It’s interesting to see how much analysis there is of a 10-part series that involves an inside look of one of the greatest basketball dynasties, when that series is shown during a global pandemic and there are no live sports. I found “The Last Dance” to be an interesting watch, although I was disappointed that Michael Jordan and his production team scrubbed everything first.
Winning 6 titles in 8 years has a way of altering perception and changing the way a lot of behavior is analyzed. I’ve really been fascinated by the way Dennis Rodman has been perceived. Keep in mind, the way everybody was portrayed in the film was how Michael wanted them portrayed, but I feel like Rodman came out on the good side.
Rodman was a terrific NBA player with a unique skill – the ability to rebound the ball – that generally translated into winning in that league (“No rebounds, no rings” – Pat Riley). He was tough and played hard for the most part when he was on the floor, and playing alongside two of the top 50 players of all time in the prime of their careers certainly helped mask his weaknesses. He also played for one of the greatest NBA coaches of all time. He could defend and he could rebound, with no real offensive skill to appreciate.
There is no doubt Rodman was a big part of the second three-peat with the Bulls. He brought an edge and a willingness to do the dirty work that translated very well for his team. But it seems like the impression is that he was this hard-working, role-playing winner who did all of the little things his team needed to win.
I think Rodman was an unreliable player who forced his teammates to overcome his inconsistency and lack of commitment to win. Did he help his team win? Absolutely. Would they have won without him? I’m not sure, but given his contributions on the court, you can probably make a better case that they would not have. I’m a believer you can win with anyone. I don’t believe that there are certain types of players who you can’t win with. I think that narrative is lazy and tired, and Dennis Rodman is a perfect example.
I’m not arguing against Dennis Rodman or his value to the team. But our perception of him certainly seems different 20 years down the road, now that we are celebrating the dynasty.
When Michael Jordan talked about Scottie Pippen waiting on his surgery until the season started because he didn’t want to ruin his summer, he said “Scottie quit on us.” And maybe he has a point. But Dennis Rodman literally did quit on them, during the season. He went to Vegas with Carmen Electra for a team-approved vacation DURING THE SEASON. Think about that for a minute.
The response was a lot of, well, that was Dennis, and he needed a break, and we knew when he came back we could count on him, and no one competed harder. All of that. To me, the Bulls and Phil Jackson figured out a way to make it work. They overcame that fact that he was a bad teammate, and a lot of the credit for that goes to the head coach and the other players. They were willing to put up with it, hoping that he would provide what they needed during the games. And they made it work.
But the idea that Dennis Rodman was some kind of glue guy who could be counted on to do all of the dirty work is laughable to me. In fact, using the term “counted on” with Dennis Rodman is also a joke. Even during the games, when he was playing hard and rebounding, they still never knew when he might just blow up. He was a loose cannon, not generally something you are looking for on high-performing teams. He had an unbelievable ability to rebound, and he was willing to defend and play physical without getting the ball very much. He added great value to the team. But most of the credit for why he was able to help the team goes to the rest of his teammates, and the way Phil Jackson handled the situation.