We’ve almost made it to Week 2 of “The Last Dance,” or as we like to call it, “Week 2 of content-wringing from ‘The Last Dance.’” At one point, our backup plan was to “binge 12 hours of The Bachelor and become a Bachelor newsletter.” So, yeah, be thankful this documentary came along. Episodes three and four, which will air this Sunday at 9 p.m. EST on ESPN, will focus on Dennis Rodman, who most people know as the bridal dress-wearing North Korea man. While that is a completely correct description, there is plenty more to Rodman, arguably the strangest person America has ever produced. A quick background on Worm ahead of Sunday night…
His childhood and rise to fame was similar to Pippen’s
Scottie Pippen went from rural poverty in Hamburg, Ark. to begging for an NAIA scholarship to an iconic NBA player with six rings. Dennis Rodman went from urban poverty in Dallas, Tx. to begging for an NAIA scholarship to an iconic NBA player with five rings. (NAIA = an entirely different college athletics organization from the NCAA, generally considered to be between NCAA’s Division III and Division II, competition-wise.) Rodman was 5-foot-6 as a high school freshman, wasn’t an athletic standout, started working as an overnight janitor at Dallas’s airport after graduating, then grew eight inches and started playing basketball again.
He didn’t play in college until he was 22
He enrolled at Southeastern Oklahoma State as a 22-year old, at which point the chance of making the NBA would have been something very close to zero. But by the time he was a 24-year-old junior, he was averaged 24 points and 18 rebounds a game.
While in college, he befriended a 13-year-old white kid from all-white Bokchito, Okla. When Rodman, then 6-foot-8, came over for dinner, the boy’s parents were …. “surprised,” though the two apparently became lifelong friends. “I always said Worm was a gift from God,” said the boy’s mother, in this 1990 feature. The whole thing is surreal, but speaks to Rodman’s wandering and lonely soul.
He didn’t play in the NBA until he was 25
Like Pippen, no one had any idea what to expect from him in the NBA. The Pistons, though, drafted him in the second round in 1986, and he was immediately a great defender and rebounder. He won back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year awards from ‘90-’91 (“I wanted this award so bad”) and later averaged 18.7 rebounds per game during the ‘92-93 season, most by anyone other than Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain.
He didn’t get truly strange until later in his career
Things got weird once he left the Pistons in 1993. Over the next few years, he covered himself in tattoos, started doing the hair thing, wrote a book called “WALK ON THE WILD SIDE,” which featured him in a cat-like pose while painted in tiger stripes on the front cover, dated Madonna, married Carmen Electra, divorced Carmen Electra, and so on. (He also has an all-time collection of bbref nicknames: The Worm, The Secretary of Defense, Dennis the Menace, Country, Psycho, Rodzilla, Demolition Man, El Loco.) Obviously, there is so much more to him, all of which will be covered on Sunday. [READ: Dennis Rodman embodied the pop culture phenomenon of the '90s Bulls]
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