How good was Dennis Rodman
NBA legend Dennis Rodman: Putzmann, bad boy, the dictator's best friend
Drugs, gambling, sex orgies. Dennis Rodman minced his mouth, took on the role of bad boy and was one of the most colorful personalities on the NBA circus. On the court, however, his abilities were undisputed. On the occasion of his 60th birthday looks back SPOX behind the facade of one of the best rebounders and defenders in NBA history - and a person who never really knew where he belonged.
This article first appeared on May 16, 2016. All other stories about the legends of the NBA can be found in our archive.
"I could be anywhere now," said a sobbing Dennis Rodman: "I could be dead, I could be a drug dealer, I could be homeless."
Neither of these scenarios was unthinkable. All three options were even more likely than attending the event at which Rodman uttered those words. In Springfield, Massachusetts. At his Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
And yet he stood there. Dennis Keith Rodman, the bird of paradise, the eccentric, the bad boy, had been a member of the basketball elite since that day in August 2011. Not everyone liked it, there was a lot of controversy about his recording - as about pretty much everything in Rodman's life.
Was he a bad role model with his rampant, selfish and eccentric way of life? Yes. Was he more interested in polarizing than in the consequences of his actions? Definitely. Was he conceited, sexist, and addicted to drugs? That too.
But he was even more: Dennis Rodman was the most dominant rebounder and one of the best defenders in the NBA. And behind its dazzling facade there was always a boy who never really knew where he belonged.
Dennis Rodman: Retired initially
"Too small" was a derogatory opinion Rodman heard a lot. He could "not even hit a layup" another. Both agreed.
In fact, Rodman was only six feet tall for his first year of high school. While his sisters, with whom he grew up on a council estate on the outskirts of Dallas, became high school and college stars, the son of the family barely made it off the bank with his teams.
Rodman was doing a job as a toilet cleaner at the Dallas airport alongside school, and one day he stole 15 valuable watches from a store (to give to his friends). The first night in prison was just the tip of the iceberg of his teenage antics.
His mother no longer had the strength to cope with the unruly teenager and threw him out. The father had left the family when Dennis was five years old. An experience that Rodman was never to come to terms with and that shaped his life from then on. He made it through school with a bang, supported by his friend Byrne Rich's family, who took him in.
Rodman: You can't teach height
Perhaps the greatest gift life gave Dennis Rodman was a growth spurt. In one year he grew just 10 inches and, after a transition year at junior college, received a basketball scholarship to Southeastern Oklahoma State University.
There he made a name for himself as a rebounder, putting on 25.7 points and 15.7 boards in his three years. And that despite its size of only 2.01 meters.
His recipe for success was as rare as it was ingenious. It wasn't Rodman's physical strength, nor his size, that made him the best rebounder in the league. It was his cleverness.
Dennis Rodman: The misunderstood genius
"When we warmed up and threw ourselves on the basket, Dennis just stood there and watched us," said his later team-mate Isiah Thomas: "Once I shouted to him: 'Come on, you have to join in too!' But he just said, 'I'll look at the rotations of the litters.' I thought I had misheard, but he said, "For example, if you throw, the ball has three rotations. With Joe (Dumars) it's three and a half, sometimes even four. "
Rodman turned rebounding into a science. He knew the spin that every player on his team gave the Spalding when throwing. He memorized the take-off angles and knew how often which throw danced from which angle and from which distance on the ring.
Wherever the ball came down, Dennis was there. "Rodman really was a genius when it came to basketball IQ," said Thomas.
While other players lived from their athleticism and therefore set the maximum values on the boards, especially in the first years of their careers, Rodman's numbers remained constant with increasing age and increasing experience.
Dennis Rodman: Bad Boy No. 1
After the Pistons drafted him with the 27th pick in 1986, Rodman, as a reservist, brought tireless energy from the bank and particular flexibility in defense from the start. He was a perfect fit for Detroit: Another bad boy for the infamous bad boys who always gave everything, dived after every loose ball.
Rodman had a lot of fun stopping anyone who was labeled a "star". Nobody could defend so many positions and types of players as excellently as he. Whether it was Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Karl Malone, James Worthy, Charles Barkley, or Michael Jordan - it didn't matter. Rodman put them all cold.
Coach Chuck Daly noticed how Dennis was developing. He just got too important to get off the bench behind Adrian Dantley. Detroit traded the aging Dantley to the Mavericks. And while Thomas and Dumars were responsible for the scoring, Rodman fought like mad under the boards. The reward was the first championship in franchise history.
On the way there, Detroit sweeps the Los Angeles Lakers in the finals, before Jordan's Bulls had to believe in it too. Scottie Pippen didn't see a stab in the series against Rodman. During the playoff run on the way to the repeat in 1990, Rodman received the Defensive Player of the Year Award for the first time. There was - in the truest sense of the word - no way around him.
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