Dennis Rodman doesn't fit - in his job, in his field, in his
life, in our lives or maybe even in this world.
Then again, maybe we don't fit in his.
Rodman is not slick in the slickest of all sports. His sense of
fashion is flannel shirts, backward baseball caps and tattoos (he
has nine). Dreadlocks one month, Demolition Man-blond the next.
He has gotten rich and famous doing things - rebounding,
playing defense - that most NBA players see as the bad parts of
He has been called crazy, stupid, unpredictable, dangerous and
frightening. So have the San Antonio Spurs since they acquired
Rodman and all of his personal demons from Detroit. The move may
prove to be the ultimate test of coach John Lucas' skills at
rehabilitating and saving lost souls.
Rodman says things - quick whispers from an alternate logic -
that would be refreshing if they weren't so troubling.
"I don't need a new lease on life. Not until I die," Rodman
" ... you always have options. Options keep life going. The
only option that you don't have is going out and killing people."
Maybe the real problem with Rodman is that he isn't what we
want him to be. He doesn't act like the players we're accustomed to
cheering, idolizing, loving.
"So much of it comes from the picture of what we want athletes
to be, and we rarely are willing to deviate from that mold," says
Detroit general manager Billy McKinney. "We say, `If you were just
this way, I'd like you a little more.' Dennis says, `Accept me like
He says it from behind shades, from under headphones, by
carving it into the back of his hair. He says it in ways most
"How many people want to go out there and be adventurous, have
exploits?" Rodman said. "All they want to do is get wrapped up in
their little time zones. How many want to live their ultimate dream
for 10 years? And then when the 10 years is over, damn, it's over.
`So what should I do now?' "
It has always been different for Rodman, now 32. He grew up in
Dallas without a father and was all but ignored by his mother and
sisters. He surfaced in Bokchito, Okla., where he lived for three
years with the family of a young white boy, Byrne Rich, who had
Rodman never played high school basketball but, after a growth
spurt, he played at Southeastern Oklahoma State. He was 25 by the
time the Pistons drafted him in 1986.
Finally finding a father in Detroit coach Chuck Daly, Rodman
set out on his career with an intimidating single-mindedness. He
swarmed top scorers and shut them down. He led the league in
field-goal percentage. Twice he was named the NBA's top defensive
player, sobbing long and hard after the awards were announced.
Though only 6-8, he has led the league in rebounding. He helped
the Pistons win two championships. He was rewarded with a contract
paying more than $2 million a year.
Last season, things unraveled. Always emotional, Rodman turned
manic. He threatened to retire. He skipped training camp. Probably
due to his relationship with Daly, he never accepted replacement
coach Ron Rothstein. He was suspended for missing a trip and for
skipping practice. When he did play, he was a shell.
Indiana Pacers president Donnie Walsh called him "a ghost."
Walsh said "the energy wasn't there, the attitude."
Poisons were raging inside Rodman. His messy divorce from
Annie, a former model and body builder who lives in Sacramento with
their daughter Alexis, is still an open wound. The most prominent
of his tattoos is a portrait of the child.
"My daughter is more important to me than this damn job any
day," Rodman has said. …