On August 12th, the Naismith Hall of Fame will induct the class of 2011. Members of this year’s class include Chris Mullin, Dennis Rodman, Artis Gilmore, Tara VanDerveer, Teresa Edwards, Arvydas Sabonis, Herb Magee, Tom “Satch” Sanders, Tex Winter, and Reece “Goose” Tatum. To date we’ve profiled the careers of Tex Winter, Reece “Goose Tatum and Arvydas Sabonis; Dennis Rodman is below. More next week.
The Hall of Fame does not induct role players, and they certainly don’t open their doors to particularly weird role players.
Dennis Rodman averaged 7.3 points per game for his fourteen year career and only averaged double figures once. In his second season with the Pistons back in 1987 he averaged 11 per night, looked like a normal person, and would go on from there to both challenge the limits of eccentricity and never average more than 9 for the rest of his career.
He ruffled some feathers, grossed a few people out, and wore a wedding dress while marrying himself once, but nobody hit the glass harder than the Worm did. Ever. Which is why despite the points, the antics, Camen Electra, NWO, and whatever else came with all that, there’s no denying the fact that Rodman was not only a super-star, but also a Hall of Famer.
He was an elite defender, won Defensive Player of the Year honors twice, and while he looked like a malcontent, freak, or circus act at times, he helped his teams win big - teams who may not have won without him. The five NBA rings Rodman finished with were as many as Magic Johnson earned as a Laker, and three more than the two he helped Isiah win in Detroit. He won three with Jordan, and becomes now the third player from Jordan’s Bulls to enter the Hall of Fame alongside Mike and Scottie.
His first season in the league was in 1986, just after the Detroit Pistons selected him with the 3rd pick in the 2nd Round out of Southeastern Oklahoma State University. According to his autobiography, Rodman had a rough up-bringing and quickly developed a needed father / son type relationship with then coach Chuck Daly. He developed quickly under Daly, and was a big reason why those Pistons teams with Dumars, Thomas, and Laimbeer won two titles back in ’89 and ’90.
In the following year, Rodman began to cement his legacy as the greatest rebounding forward of all time. He lead the NBA in rebounding in 1991, and would go on to do that for seven straight seasons. He never averaged less than 15 per night in the process, and collected as many as 18 boards per game for the season twice in that span.
What’s always been interesting to me about Rodman is you hear about guys partying in Vegas to all hours of the night and doing whatever else Rodman did back when he played, and you think that a guy like that would slack his way through an NBA career as best he can. But Rodman’s specialization capitalized completely on shear will, desire, and consistent intensity. There wasn’t any strolling down the court and hiking up a 25-footer and then quickly back pedaling to play some ole’ style defense for Rodman. He went after every rebound like he needed it to survive, and maybe he did.
So congrats on out-working and out-hustling your way into the Hall of Fame Dennis, there’s something cool about that. A lot cooler than your hairstyle was back then.