“I could have been a bomb, I could have been in jail, I could have been dead,” says Dennis Rodman as the third episode of Netflix’s latest docu-series on the Chicago Bulls’ 1997/98 season gets underway.
“But I worked my ass off to get here,” he concludes defiantly.
Even those unaccustomed to the world of NBA are likely very aware of who Rodman is. Whether that’s as basketball’s supposed wild child of the 90s, as Carmen Electra’s wacky-haired ex or as a chum of North Korea’s Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-Un - you don’t have to be a hoops aficionado to understand ‘The Worm’ is TV gold. But was he really as wild as he people say?
"You hear a lot of negative things about Dennis Rodman. But you don’t actually know Dennis Rodman,” the former power forward states.
"They just see what they see on the court and see what they read in the papers. They think he’s a bad person,” the enigmatic five-time NBA champion explains in third person.
“I created this monster,” he adds when asked if he gets offended when people describe him as a bombastic oddity.
The third and fourth episodes of The Last Dance are laden with Rodman anecdotes that certainly help expand his mythos. But even though it’s clear he’s the proverbial ticking time bomb in the Bulls’ dressing room at times, it’s also very clear that Rodman is far from a bad guy and there’s certainly something incredibly likeable about him on and off the court.
A lynchpin for the tough-as-nails Detroit Pistons in the mid to late 80s, the franchise that were bitter rivals with Jordan’s Bulls, Rodman was a master in on-ball defence and an intimidating presence on the court long before the haircuts and the wild piercings.
Described by one teammate as “the f*ck-up person” because when he’s out there he “just f*cks stuff up,” Rodman was the man willing to go the extra mile and do whatever had to be done to secure a win.
“I want to go out there and get my nose broke. I want to go out there and get cut. Something that’s really going to hurt, the pain… I want to feel that,” he claims early on in the third episode.
In February 1993, Rodman’s career changed for good when he was discovered by police asleep in his car with a loaded gun, something he would call an epiphany in his 1997 autobiography, As Bad As I Wanna Be:
"I decided that instead [of killing myself] I was gonna kill the impostor that was leading Dennis Rodman to a place he didn't want to go ... So I just said, 'I'm going to live my life the way I want to live it and be happy doing it.
And so, with three years and $11.8 million remaining on his contract, Rodman demanded a trade from the Pistons and on October 1 joined the San Antonio Spurs.
With a new blonde Demolition Man-style trim a la Wesley Snipes and new flame Madonna by his side, the era of the Dennis Rodman we all know was about to take off.
Bulls’ coach Phil Jackson, despite the concerns of General Manager Jerry Krause, drafted Rodman from Spurs ahead of the 1995/96 season where he would feature as part of ‘the Three Amigos’ alongside the iconic duo of Jordan and Scottie Pippen.
During Pippen’s absence following a controversially timed foot-surgery, Rodman excelled as Michael Jordan’s right hand man and as he says himself, “Nobody can say anything bad about me as a teammate.”
It was the Bulls’ trust in Rodman that would see him soar, especially Jordan and Jackson. They knew he was a maverick but knew just as well he had to be left off his leash every once in a while to get the best of him.
When Pippen finally returned, Rodman was more third wheel than third amigo - fed up, he decided he needed a vacation to Las Vegas. Exasperated but aware they had little choice, Jordan and Jackson gave him a strict 48-hour time limit, even if Jordan was more than a bit dubious that he’d ever return home from the Strip.
Alas, he didn’t come home, leading to maybe the best Rodman story in the documentary yet, in which Jordan is forced to turn up at the tearaway’s hotel room while Rodman’s girlfriend at the time, Carmen Electra, is forced into hiding from the seething icon.
Though he certainly wasn’t a saint - he did nut a referee and kick a cameraman in the nuts whilst at the Bulls after all - The Last Dance does an excellent job of bringing to light the real Dennis Rodman.
A little odd? Certainly. A loose cannon? At times. Talented? 100%.
As Jordan says, “Dennis was always there [mentally]. He was always on point.”
With six more episodes of The Last Dance still to come to Netflix (Two episodes drop every Monday), we can’t wait to see what Rodman does next.