Wednesday, June 10, 2009


In the mailbox today was the latest edition of SLAM Magazine. For the August edition (two months ahead instead of normal one in the magazine biz), they ‘remixed’ their 50 greatest players in NBA history.

Originally published in 1996 and reprised a year later, this list presented a mix of stars from every era and generation the A has endured from George Mikan to Kobe Bryant. It’s very easy to pick apart such a comprehensive list of players deemed to be the cream of the crop. After all, scrutinizing the big boys is what us little gals and guys in the blogosphere live for. Yet, if there is something that made me stand up and cheer, dance in the hallway and unequivocally stamp a seal of approval, it’s the inclusion of the one player who should

This guy.

See, most of the sporting public would quickly dismiss Dennis Rodman as the very kid who preferred to be seen and heard much to the dismay of the grownups in charge. Truthfully, he was as his antics took attention away from his defensive and rebounding excellence. Even in a defensive-heavy NBA during the late 1980s and 1990s, Rodman stood out among his peers because he had the ability to guard all five positions on the floor.

In his Chicago years – certainly his best three-year stretch – he made rebounding an art form, settled rather comfortably into his role in Phil Jackson’s offense (“just get the ball, Dennis and we’ll take care of the rest”) and somewhat comically (or pathetically) became Karl Malone’s arch nemesis.

Yet again, in looking at The Worm in those years, we see the wedding dress, the kicking of a cameraman, his tendency to tick off referees and the sixteen gazillion hair dyes. Rodman made himself a bizarre celebrity alongside the sterile off-court persona of Michael Jordan in the days where the Bulls were the best show in every town from coast to coast. Sadly, the further away from the success and stability of a championship franchise – the mere mention of Jerry Krause probably still rankles Bulls Fans – the further away he was from being recognized as one of the best who ever done it.

This doesn’t condone, celebrate or even condemn Rodman’s transgressions or his lifestyle. He was never the clean-cut, inoffensive and indifferent type who would keep his mouth shut, get a double-double and pitch a deodorant like ‘Rick Vaughn’. Yet, he never claimed to be anything more than himself, no matter how many different variations there may have been. Unfortunately for him, too many of us in the sporting public hold that against him when it comes to his game.

We know that there are plenty of examples of heralded athletes whose personal lives overshadow their accomplishments; a good bit of them deservedly so. Yet, at least in one scribe’s mind, Rodman is in a class all by himself in this regard. Is there a legitimate reason for this? Will he ever be enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame? Will the NBA ever place him among its greatest ever in a future ‘Greatest of All Time’ list?

Would delayed or reserved recognition even matter to him?

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