Dennis Rodman, the former Chicago Bulls star, is an enigma in every sense of the word.
Obviously, The Worm is well established as one of sport’s all-time great mavericks, but Netflix’s fantastic series, The Last Dance, has shone a spotlight on Rodman once again.
While he has a list of controversies longer than his go-go gadget arms, it’s worth noting he was one of the greatest basketball players of his generation and one of the finest defensive players in the history of the game.
As a five-time NBA champion and two-time Defensive Player of the Year, his influence was obvious. He was one of the best on-ball defenders you’ll ever see; nimble and aggressive in a 6ft 7in frame with an engine that wouldn’t quit.
But, of course, there was more to Rodman than basketball.
He really found his voice as a part of the ‘Bad Boy’ Detroit Pistons in the late 1980s and early 90s to the point where, in 1987, he suggested the great Larry Bird was overrated and only won the MVP award three times because he was white.
Rodman was drafted by Detroit early in the second round in 1986 and after barely featuring initially, he quickly complimented the tough, physical established stars the Pistons had.
That led to back-to-back titles in ’89 and ’90. After that, Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls took over and Rodman’s personal life became more prevalent.
Going AWOL and a deal with Madonna
In 1992, Pistons coach Chuck Daly, who Rodman considered a surrogate father, resigned in May. As a result, the player skipped the pre-season camp and was fined $68,000.
Despite his obvious talent, not many in the NBA wanted to touch Rodman. The San Antonio Spurs took a chance on him in 1993, but that didn’t even last two seasons before Rodman, a star clearly acting out and getting ejected regularly, needed a new home again.
Before he headed to Chicago to play with Jordan and Scottie Pippen, Rodman had an intense six-month relationship with Madonna who he claims offered him $20m if he could impregnate her in one phone call.
“She said, ‘Dennis, you know that I’m ovulating,’” he told American radio show The Breakfast Club in 2019.
“I said, ‘What is that?’ I was trying to f*** with her, you know?”, he explained.
“I said, ‘I’ll be there in five hours.”
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Rodman said he was ‘rolling the dice’ in Las Vegas at the time of the call and flew to New York in a private jet the singer sent him to be with her.
Carmen Electra, Las Vegas and a 48-hour ‘holiday’
In 1998, he briefly married Baywatch star Carmen Electra.
During his time with Electra, he took a 48-hour vacation from playing for the Bulls and took her and an entourage to Las Vegas. He partied so hard that Michael Jordan – one of the biggest superstars on the planet at the time – actually flew to Vegas to get him out of bed and take him to practice. It’s hard to even make a modern-day comparison of that.
During his time with the Bulls, they appreciated Rodman for what he could bring to their team. He is, arguably, the greatest rebounder the game has seen – he notched 34 in a game in 1992 and grabbed more than 30 on four other occasions – and his defensive presence took Chicago to another level.
For all of MJ’s greatness, Rodman was a key component to their second three-peat of the 90s in 1996, ’97 and ’98.
In exchange for his defensive prowess, the Bulls had to give Rodman just enough room to express himself off the court. But there were plenty of examples of that spilling over to game time, too.
A prime instance saw him kick a court-side photographer in the groin. Rodman wasn’t provoked, he was just frustrated with how the game was going. He was suspended for 11 games and fined $25,000 for that, the league’s harshest punishment in 20 years at the time.
The year before that he had head-butted an official as frustration struck him once again. He refused to leave the game and he went on a rampage before exiting the arena. It would have been outrageous for anyone else not named Dennis Rodman, but the visual of his coach Phil Jackson finding the whole episode funny said it all. He was suspended for six games and fined $20,000.
Rodman the wrestler
In 1997, while still playing basketball, he decided he wanted to be a professional wrestler.
Rodman actually signed with WCW – WWE’s fierce rival at the time – and joined the NWO, the hottest stable in wrestling, led by Hulk Hogan.
He had several matches in WCW, but most people remember him tagging with Hogan against Diamond Dallas Page and Utah Jazz forward Karl Malone at Bash at the Beach in 1998.
Prior to this, both Malone and Rodman, two power forwards, had clashed in the NBA finals for two consecutive years with Rodman and the Bulls emerging victorious, just like he would in the ring, too.
Rodman’s NBA career wound down at the turn of the Millennium, but the controversy didn’t.
In 2005, he stripped off naked for a PETA campaign, despite having worn fur consistently throughout his career.
In 1996, he ‘married’ himself when he turned up in a wedding dress and declared himself bisexual. Although many people believed this was to promote the release of his autobiography ‘Bad as I wanna be’, the image has lived on in infamy.
In 2010, Rodman – by now well known for his partying antics – accidentally broadcast himself having an orgy with six women at a Hamptons party.
Using a cordless microphone, he was the drunken emcee of the party. The problem was he forgot to turn the mic off when he went upstairs with half a dozen women.
Kim Jong-un and Rodman: BFFs
Last, but certainly not least, he decided to befriend North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.
Their relationship began in 2013 when Rodman attended a basketball exhibition in North Korea and the pair immediately struck up a friendship.
The two-time All-Star has returned to the country several times since, but in 2018 he tweeted Jong-un for the release American prisoner Kenneth Bae, who had been sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in North Korea.
The following year, Jong-un release Bae. Rodman has since called Jung-un a ‘friend for life’ and he is ‘not that type of person that you think that people portrayed him to be.’