Dennis Rodman is one of the most polarizing figures in NBA history. As a five-time champion and arguably the greatest rebounder of all time, Rodman was a unique athlete whose crossover appeal transformed him into a global icon.
His life and his career are now the subject of the new ESPN 30 for 30 documentary Rodman: For Better or Worse. The film chronicles his early struggles as a homeless teen, to his life in the NBA and all the on and off-court exploits that came with it, to his post-retirement and his controversial relationship with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.
We spoke to Rodman recently about all of this and more in a raw and wide-ranging interview in anticipation of the film’s premier, which airs Tuesday night at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN.
I found the new documentary incredibly moving. I thought they did a fantastic job on it. Why did you feel like now was the time to tell your story?
Well, I believe the fact that I give people something to let them know that what you saw early in my career, my basketball career, that you never saw the real me. I think that people would see the fact that what they perceive me as is not who I am.
I’m a very kind-hearted person. I’m a very loving person. I’m very giving and caring all at the same time, but people look at me, and say that guy does this, he does that. And they think most of the things I do is bad. Fifty-eight years of my lifestyle that people can’t accept. But, it’s like, what people don’t get, I think, because they don’t see [is] that this guy is loved by more people in the world, that he just wants to be loved by people. He doesn’t want to do anything to hurt people, he just wants to be loved by people. Just looking to be reached out, and for people to accept him.
And what you’re going to get out of that documentary is that I just want to be accepted as loved. But, that never happened all my life.
Speaking of that, the documentary doesn’t sugarcoat anything.
No, it does not. It does not sugarcoat.
It gets into some pretty painful personal stuff. What did it take to help establish that level of trust and vulnerability on your part, that they were going to treat your story with respect?