The Worm. Two words that meant so much to my childhood of die-hard Bulls fandom. Everyone in Chicago loved the duo of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, but Dennis Rodman became just as popular – if not more so – among Bulls fans as soon as he arrived via trade from San Antonio.
As one observer described in the documentary "Rodman: For Better Or Worse", Rodman being more popular than Jordan in Chicago was like somebody being more popular than the Pope in Vatican City. But it happened. Rodman was that popular. The crazy quotes, his mental and physical battles with opponents and referees, the party lifestyle off the court, and his eccentric style on the court.
Rodman was the shy but scrappy player who became a star and a champion with the Bad Boy Pistons. In the fall of 1995, the Bulls added him to a superstar duo on one of the largest market teams in the NBA. He joined the already-in-motion storyline of the greatest player ever trying to regain his basketball throne. These circumstances, and his magnetic individuality, turned The Worm into a global celebrity overnight.
The flamboyant clothes and most of the piercings were left in the locker room, but the tattoos and hairdos were out there flying around the court.
On the bright stage of the NBA playoffs, The Worm more frequently changed his iconic dyed hairdos. It was an added element of anticipation when you would turn on your TV to watch the players in the layup line during pregame coverage. "Will Dennis have a new ‘do tonight? What will it look like?!" I vividly remember the excitement attached to that one weird detail of playoff basketball: The Worm's hair.
In honor of NBC Sports Chicago's current #BullsRewind broadcasts, which air the Bulls' playoff victories through their title triumph in 1996, I decided to rank The Worm's Top 5 best dyed ‘dos *of the playoffs* during the second threepeat.
It's the Pecking Order.
5. 1998 NBA Finals – Black & Green
So eye-catching. This look is forever linked to MJ's final shot and the end of the dynasty. Rodman raises his hands in triumph under the basket as Jordan hits "The Shot" over Byron Russell. After John Stockton's three-point attempt clangs off the rim and the final buzzer sounds, The Worm exuberantly goes coast to coast jumping up and down. Could the black and green hair have been Rodman's clue to the fans that this was, in fact, the Last Dance? The black parts of his ‘do represented the dark days ahead, while the green represented the promise of a new day after the Bulls emerged from the post-dynasty darkness. Maybe Rodman's thinking wasn't that deep, but it was a dope ‘do either way.
4. 1997 Conference Semifinals (among others) – Bleach Blonde
You may say it's boring, I say it's timeless. The bleach blonde look, which Rodman sported throughout his career going back to his first hair dyeing days with the Spurs, always served as his blank canvass. But in its own simple way, it too was a style. Even in its most basic form, The Worm's hair represented his counter-culture vibe that the NBA feared but its fans loved. Only Dennis could pull off that much "Stick it to the man" energy with a monotone hairdo.
3. 1997 NBA Finals – Rainbow Picasso
To me, this ‘do most perfectly represents Rodman's personality. It's so colorful, and completely random. There's no organization to where the colors are placed, or the shapes they form. But you're transfixed by its beauty. If there's one color that dominates the rest, it's Bulls red. Perfection.
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2. 1996 NBA Finals – Random Symbols On Blonde
This unforgettable look will always make me think of one specific moment, and those who remember the old days need only hear the name to know the moment: Frank Brickowski. The bench forward/center for Seattle tried and failed to win the mind game Dennis would always play with his opponents. By Game 3 of the '96 Finals, The Worm had already crawled into Brickowski's brain and set up camp. During some MJ free throws – with the W well in hand – Dennis simply turned 90 degrees to face Frank and smiled. Shortly after, Brickowski would be ejected from the game after shoving Dennis to the ground. Quintessential Worm, and an iconic Worm ‘do to fit the moment.
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1. 1998 First Three Rounds – Red & Yellow with Wavy Black Lines
I honestly have no words to describe how legendary this hairdo is. I remember the first time I saw it, when Dennis first sported it for the clinching Game 3 against New Jersey in Round 1. My jaw dropped. It was the epitome of cool. Of rebellious. Of "Don't mess with me" energy. I loved this Worm ‘do so much that I asked my parents if I could get it too. They were not on board with the idea, so I had to settle for admiring it on Rodman's dome. Maybe I'll revisit that idea the next time I go to a barber…
Enjoy the continuation of NBC Sports Chicago's #BullsRewind series, which will air Game 4 of the '96 Conference Semis between the Bulls and Knicks at 7pm Central Time tonight. The Worm will be rocking the classic bleach blonde look for this one.
Thanks for reading. See red, be good.
The Pecking Order: Dennis Rodman's 5 best hair styles with the Bulls originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago