August 12, 2011
Quite a bit has been written about Dennis Rodman over the last five months, particularly in the wake of his jersey retirement ceremony up in Detroit last April, and Friday's induction of The Worm into the Basketball Hall of Fame. With helicopters and Howard Stern and that noted wild man Eddie Vedder likely in tow on Friday night, Rodman's part of the proceedings is likely to be memorable.
But what of the things that people don't remember? What of the revisionist history that seeps its way into acting as fact? Why not take on a few of those things, as D-Rod takes to the Hall?
1. Scorekeepers in Detroit, San Antonio and (especially) Chicago counted the times Rodman tipped the ball to himself as a rebound.
Yeah, not true. I can't recall how this rumor started, though I know it made the rounds during Rodman's second season with Chicago, but it's completely without merit. Trust me, I tried scoring a few games. God, I was a dork.
The image seems to suit the myth. Scorekeepers want to pump up the totals of their league-leading players, right? And we've all seen Dennis tip a carom to himself, sometimes two or three times until finally securing the rebound. But that just counts -- and it just counted -- for one rebound. Now, a tip off of an offensive miss back at the rim also counts as a rebound (and a shot attempt, which often resulted in Rodman's iffy shooting percentages), but to coaches those are worth their weight in gold. Moses Malone may have had more of those types of rebounds than any other player in NBA history, and nobody is questioning his rebounding credentials.
The next time you watch an old Bulls playoff game and see Dennis bat a loose ball three times all the way back out to the free throw line before finally grabbing the orange for good, rest assured, that only counted for one rebound. Your precious stats shan't be Rodmanized. We promise.
2. With Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell averaging well over 20 rebounds per game on their career, no sane person could possibly consider Rodman's 13.1 rebounds per game as the mark of the finest rebounder ever.
Except that he is. Or, at the very least, he's on par with those two.
Increased pace and a ridiculous amount of missed shots during Wilt and Russell's era led to ungodly amounts of rebounding opportunity for those two. And they took advantage -- some online estimates (accurately determining proper totals with pre-1969 box scores is out of the question) have Russell and Wilt grabbing just over 20 percent of all available rebounds on their career, an impressive mark considering that this includes their final, declining years.
The problem is that Rodman's final, declining years are included in his rebound rate, as well, and he grabbed 23 percent of all available rebounds for his career. That's the finest mark in league history. We're not going to give Rodman the edge because of his 6-6 frame (you don't get extra points just for being pound-for-pound the best ever), but it is worth mentioning that a person who was sometimes topped in height by the opposing team's shooting guard could toss his name into the ring with Wilt and Russell, two modern athletes who towered over their competition either in terms of height and/or superior athleticism.
3. Dennis Rodman was an offensive zero.
Dennis had a nice shooting stroke, but he missed half of his free throws and never was a threat as a jump shooter. He could drive to his right but wasn't going to do much in the half court with that skill. He had no post-up game, and his 6-6 frame made him a tough sell as a finisher in the paint. So there's that.
Then there was so much else. In Chicago, the offense often ran through Rodman. Very often, to the point where he was at the apex of that team's triangle offense more than the team's centers, and his passes that led to the pass counting as an assist grew year by year. They didn't have to guard him, and yet he found his role in that offense and made teams pay with his expert two-hand passing.
Rodman knew that no sane power forward would bother paying attention to him if he set a screen for a guard in a screen and roll attack, so he used his considerable speed to gum up the works for retreating defenses in transition. Dennis was the fastest guy on the court, always, so he would run in front of his teammate with the ball and block the line of vision or outright screen his man on the fast break. Rodman essentially acted as an offensive lineman on the fly while some speedster returned a kickoff for a touchdown, just gettin' in the way. Sometimes legally. It must have been so annoying.
Most importantly were those offensive rebounds. From 1994 to 1997, Rodman managed a combined 20 percent offensive rebound rate, which is absolutely a dominant stat. That's a game-changer. To allow your team chance after chance after chance is just incredibly important. That counts. That's on offense, friends.
4. It's 2011, and Dennis Rodman wears Ed Hardy.
Yeah, it's true. Though he probably gets paid for it, so I can't knock the guy. Times are tough.
I'd coat myself in Axe Body Spray every morning if they paid me. It might cost me a marriage, but I'm sure Axe would pay for my divorce attorney.
5. Rodman was useless on anything less than a championship team.
A quick look at Rodman's career points to him chafing at having to play on a 40-win Pistons team in 1992-93, and his flameouts in Los Angeles in 1999 and with the Dallas Mavericks in 2000. Dennis wasn't on his best behavior with those outfits, but even while sulking at the loss of Chuck Daly as Pistons head coach in 1993, Rodman still led the NBA with 18.3 rebounds per game and managed a crazy 26 percent rebound rate. That Los Angeles outfit actually had championship talent, but as was the case with his time spent in Dallas the year after, I blame age and apathy for his iffy play more than I do the lack of a sure championship supporting cast.
Remember, Dennis Rodman was 25 years of age (six months into his 25th year, actually) when he played his first NBA game. And 1986 seemed a million miles away when, just a few months before turning 39, he was trying to keep up as power forward with the Mavericks in 2000. Especially at his height, Rodman really shouldn't have been expected to play All-Star level ball with the Lakers and Mavs at that age, he knew he was a step slow, and he let it affect his attitude. We all will, at some point in our careers, lash out in winter.
Of course, having Isiah Thomas, David Robinson, and Michael Jordan helped. But you can say the same thing for every member of the Hall of Fame, and their next-best (or, one-better) teammate.
And say this, for Dennis Rodman -- he's a Hall of Famer. More importantly, and without even getting into the goofy get-ups or body art or hair color, there will never be anyone like him again. An incredibly unique player who was as dominant as he was extraordinary.
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