Episode three of The Last Dance put the spotlight on perhaps the most fascinating member of the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls, Dennis Rodman. While Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were the team’s superstars, Rodman epitomized being a star in your own role, as his ability to defend and rebound were crucial to the team’s second three-peat.
Rodman’s episode began with a deep dive into his past, which involved getting kicked out of his home when he was 18. He bounced around, eventually getting a chance to play basketball at Southeastern Oklahoma State, where he said he would “go balls out every time” he took the floor. It led to him going to the Detroit Pistons in the second round of the 1986 NBA Draft, where he eventually pieced together how he could become an impact player in the league.
“I think my second or third year in the league, I actually figured out what I can do best: rebound and play defense,” Rodman said. “Basically, I just started learning how to perfect that. I just used to have my friends, late at night — sh*t, 3, 4 in the morning — go to the gym, I’d say, ‘Shoot the ball. Just shoot it over here, shoot it over here, shoot it over there, shoot it over there. I just sit there and react, react. I just practiced a lot about the angle of the ball and the trajectory of it. You got a Larry Bird, it’s gonna spin. You got a Magic [Johnson], major spin. When Michael shoot over here, I position myself right there.”
Rodman then explained how he got to the point where he internalized what the ball would do whenever it would hit the rim, figuring out the best way to position himself so that he could be the first to corral it.
“So basically, I just started learning how to put myself in a position to get the ball,” Rodman said. “I was pretty much like that rash you can’t ever get rid of, right?”
This mentality made Rodman perhaps the most revered rebounder in the history of the league, as well as one of the most tenacious and versatile defenders that basketball has ever seen. Add in that he embraced this role — willingly deferring to the Bulls’ superstar duo to be the team’s stars — and Rodman’s importance cannot be overstated. In fact, Gary Payton lovingly calling him a “pest” and the team’s “f*ck up person.”
Obviously the most compelling stuff about Rodman occurs off the court, where he is as complex of a human as the league has ever seen. But the look into Dennis Rodman: All-Time Great Basketball Player is tremendous, too.