Back in the summer of 2010, basketball fan and quantitative analyst set Benjamin Morris set about "proving the greatness of Dennis Rodman," a player he loved but whom he'd always felt had gotten a raw deal because he was never a big scorer and because his flamboyance often put his actual ball-playing in the backseat.
In a 12-post series on his blog, Skeptical Sports Analysis, Morris dug deep into historical data and Rodman's statistical profile — stuff like total rebound percentage (the share of available rebounds Rodman grabbed while on the floor), pace factor (games used to feature many more possessions, meaning Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell had more rebounding chances than Rodman), on/off-court and plus-minus numbers (how Rodman's teams performed when he played vs. when he sat), etc. — in the interest of establishing beyond a reasonable doubt that Rodman was one of the most undervalued players in NBA history and deserved enshrinement in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
Hall voters wound up coming around before Morris had finished his magnum opus, electing Rodman for enshriment in 2011. Luckily for those of us who like exhaustive investigations of how good players of the 1990s were, though, Morris pressed on, finishing up the series by concluding that, based on his impact on team success, you could reasonably argue that Rodman might actually have been a more valuable asset to a potential championship contender than Michael Jordan. (Morris acknowledges that it sounds bananas and that he himself may not be ready to conclude that definitively, but that, based on the evidence, "I don’t think the opposite view is any stronger.")
Whether you buy the results of Morris' detailed breakdown, they make for fascinating reading and re-reading, especially if you're of an analytical bent. Here's the thing, though: Even if you read the whole series the first time around, you probably haven't thought about it in a while, because the finale went live in April 2011. You almost definitely haven't thought about the post that started it all off, because that was published in August 2010, and who's reading three-year-old introductory blog posts about how "Dennis Rodman has dominated Rebounding Percentage more than anyone has dominated any major stat?"
Well, we learned the answer to that question on Wednesday:
Good stuff Ben. Love this dude. Appreciate your hard work and analysis of my career. I can honestly say I’ve never seen my numbers broken down this way. Much love honey.
Yep, that's Dennis Rodman taking the time to log into WordPress to leave a comment on a nearly three-year-old blog post about how great he was, just to say thanks to the guy who wrote it. That is awesome.
"But wait," you say. "This is the Internet. Using Dennis Rodman's name and including a link to his official website doesn't necessarily mean it's him; that commenter could be anybody." Touché. Lest you think this is just some random user taking The Worm's name in vain, though, this also came from Rodman's official verified Twitter account on Wednesday:
— Dennis Rodman (@dennisrodman) July 24, 2013
So you know it's legit.
Or, of course, this could be the work of a dedicated PR/social media person committed to making sure everything appears on the up-and-up as Dennis goes about promoting his new signature adult beverage. I'd prefer to think it's the former, though.
Underneath his gruff, headline-seeking and rambunctious exterior, Rodman has always seemed to have a real appreciation for people who understood not only that what he provided on the basketball court mattered, but that it's really, really had to be an elite rebounder and multipositional defender at the NBA level, let alone an all-time great on both counts who never took nearly as much off the table as he brought to it. Morris' work might not inflame true believers' hearts like a highlight video of Rodman's frantic relentlessness does, but it gets at the same point — making us take a step back and savor just how special, gifted and rare a talent Rodman was — albeit from a different angle of approach. Also, it makes "Much love honey" that much funnier a salutation.
Luckily, Morris is a principled enough analyst to avoid looking at Rodman through Bad Boy Vodka-colored glasses now, even though he and Dennis are officially "bros." I, however, am not. Granted, I'm nowhere near as fluent a stat guy as Morris is, and I've never written seriously or at length about Dennis Rodman. But I am a blog dude who'd like to be commended on his work by a player about whom he's written.
I guess what I'm saying is: Hey, what's up, J.R. Smith?
If you leave a comment on my post about how him playing ball with the Power Rangers makes sense, I'll gladly be (even more) in the tank for him (than I already am). Get at me, J.R. — I'll be waiting by the keyboard. See you in about 2 1/2 years!
Hat-tip to TrueHoop's Henry Abbott.