Posterity has embraced Dennis Rodman as a trail blazer and a revolutionary in a lot of different ways. But Rodman’s peers in the league certainly didn’t see him as any of those things. And quite understandably so. In fact, ‘Dennis the Menace’ was always seen as a chaotic and disruptive presence in the team, and if it weren’t for his massive impact on the hardwood, he wouldn’t have had such a long career in the NBA. Rodman described in his book ‘Bad As I Wanna Be’ how the league was almost ‘AFRAID’ of him, deeming him to be another PR nightmare like Michael Jordan.
Rodman’s private life was an unlimited source of media stories in the 90s. From wild parties to motor accidents, the Rebound King’s uncouth antics outside the hardwood were a chief reason of his sky-rocketing popularity. However, he got into trouble regularly on the court as well. Apart from missing practices and showing up late for games, Rodman often got entangled in fights and altercations with opposing players, officials and even members of his own team at times. In one instance, the then Bulls star had to pay a staggering $200,000 fine to a cameraman for kicking him during a 1997 game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Dennis Rodman explained in his book why the NBA is ‘afraid’ of him
Michael Jordan’s retirement after his father’s tragic demise in 1993 triggered a lot of speculation in NBA circles. Jordan was a PR nightmare at the time for the NBA because of his infamous gambling stints. Even though the Bulls superstar claimed that he didn’t have a gambling addiction, the situation worsened with every passing day.
While MJ’s gambling stories gained traction in the media, infamous names, like that of James ‘Slim’ Bouler, started to become associated with Jordan. So one popular theory postulates that the NBA actually forced Jordan to retire after the Bulls completed their first three-peat. However, the theory seems to have little merit to most basketball aficionados because cutting off MJ would be a suicidal decision for the NBA, at least from an economic perspective.
Meanwhile, Rodman believed that his unconventional antics posed a similar problem for the league. In his 1996 book Bad As I wanna Be, Rodman noted:
“THE NBA IS AFRAID OF ME. The people at the top of the league think they need to rein me in so I don’t become another Michael Jordan, some body they aren’t able to mold and shape and make their puppet. The NBA didn’t make me.”
The seven-time Rebounding Champion explained that the NBA was in the business of acquiring talented college kids and marketing them for profit. However, the league didn’t have the capacity to mould him according to their liking. Because he is self-made. Therefore, the NBA was afraid of him.
Dennis Rodman ended up joining Michael Jordan
Despite saying that the NBA didn’t want him to become Michael Jordan, Rodman ended up joining him in Chicago. The San Antonio Spurs had grown tired of the former ‘Bad Boy’ Piston’s antics. Therefore, they were more than willing to trade him off.
The Bulls weighed the risk-reward ratio and decided to give Rodman a shot. The veteran defender did help the Bulls win three Championships. But his habits slowly caught up with him eventually.
Rodman bid goodbye to the NBA after the Dallas Mavericks waived his contract in 2000. Despite granting him the freedom to exercise all his whims, the five-time NBA champion ended up criticizing the Mavs’ new owner Mark Cuban for being too involved with the team’s players. Rodman was shown the door immediately afterwards.