Dennis Rodman is one of the more colorful characters the NBA has ever seen.
The eccentric basketball player’s career was highlighted in the second weekend of the ESPN docuseries, “The Last Dance,” which chronicles the final years of Michael Jordan’s tenure with the Chicago Bulls.
Here are four takeaways from episode two and how Dennis Rodman cultivated the personality the world has seen.
1. Dennis Rodman's Grit Was Made in Detroit
Dennis Rodman was born in Trenton, New Jersey, in May 1961. When he was young, his father left the family and settled in the Philippines, leaving Rodman and his mother and two sisters. They relocated to Dallas, Texas.
The family lived in the projects, according to Rodman, and as a teenager would see drug dealers and drugs in the area. While his mother worked long hours to support the family, Rodman says by the time he was 18, she kicked him out of the home for not providing enough.
Rodman lived on the streets for two years and crashed on friends' sofas while spending much of his time in the gym playing basketball. While playing around town, he was noticed by a recruiter for Southeastern Oklahoma State University and was signed to play basketball on the spot.
The player says it was basketball that helped him get out of the circumstances he was in, but added that he “worked my a** off” to make sure that didn’t happen.
“Basketball saved my life,” he said in “The Last Dance.”
Following a successful college basketball career, he was drafted by the Detroit Pistons in 1986. Rodman, who was notoriously shy, would see his personality come out while playing for the team known as the “Bad Boys” of the NBA.
The Pistons during the 1980s were known for their aggressive playing styles, which Rodman adopted, much to the delight of coach Chuck Daly. Daly had such admiration about Rodman that when an assistant coach once asked the head coach to contain the player, Daly quipped, “you do not put a saddle on a mustang.”
During this time, Rodman didn’t have the looks he was known for. There were no tattoos, no piercings, no hair color, but his fearless playing style was known throughout the league.
He helped the Pistons win two NBA championships which continued to be the ire of his future teammate Michael Jordan for years to come.
2. Madonna Inspired Rodman to Become the Man He Is Today
“No one knows me,” Rodman states in episode three of “The Last Dance.”
In 1993, Rodman was traded to the San Antonio Spurs during the off season, the blockbuster sci-fi action film “Demolition Man” opened in theaters. In the film, the villain portrayed by Wesley Snipes, has bleach blonde hair.
Snipes’ character became the inspiration for Rodman going into that season. Rodman dyed his hair blonde and suddenly started turning heads in the media. Rodman’s looks then caught the attention of Madonna, who briefly dated the basketball player. It was Madonna who Rodman credits with telling him to be the man he wants to be and do not let anyone tell him otherwise.
Madonna helped Rodman find himself and suddenly the shy man who was an introvert off the court and an extrovert on it metamorphosed into an extrovert in every facet of his life.
Throughout the three seasons he was with the Spurs, he began tattooing his body, piercing his ears and face, and changing his hair color almost as often as he changed his socks. By 1996, Rodman was on his way to Chicago after a trade and by playing with the biggest team in the league and the biggest star to ever grace the court, his profile rose from being an eccentric basketball player to a global superstar.
3. Rodman's "Monster" Was One of His Own Doing
Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen could not have been more different from Rodman, but he fit like a glove when he entered the team.
During his time with the Bulls, Rodman kept a good report with his teammates and even admitted to his stumbles during their final season together, 1997-1998, when Pippen was out with an injury. During a stretch of games, Jordan noticed Rodman not playing up to the level he was used to. When Rodman realized Jordan’s frustration and anger with him following one particular match, Rodman went to the leader’s hotel room, knocked on the door and asked for a cigar.
Jordan says Rodman never knocked on his door before that night and realized it was his strange way of apologizing. After the incident, Rodman returned to playing at full throttle.
“Dennis is the one who held us together when Scottie was out,” Jordan said.
Rodman trained hard and partied even harder. With the spotlight on him at all times, Rodman admits in “The Last Dance” that “I created this monster,” explaining that whatever perception people have of him is his own doing.
Aside from the body ink, piercings, hair color, Rodman would wear flamboyant outfits and paint his fingernails different shades. The wild player was a fan favorite who would stop to sign autographs for fans and was the constant talk of the league, but all of that came with a price.
During the middle of the 1998 season, Rodman went to coach Phil Jackson and asked if he could have a 48-hour vacation because he wanted to go to Vegas and blow off some steam. During a meeting with Rodman and Jackson, Jordan could not believe the coach would allow that, citing that if anyone needed a break it was him. But Jackson let Rodman go to Vegas. Jordan said knew that the brief time his teammate would have in Sin City would stretch out to beyond the window he was given.
Following a few days in Vegas without anyone hearing from Rodman, Jordan flew to the city and found his teammate, who was in bed at the time with model and TV personality Carmen Electra.
Electra says in “The Last Dance” she was surprised Jordan was at the door and she hid in embarrassment of the whole situation, while Jordan tussled with Rodman to get him out of bed, on to a plane and back to Chicago for practice.
Rodman returned to Chicago worse for wear, but still managed retain his focus and strength in practice, much to the surprise of his teammates.
4. Rodman and Phil Jackson Were Kindred Spirits
While Dennis Rodman’s loud presence was known everywhere he went, he formed an unlikely bond with his tranquil and collected coach, Phil Jackson.
Jackson was similar to Rodman during his days playing for the New York Knicks in the late 1960s through the mid-70s. Jackson was sort of an outcast in the league because he was a hippie and grew up in a very religious household in North Dakota.
He talked openly about taking LSD and found harmony in activities like meditation and yoga, which were not part of the zeitgeist of the era in which he played. He was viewed as a peculiar guy, but one who played with relentless abilities on the court, much like Rodman.
In an effort to make sure Rodman was on track and focused, Jackson developed a personal relationship with him, bonding over their appreciation for Native American cultures. While Rodman and Jackson may have looked very different they were not that far apart which also helped the player understand the decisions his coach would make in regards to him.