Dennis Rodman during the Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at Symphony Hall on August 12, 2011 in Springfield, Massachusetts. (Getty Images)
The earliest memory I have of Dennis Rodman is watching YouTube clips of him kicking some poor cameraman in the thigh after tripping over him while securing a rebound during the 1996-97 NBA season.
Rodman had the most controversial and troubled career in the history of the NBA. Whether it was the constantly changing hair colour, the frequent clashes with officials and players on the court, or his wild personal life off the court, not many people understood him.
What they did understand, though, was that Rodman could play basketball.
In his illustrious and entertaining 20-year pro basketball career, Rodman led the league in rebounding seven consecutive years, won two NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards, made the All-Defensive First Team seven times, and won five championship rings.
For his significant accomplishments, Rodman was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011.
A product of Trenton, New Jersey, Rodman alleges that he had 46 siblings. His father left the family while Rodman was young, leaving Rodman resentful and filled with contempt. Many attest his wild ways to his lack of a father figure while he was growing up.
After high school, Rodman experienced a sudden growth spurt, and enrolled in the South-eastern Oklahoma State University. As a member of the Savage Storm, Rodman averaged 25.7 points and 15.7 rebounds throughout three seasons. He also posted a 64% field goal percentage; an impossible statistic given the fact Rodman was scoring over 25 points a game.
While playing in the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament (an opportunity for potential NBA draftees to showcase their talents), Rodman won MVP honours and gained the attention of several NBA teams, including the Detroit Pistons.
Rodman was drafted as the third pick in the second round of the 1986 NBA draft (27th overall) by the Pistons. He joined the legendary “Bad Boys” Detroit team, composed of legendary NBA guards Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars, future NBA coach Adrian Dantley, and centre Bill Laimbeer.
Rodman played solid defence and hit the boards hard in his debut season as the Pistons comfortably made the playoffs. They lost in seven games to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals that year, a series that saw Rodman clash with Celtics guard Dennis Johnson often.
Rodman steadily increased his production on the court as he was given more minutes until, after three years in the league (and a championship ring in the 1989 season); Rodman was given a starting role after forward Rick Mahorn was taken by the Minnesota Timberwolves in that year’s expansion draft.
Rodman won his first NBA Defensive Player of the Year award that season as he quickly earned a reputation in the league as the most efficient defensive stopper. He was also the most accurate shooter in the league as he posted a 59% field goal percentage.
Despite succumbing to an ankle injury in the later stages of the playoffs, Detroit was able to win the NBA championships for a second time since they drafted Rodman.
The following season (1990-91), Rodman started as small forward for the Detroit Pistons in 77 of the 82 regular season games. He solidified his reputation as a defensive stopper and was lauded for his ability to defend the point guard position to the centre position.
Rodman could single-handedly win games for the Pistons with his defence. His abilities were once again praised as he won his second consecutive NBA Defensive Player of the Year award. Things took a turn for the worse, however, when coach Chuck Daly, a man who Rodman greatly admired and looked upon as a role model, resigned in 1992.