I don’t know if I’ve ever done a complete 180 on an athlete in my life more so than with Dennis Rodman. I despised him growing up when the “Bad Boy” Pistons were beating up and knocking out the Bulls for three straight years, but on October 2, 1995, he became one of us. Gone were the feelings of hatred that came from shoving Scottie Pippen in the ’91 eastern conference finals. Vanished was the sting of those three straight playoff defeats. All that mattered that day, was that the Bulls new power forward was going to help them get past the Orlando Magic and win another championship.
All of the vitriol was now geared towards the Magic and Horace Grant. Do you remember the Magic eliminating the Bulls in Jordan’s comeback season on ’95 in game 6 at the UC? It sucked almost as much as seeing Grant lifted like some sort of God by his Magic teammates. We needed a power forward, but I never thought the Bulls would make that move.
When the news broke that all they had given to the Spurs was Will Perdue, you didn’t believe it. “holy shit, that’s all we gave up for the two-time defensive player of the year?! We’re back.”
Not everyone was convinced, but with Jordan, Pippen and Phil Jackson, the support system and leadership was strong enough to handle the multiple personalities of Rodman. It was a risk, but the Bulls don’t have those 3 extra trophies that you see in the picture above if that move isn’t made.
If the Bulls had just signed, let’s say, Anthony Mason (who was a free agent in the summer of ’95), do the Bulls start 37-3 and roll to a 72-10 record? I say no. Rodman was the perfect acqusition at that time because he respected MJ, Pip and Phil, and didn’t need the ball. Jordan was back in full force as the greatest player alive, and Pippen had developed into a top 5 player in his own right.
That ’95-’96 Bulls team is considered the greatest ever (I’d rank the ’91 & ’92 Bulls ahead of them, but that’s me) because of how they cleaned up the league’s awards list (MJ won MVP & finals MVP, Toni Kukoc won 6th man of the year, Jackson was named coach of the year, Jerry Krause was named executive of the year, & Pippen was an all-star starter and had a signature season: 19.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 5.9 apg, 1.7 steals per game, shot 37% from 3, and 46% from the field).
They also dominated on both ends of the floor like no team has since. They averaged 105.2 points per game while only giving up 92.9. Rodman’s arrival also made the Bulls the original “Big 3.” Don’t let ESPN or anyone else in today’s “what have you done for me lately?” world we live in.
Dennis Rodman became a cult hero in Chicago during his three seasons in the greatest city in the world. Die hards like myself are still able to revel in those three extra titles because of the versatility he brought to that team. Some sports radio types in Chicago might not think he is a hall of famer, but his body of work speaks for itself. Sure, he kicked a cameraman, dressed like a woman for a book signing, left Utah to fly to Vegas during the ’97 finals, and dated Carmen Electra, but when it was showtime, “The Worm” was there and brought his A game.
He deserves to be inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame, and praise for being his own man in a society where everyone wants you to conform to the norm. That wasn’t Rodman, and I’ll forever respect him for it.
There are a couple of games that stick out from that ’95-’96 magical Bulls season. Chill out and enjoy…