The best rebounder in the history of the NBA will probably be remembered more for his off-court lifestyle than his on-court domination of the glass. In the end, though, it won't matter. The man known as "The Worm" is now a Hall of Famer.
In a stark contrast to Michael Jordan's induction speech that many in the media considered petty, his less-appreciated and flamboyant teammate Dennis Rodman delivered a heartfelt and emotional speech during his induction to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday that will likely go down as one of the most memorable in history.
Not many knew what to expect from Rodman. Would we get the man who once wore a wedding dress to a book signing? Or would it be the raw human being we saw fumble his way through his jersey retirement by the Pistons earlier this year?
The answer turned out to be the latter, and then some.
Rodman started off with your standard induction speech by thanking numerous people, none more than former Bulls coach Phil Jackson, who helped him win three of his five NBA titles. But then it started to turn in a sincere and shocking direction. Rodman started to pick himself apart and exposed who he really is: an actual person with faults (not an alien).
Those like Jackson who know him best knew that his wild lifestyle didn't reflect who he really was, but the public would never be able to guess that judging by his actions. On Friday, Rodman let everyone know that his act was just that -- an act.
"I didn't play the game for the money," Rodman said, his eyes welling with tears as he paused to force out the next words. "I didn't play to be famous. What you see here is just an illusion; I just love to be an individual that's very colorful."
Rodman epitomized the "Bad Boys" label that was donned on the Pistons team that won back-to-back championships in 1989 and 1990. His hard work and hustle on the floor was unmatched in basketball. The reason why an undersized 6-foot-6 power forward led the league in rebounding for so many years was because nobody was going to outwork Dennis Rodman. It just couldn't be done.
For years, though, that wasn't what people saw. They just saw a crazy dude that grabbed a bunch of rebounds. That ended Friday.
Fighting back tears for most of the night, Rodman didn't use the opportunity to glorify himself. Instead, he was humble and exposed us to his inner flaws, admonishing himself for not being a better husband, son and father.
"If anyone asks if I have any regrets in your career being a basketball player, I say I have one regret: I wish I was a better father," Rodman said.
He also talked of his mother, with whom he had a trying relationship in his early years.
"I resented her for a long time," he said. "My mother rarely ever hugged me or hugged my siblings. She didn't know how. But she managed.
"I wasn't like most players in the NBA who say, 'I'm going to take care of my mother.' I was real selfish, because of things she did to me in my life. But as I got older things changed. I haven't been a great son to you the last [few] years, but now we can laugh about that."
It was a rare display and a refreshing reminder that not everyone in sports is out to make themselves a "brand."
Rodman, like his time in Chicago and Detroit, was never truly appreciated until he was gone. He was overshadowed by bigger names such as Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars in Motown, as well as Jordan and Scottie Pippen in Chicago. Now that he's out of basketball, maybe he'll get the appreciation that is long overdue.
Like many young(er) Pistons fans I don't remember much of Rodman in Detroit. Most will remember him for his time with the Bulls, where he became iconic -- and a bit more eccentric -- in Jackson's star-studded system. You could even say he was the reason that the Bulls won three titles from 1996-1998, not his more famous teammates.
True, he wasn't a scoring wizard -- his 1987-88 average of 11.6 points was the only time he averaged double digits -- but he wasn't a decoy on offense either. His work ethic made him a threat at both ends of the floor and a tenacious defender which we probably won't see again for quite some time. Before there was Ben Wallace, there was Rodman. He played defense and grabbed rebounds like he invented them.
Of all the media attention he has garnered in his life, none was as shocking as what we saw at the Hall of Fame. It wasn't a gimmicky act or a wild outfit (though Rodman didn't disappoint as you can tell from the picture) that drew everyone's attention. It was Rodman at his most real, probably one of the few times we'll ever get to see the real Dennis Rodman.
All of us have flaws (as Armando Galarraga would say, "Nobody's perfect"). Rodman's were amplified by his status as a star athlete and his rambunctious attitude toward life. No, he's not exactly your model citizen. In his speech, however, Rodman showed that he is a model for others in a way few can claim: he admitted his shortcomings and wished that he could have done better.
It's okay, Dennis. We all do.
You can watch Rodman's full speech below.