Dennis Rodman Doesn't Fit - in His Life, or Our Lives

By Steve Aschburner Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), November 21, 1993 | Go to article overview

Dennis Rodman Doesn't Fit - in His Life, or Our Lives


Steve Aschburner Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


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 their jobs.

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 said.

" ... 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 this.' "

He says it from behind shades, from under headphones, by carving it into the back of his hair. He says it in ways most people wouldn't.

"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 befriended him.

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. …

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