antonio where he began dating Madonna, getting tattooed all over his body and dying his hair different shades of color, becoming somewhat of an international icon outside of the game.
However, his time in San Antonio was no bed of roses for anyone involved. His first head coach with the Spurs, John Lucas, gave him plenty of slack and willingly looked the other way on things in hope that Rodman would come around and be more cooperative. Next was Bob Hill, who took a hardline approach, instituting strict rules and imposing costly fines whenever Rodman misbehaved. All that did was cause bigger problems and make Rodman more of a team distraction. And although the Spurs posted the league’s best record at 62-20 and made the Western Conference Finals in 1994-95, the franchise decided under no circumstances would they bring him back the following year.
That’s where the Chicago Bulls enter the picture, as they were in search for a defensive, rebounding power forward to help balance the all-around greatness of superstars Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. So after General Manager Jerry Krause discussed the idea of bringing Rodman to Chicago with team chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, as well as head coach Phil Jackson and both Jordan and Pippen – each signing off on such a move – Krause called San Antonio and struck a deal, sending backup center Will Perdue to the Spurs.
The addition of Rodman to Chicago’s mix proved spectacular. The Bulls went on to rewrite the league record book by going 72-10 during the regular season and recapture the NBA Championship that had been surrendered to the Houston Rockets for two seasons running after Jordan retired following Chicago’s victory over Phoenix for the 1993 title. Once again Rodman led the league in rebounding at 14.9. He led the Bulls on the boards in 59 of the 64 games he played that year, grabbing 20 or more rebounds 11 times. He was also voted to the league’s All-Defensive Team for the seventh time and notched his first career triple-double against Philadelphia, scoring 10 points, grabbing 21 rebounds and handing out 10 assists. In the playoffs he led all players in rebounding with an average of 13.7, and against Seattle in the Finals he twice tied the league record of 11 offensive rebounds in a single game.
The following year (1996-97) Chicago won 69 games and took home the franchise’s fifth Championship. Rodman again led the league in rebounding at 16.1. He grabbed at least 10 rebounds in 54 of the 55 games he played, and 20 or more nine times.
The 1997-98 season marked Rodman’s 12th in the NBA and his last in Chicago. He was now 36-years old, and yet he still went on to win his seventh straight rebounding title with an average 15.0 in 80 games played. He totaled 1,201 rebounds, surpassing 1,000 for the fifth time in his career, and in fact was the only player in the league to snag 1,000 or more that season. Against the Atlanta Hawks in late December, he dominated the backboards with a season-high 29 rebounds.
By the time the playoffs rolled around, Rodman was occasionally starting, and other times he was Jackson’s first man off the bench. He started in nine of Chicago’s 21 postseason games. Against the Utah Jazz in the Finals, he came off the bench every game. His hardnosed defense, powerful rebounding and endless energy provided the Bulls with several emotional lifts during the series. In particular Game 4, when he knocked down four clutch free throws late in the game and shut down Jazz superstar Karl Malone during the entire fourth quarter, sparking the Bulls to a clutch 86-82 victory. That win eventually helped Chicago capture its sixth title in eight years.
At the end of that 1997-98 season, Phil Jackson decided to take a sabbatical from coaching, only later resurfacing with the Los Angeles Lakers by the start of the 1999-2000 season. Michael Jordan also opted to retire as a player for a second time in five years and Scottie Pippen was traded to Houston after the Bulls decided to rebuild from scratch.
Although most players retire when they hit their late 30s, Rodman wasn’t looking to leave. For a short period of time he played with the Lakers, hitting the hardwood in 23 games before being released during a league shortened 50-game season in 1999. He popped up again the next year, signing with the Dallas Mavericks, playing 12 games in 2000 before Dallas decided to let him go, effectively ending his playing career.
In 14 NBA seasons, Dennis Rodman played in 911 games, scored 6,683 points, and grabbed 11,954 rebounds, averaging 7.3 points and 13.1 rebounds in just 31.7 minutes over his career. He was without a doubt one of the best defensive players in league history. He was twice named NBA Defensive Player of the Year (1990–1991) and made seven NBA All-Defensive First Teams (1989–1993, 1995–1996) and in 1994, he was named to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team. Additionally, he made two All-NBA Third Teams (1992, 1995), was a two-time All-Star (1990, 1992). He also won seven consecutive league rebounding crowns (1992–1998), and played in six NBA Finals (1988, 1989, 1990 and 1996-98) coming out a winner five times (1988 with Detroit was his only loss).
In 2011 Dennis Rodman received the game’s ultimate honor, enshrinement into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.