By Mark Wilson 1/28/14


“What’s up with that dude?”

That was the question posed to me by the teenage son of a friend when I was talking sports with him.

While yakking, the video of Dennis Rodman screaming incoherently at CNN host Chris Cuomo came on the 60 inch HD screen.

Turning to look I said, “Oh, that’s just The Worm being The Worm.”

“The Worm?” asked the kid.

It was then I realized he was like 15 and didn’t know “The Worm.” A young sports fan in high school had no idea who the “dude” with the piercings and tats and funky looking face actually was.

He knew basketball was involved and that Rodman had played in the NBA but he had no clue that Dennis was once a Piston.

His dad walked back into the room and I scolded him.

“You never told him about the Bad Boys or that Rodman had played in Detroit for years?”

“Uh, it never came up,” said the father.

In fairness, the kid was a casual hoops fan. It was no shock as to why; the Pistons hadn’t been any good since he was like nine years old. Six years have passed since the Pistons were viable playoff contenders.

When the Pistons won the NBA Championship in 2004, he was only five.

The “Bad Boys” were something out of a museum to him.

He knew who Isiah Thomas was and Bill Laimbeer and Vinnie Johnson but that was about it. His biggest reason for knowing Laimbeer and Johnson was that Laimbeer and Vinnie lived on the same lake he did in West Bloomfield. They were a couple of “old guys” who once played pro basketball.

Basically, Laimbeer and Johnson were nothing more than “our neighbors.”

Ryan Kesler of the Vancouver Canucks and radio legend Dick Purtan live on the lake too, amongst others like Bob Seger and the CEO of Homedics.

For a 15-year old in 2014, it all got nothing more than a shrug of the shoulders.

Then… it was back to checking texts on his I-phone.

Rodman’s odd journey to North Korea to befriend and play some weird exhibition basketball games in front of Kim Jong-un, the supreme leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, can be a bit confusing to a teenager.

Hell, it’s confusing to pretty much EVERYONE.

It’s been so long since Dennis Rodman was a Piston, it’s almost hard to remember that he WAS a Piston. The Rodman we see today, and have seen for the past decade or so, is NOT the Rodman we had in Motown.

Obviously, most people over the age of 35 recall how Dennis’ rebounding skills helped the Pistons win back to back NBA titles in 1989 and 1990. His number 10 was retired, ironically, on April Fool’s Day in 2011; the same year he was inducted into the National Basketball Hall of Fame.

We didn’t get the wacky, zany Rodman.

We got the sullen, angry and always misunderstood Rodman.

After a tough childhood going from Trenton, New Jersey to Oak Cliff, Texas where Dennis has always insisted he is one of “47 children,” he ended up playing basketball at tiny Southeastern Oklahoma State in the NAIA. His father had left the family early in Dennis’ life and settled in the Philippines. Dennis never saw him again.

Oak Cliff was one of the worst areas around Dallas but Rodman shined when he finally got to Oklahoma. He averaged about 26 points and 16 rebounds per game in his three seasons at SOSU.

Jack McCloskey, then the GM of the Pistons, was highly intrigued by Rodman and drafted him in the second round of the 1986 NBA Draft. It was just a few weeks after owner Bill Davidson broke ground on his new gleaming arena, the yet-to-be-named Palace.

At the time, Rodman was 25 years old.

John Salley was the Pistons’ first round selection in that draft and it was between Rodman and Larry Krystkowiak from Montana in that round two. L.K. was picked next by Milwaukee.

Dennis remains one of only THREE players from that draft in the Hall of Fame.

He made his Pistons’ debut on, even more ironically, Halloween 1986 at the Pontiac Silverdome. Going 0-for-6 from the field and grabbing just two boards in 14 minutes, the Pistons lost the opener to the Bucks, 120-104.

By ’86, the Pistons were a red hot ticket in town.

Chuck Daly was coach and had Hall of Famers-to-be all over the place. Thomas, Laimbeer, Johnson, Adrian Dantley and Joe Dumars were the stars. The team was already very good when Salley and Rodman showed up. They were exactly the compliments Daly and McCloskey needed to get to the next level.

Detroit went on to win 52 games, finish second in the NBA Central and roll through Washington and Atlanta on their way to the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals against Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics.

The Silverdome’s awkward attendance was more than 900,000. The Pistons were the only team to play their home games in a football stadium.

The city was in love with basketball like they had never been even if they hated to play in the dome.

The rookie Rodman did not have the best series versus Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. Dantley and Isiah were outstanding and along with Laimbeer, Johnson, Dumars and Rick Mahorn… the Pistons didn’t need much else.

Seven tough games went that match up with the Celtics.

Boston ended up winning game seven at the Garden 117-114 ending the Pistons dream of a first-ever franchise trip to the NBA Finals.

It was in that series we got our first taste of “The Worm”

Dennis had been fairly mild that rookie season. I was working at WILX-TV10 in Lansing at the time but we covered the Pistons like they were Lansing’s home town team. I used to joke that “we covered Detroit better than Detroit… covered Detroit.”

We were ALWAYS at the Silverdome.

I took to Dennis early because there was just something endearing about the cat. He was child-like. I kind of dug his free flowing immaturity which I knew rubbed Isiah and Laimbeer the wrong way. However, they had a job to do and Dennis was a big help with his rebounding prowess.

They hadn’t seen anything yet.

Rodman openly despised Celtics’ guard Dennis Johnson. They feuded during that conference finals series. When it was over, Rodman accused Bird of getting too much publicity because he was white.

“You never hear about a black player being the greatest,” Rodman said.

Michael Jordan was just a young player in the league. Magic Johnson was a superstar and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain were always acclaimed as among the best EVER.

None of us in the media could figure out where that silly Larry Bird comment came from.
Isiah supported his comments and Rodman explained them away with the notion that he could comment since he had a white girlfriend.

Annie Bakes was the woman he referred too and she was the start of his tumultuous love affair with females he had no business being around. He was so into her, it clouded his judgment on numerous occasions.

We saw it every time he partied with her.

It didn’t take long for Dennis to enjoy the money and the party life that the NBA provided. He had never had that before. Even though the cash wasn’t nearly as good as it is now in the league, Rodman lived it up!

There would be champagne, limos, expensive dinners and jewelry. He wasn’t yet into elaborate clothing.

Some of us were a part of that party scene with Rodman and other Pistons’ players. Salley was another who loved the nightlife. As little as Detroit offered in terms of clubbing, they ALWAYS found a way and place to party. Vinnie was a veteran of the good times as well.

Fun to be around the Pistons back then?

More than you can ever know.

Daly had a long leash on the team. He often talked about how they were grown men and he trusted them as long as the basketball didn’t suffer. It’s why he was loved by his players.

No one loved “Daddy Rich” more than Rodman.

Dennis improved in 1987-88 and helped the Pistons climb the mountain to their first NBA Championship series against Magic and the Lakers. It was the final year in the Silverdome and they won the Central with 54 victories.

After starting just ONE game his rookie season, The Worm made 32 starts in his second season. His numbers more than doubled and he was on his way. He was not much of an offensive force but did finish sixth in field goal percentage at 56.1%. He was sixth in offensive rebounds.

The NBA was taking notice.

Magic told me the Lakers feared Rodman as much as they did his buddy Isiah and Laimbeer.

Los Angeles didn’t take the Pistons lightly.

Detroit had dispatched of Bird and the Celtics in six games to make it to the finals. It surprised Magic and his team as they were prepared for another epic battle with Boston. Daly was as intense as I’ve ever seen him as that series with L.A. was about to begin.

The Pistons led 3-games-to-2 and the bubbly was on ice at The Forum for game six. They had won the opener in California and figured there was no reason they couldn’t do it again with two games to make it happen.

Despite Thomas’ famous 43 point game in number six, Magic and James Worthy played nearly the entire contest and combined for 50 and beat the Pistons by one, 103-102.

The Lakers also won game seven by three to capture another gold ball for Pat Riley.

Chuck was embarrassed.

He put the blame on himself for coming up short in Inglewood. He also vowed that it wouldn’t be the ONLY appearance in the finals with this squad.

Rodman, meantime, partied hard in the 1988 off-season summer. There were times he would stay up all night. I never saw more than the usual compliment of alcohol but other drugs were involved. You could tell he was drowning the disappointment of the loss to L.A. with beer and cocktails.

Or, at least, that was his excuse.

By the time camp came around in October, all was good. Everything was fine, Rodman was in shape and the Pistons were an angry bunch with a chip on their shoulders.

They opened The Palace, with Ray Lane introducing the name of the new arena in Auburn Hills during an exhibition, with a game against the expansion Charlotte Hornets. It was November 5, 1988. Former Piston Kelly Tripucka was in the lineup for the Hornets.

Dantley scored 18 and the Pistons won 94-85.

Detroit opened the season winning eight straight.

The Palace rocked on a nightly basis. Every game was a sell out. The Pistons finished the season with 27 wins in their last 30 games.

On April 7th, they played an overtime game against Jordan and the Bulls. Michael scored 40 but Vinnie Johnson “microwaved” for 30. Rodman had one of his better offensive nights with 14 and they dropped Chicago in the OT, 114-112.

It was as LOUD as the Palace has ever been.

A franchise record 63-and-19 had the Pistons the favorite to win it all. Acquiring Mark Aguirre from Dallas for Dantley was the final piece in the puzzle.

They blasted through the Celtics and Bucks in the playoffs taking both in sweeps. They dumped Jordan, Scottie Pippen and the Bulls in six games. It set up another NBA Finals dance with the Lakers.

Jack Nicholson barely had time to find his front row seat before the Pistons trashed his Lakers in four straight.

First year in the Palace and the Pistons were NBA Champions.

The locker room celebration was amazing. Even Bill Davidson got involved. It’s just too bad those last two games had to be in Los Angeles. I can’t imagine how the Palace crowd would have handled the championship glitz.

We didn’t get to find out the next year either.

After another hard charging off-season of partying, they were ready to defend the title at camp in October of 1989.

It kind of amazed me how Rodman was able to douse the party flame in time to get his body in shape for another grueling NBA grind.

Remember, this WAS NOT the Rodman we see now or the one who freaked out towards the end of his pro career. He was still just a guy towing the line respectful of Thomas, Laimbeer, Dumars and most importantly, Chuck Daly.

The Worm’s Pistons implosion was still a couple of years away.

Detroit opened the 1989-90 campaign with a Palace victory over the Knicks. Eleven games later, they were a mediocre 7-and-5.

Steadily, they won games and the Palace kept on rockin’ like they knew what was in store. No doubt, the Pistons had the best talent overall in the league now and the three amigos, Jordan-Bird-Magic… knew it.

Actually, they weren’t “amigos” but it looked cool typing it.

Part of being the “Bad Boys” was this constant “us against the world” philosophy that Daly loved to extol on a daily basis.

Daly and daily. Pun intended.

Following a loss to the Lakers at the Palace on January 21, 1990, Daly was furious. He wasn’t sure the team had the sense of urgency anymore. Of course he was kidding but it really looked like he was pissed off and fit to be tied.

“Fuck this,” he said into my camera in my usual post-game one on one with him.

There was so much swearing I knew I had a long night of editing just putting the “beeps” in to cover the swear words. It made for good television but he wanted that second title in the worst way.

January 23rd saw a trip to Chicago.

Rodman had played 29 minutes in the loss to L.A. He came off the bench in that game. Daly decided to start Dennis at Chicago Stadium. The Worm was in the starting line up more and more in 1989-90.

Dennis had nine points and 11 rebounds to support Isiah’s 26 point effort and Dumars’ rough defense on Jordan made Michael miss 20 shots. TWENTY! It all added up to a 107-95 triumph over the Bulls.

Jordan and Pippen were matching the Pistons step for step by that point; the records were nearly identical in the Central. But, THAT win did something to Detroit. It turned the light back on.

They went on an incredible streak.

The Pistons won 13 in a row; many by blowout.

After a loss to Dominique Wilkins, Moses Malone, Kevin Willis and the Hawks in Atlanta ending the string of no losses in a month, the Pistons won ANOTHER 12 in a row.

25 of 26 saw their record go from 26-and-14 to 51-and-15.

The “Bad Boys” were back!

Man, that sounds dramatic.

I know this is turning into a Bad Boys retrospect but c’mon, how fun is this? Never a bad deal to reminisce about those two awesome seasons of hoops in Michigan. We were the center of the NBA universe displacing the longtime dominance of the Celtics and Lakers.

Detroit won the division again; barely over the Bulls and then careened through Indiana and the Knicks in the playoffs setting up a conference final series with Jordan and Pippen and Phil Jackson.

Jackson was in first season coaching Chicago having replaced Doug Collins.

The series went seven games with the Pistons winning it at the Palace with ease, 93-74. Rodman started and scored 13 while grabbing nine boards. He didn’t even lead the team in glassers that night. Aguirre had 10 rebounds.

Jordan was visibly upset and exhausted after that game. It looked like he was crying. He was ready to take the crown as NBA king but the Bad Boys would have none of it…yet.

“I don’t know what to say,” said Michael shyly to me in the post-game.

Horace Grant was the only other Bull in double figures scoring with 10. Jordan had 31 while Pippen was held to just two measly points on 1-for-10 shooting. Rodman’s defense had been stellar.

Instead of the Lakers, Detroit got the Portland TrailBlazers of Rick Adelman in the NBA Finals.

The Blazers had rough series with Phoenix and San Antonio before finally ripping the Suns in game six. They would have to begin the finals at the Palace.

Portland found a way to win game two and leave Auburn Hills with a 1-1 series heading back to the Pacific Northwest.

Rip City was ready for the clash.

Clyde Drexler, Kevin Duckworth, Terry Porter and the rest really believed they would NOT be returning to Michigan. The next three games were at the Memorial Coliseum and Drexler was definitive in protecting home court. He couldn’t even see how the Pistons could win there.

I repeat— the Blazers were CONFIDENT they would not have to fly back to Metro.

They were right.

The PISTONS won the next three games; not the Blazers.

A blowout in game three, a close one in game four and then the decider in game five. In many ways, Pistons fans wouldn’t have minded a LOSS in game five just so they could celebrate a championship at home.

In that game five, all five Blazers’ starters were in double figure scoring led by Porter and Duckworth with 21. Rodman was back on the bench but played 30 minutes while Isiah was scoring 29 en route to the 92-90 victory capped by Vinnie’s last second 14-foot jumper.

NBA Champs again.

At the time, the Pistons were only the third franchise to successfully defend a title. Boston and L.A. were the obvious others.

The small Portland visitors’ locker room was awash with champagne, beer and some kind of smokey thing. There was a fog in there. Thomas, who was never better than in those five games, held the gold ball like it was a new born baby.

Jubilation was at peak form.

George Blaha’s call of the Johnson winner is an all-time classic. I can still hear it, “The Microwave scores with point-seven left in the game!”

It was also the last NBA basketball game CBS-TV would ever telecast.

For 17 years, it was the “NBA on CBS” but Dick Stockton signed off after that game five with, “We’re going to miss all of you; so long!”

CBS then got more into the lucrative multi-billion dollar business of college hoops.

Back at home… another rally at the Palace.

James “Buddha” Edwards led the chants, Aguirre and Isiah were all smiles, Laimbeer had a grin never seen before and Vinnie… was Vinnie. Always calm that Vinnie Johnson.

Dennis enjoyed it but he was starting to look more distant.

Something was up with Rodman and most of us figured it had to do with Annie and his daughter Alexis. The Worm had a tough time going back and forth from basketball star party hound to full time father. Alexis was only two years old when Dennis became a two-time NBA champ.

He won his second All-Defensive team honor after the 1990 season. Rodman also got another surprise. He was named the NBA’s Defensive Player of the year despite starting only 43 games.

The Worm got emotional when accepting the award. It was starting to become a “thing” with Dennis getting emotional. Sometimes it was a little strange.

Still, he was ready to go for 1990-91.

“Three-peat,” the phrase owned by Pat Riley, was most definitely in the plans when the season began. There was no reason to believe the Pistons couldn’t do it.

There were struggles that season but Detroit finished second to the Bulls in the division and got rid of Atlanta and Boston in the playoffs.

It set up a rematch with Jordan in the Eastern Conference Finals.

This time, nothing was going to stop Mikey.

The Bulls swept the Pistons right out of the gym. Jordan and Pippen were too much for Isiah, Joe and Bill. Rodman didn’t have a great series either. There were no buzzer-beating heroics from the Microwave this time.

No “Three-peat.”


It stuck to Daly like barnacles on a tanker.

He was determined to come back stronger in 1991-92 but there were already rumblings that maybe Chuck had seen enough duty in Detroit.

“Ya know, they do start to tune you out after the same voice has been yelling for eight years,” Daly told me BEFORE the ’91-92 slate began.

In his ninth season at age 61, “Daddy Rich” wasn’t able to keep the team from losing games. They were all getting older and it was starting to show.

Rodman was now firmly entrenched as a starting power forward with Laimbeer relegated more and more to bench duty plastered among his injuries. Somehow Bill was able to play 81 games, 46 starts, on knees that creaked when he walked; much less… ran.

Aguirre only started 12 games that season losing some starts to Salley and Orlando Woolridge. Mark had his various injuries too.

Isiah and Dumars were constants in the line up.

Joe played all 82 while Thomas missed just four games. Still, they had been overtaken by the Bulls AND Cavaliers in the Central. The Pistons went 48-and-34 and were the fifth seed for the 1992 playoffs.

New York had the fourth seed and in the best-of-five, Patrick Ewing was way too much for the red, white and blue.

A blowout in game one at Madison Square Garden had the Knicks thinking five game sweep. But, in game two, the Pistons showed some resolve. Led by Dumars’ 21 points and 16 by Woolridge, Detroit was able to offset 24 from Xavier McDaniel and win, 89-88.

Eyebrows were raised in the Motor City.

Maybe it wasn’t over yet!
The Knicks won game three at the Palace but the Pistons matched service and won game four, 86-82 to tie the series at two.

Game five in New York ended the Pistons ride.

Thomas and Ewing each scored 31 but McDaniel’s 19 went un-trumped and the Knicks finished it off, 94-87.

A first round knockout by New York ended the season on May 3rd.

It was the earliest the Pistons had been on summer vacation since 1986.

Dennis Rodman would get an early jump on partying.

Little did we know… the party was over.

At least here in Detroit; The Worm disaster was about to officially begin.

Daly’s departure was the first bone of contention for The Worm.

Chuck was on his way to coaching the Dream Team in the ’92 Olympics. After leading the Pistons to the playoffs in each of his nine seasons (before him the franchise had never gone back to back!) he walked away. They had finally heard his voice long enough.

To replace him, the Pistons went with his former assistant Ron Rothstein who has won two rings with the Miami Heat.

Back in 1992, Rothstein was in his first go-round with the Heat as HEAD coach. He was the first coach in Miami when they came into the NBA as an expansion club.

Dennis used to be a big fan of Ronnie so it was assumed he would embrace the hire.

He was so upset over Daly leaving, he embraced nothing and proved it by missing ALL of training camp that October. Dennis added that his pending divorce from Annie was also to blame.

Rodman started to become the mystery man.

When he did return, he would cover his face with a towel, a jacket, a hat… whatever. We got used to it. To his credit, he would laugh when I brought up the towel which was about every single time I talked to him.

In a practice at Oakland University, he sauntered in like the Queen of Sheba and this was LONG before he took a hankering to women’s lingerie.

One of the residual effects was that he started to get resentment from the two elder Pistons’ statesmen, Isiah and Laimbeer.

Rothstein continued to defend him.

In November, Dennis was suspended for refusing to go on a road trip. More and more he was spending time with a couple of guys who were known as his “handlers.” He became increasingly reserved, moody and unavailable.

His play didn’t seem to suffer. In fact, his rebounding was top notch. He was boarding at an incredible rate, the likes of which we hadn’t seen in the NBA since Chamberlain was ruling the glass in the late 60’s and early 70’s.

23 rebounds vs. Washington on December 30th. 16 at Orlando right after New Year’s Day. 24 more at Miami, 23 more at the Palace against the Clippers, 26 vs. Atlanta; the numbers were ridiculous.

The team was over .500 with Rodman on his way to a monster rebounding season.

In a loss to the Hawks, Dennis got hurt.

At the time, Detroit was 17-and-16. With The Worm sidelined, the Pistons lost 11 of 13.

On February 11th, 1993 it all changed for Dennis.

Changed… for the worst.

I got a call at some ungodly weird hour of the morning from public relations director Matt Dobek. He wanted to tell me that Rodman was in the parking lot at the Palace and there’s an “incident.”

Dobek would routinely call me with things because we were friends and he trusted how I would handle those “things.” This one he KNEW he couldn’t cover with the usual P.R. speak.

“He has a gun, but everything is OK,” Matt said.

I thought… HE HAS A GUN? Huh?

Running out the door, I got in my car and flew to the Palace.

The weather wasn’t awful for a mid-February in Southeast Lower Michigan so it didn’t take long for me to drive the back roads to Lapeer Road.

By the time I got there, the “incident” had been diffused and was over.

Turned out that Rodman shot some hoops in the early morning and went to his truck and had a loaded shotgun on the passenger side. I still believe the story remains sketchy but one police officer said that his shoe was off and he was clearly ready to fire the gun into his mouth with his toe.

Suicide was on his mind.

No one really knew the depths of evils that were plaguing the now six year NBA veteran.

Rodman was asleep in the truck when police found him. He tried to backtrack saying the gun was in the truck from a hunting trip and he had no intention of killing himself.

I still believe he would have done it.

Something happened in that truck. Maybe he had a few brews and simply couldn’t do it. He got a dose of religion, an epiphany of some sort, and figured he could not pull that trigger thinking of Alexis.

In any event, Dennis was never the same again.

On a side note, the sad tragic irony of that event is that Matt Dobek took HIS own life after getting fired by the club in May of 2010. Karen Davidson, the owner by default when her husband passed away a year earlier, vilely fired Dobek claiming he “broke a confidentiality agreement.”

To this day, I get sick over it.

Even now I have to pause just typing it.

Ok… Dennis returned to the team on February 16th in an overtime victory over Shaquille O’Neal and Scott Skiles and the Magic, 124-120. Shaq scored 46 and the ex-Spartan Skiles had 27.

The Palace crowd gave Rodman ovations every chance they had. They wanted him to know they appreciated his efforts and it felt like a “thank you” for the great years.

It also kind of felt like a “thank you” for not killing himself.

In 29 minutes, Dennis had eight points and 12 rebounds.

A couple of games later, he had 25 rebounds in a triumph over Philadelphia. He had 12 more as the Pistons beat the Knicks on a night Dumars popped for 43 points. 19 rebounds followed in a win over the Celtics. It helped Terry Mills score 41.

Rodman was back and the Pistons were winning again.

On March 11th he was suspended one game for missing practice. Rothstein was fuming.

“He can’t keep doing this crap,” Rothstein told me. “It’s f-ing nonsense”

Detroit was 26-and-33 and now… just fighting for the eighth and final playoff spot in the east.

Jordan and the Bulls were in town on March 14th. A packed Palace house of 21,454 roared like crazy as they battled back and forth. A fight broke out and Rodman left the bench to join in. He was still defending his guys even if he sat on that bench with that towel over his head.
Longtime trainer Mike Abdenour did what he could to protect Dennis and his towel. But, even he knew it had become somewhat of a lost cause.

Dennis was fined $500 for that bit of business.

The Pistons won the game, 101-99 with Dumars doing his usual amazing job of stopping Jordan in his tracks; missing 14 shots. Joe and Michael were so linked, Dumars even named his son… Jordan.

Rodman continued to sulk but also continued to rebound.

He had 21 of them in a win over the Lakers out west. It began a streak where Detroit won 10 of 13 to get back to the .500 mark at 38-and-38. There were only six games left to make the playoffs for the 10th straight season.

Unfortunately, the Pistons lost four of those six.

By the time they hosted New Jersey, now coached by Daly, on the final day of the regular slate, the Pistons were out of the playoffs.

Detroit won that game, 116-110. In ten minutes of playing time, Rodman had zero points and ONE rebound. His emotions playing in front of Daly and seeing Chuck on the visitors’ side got the best of him. He openly cried after the game.

It was April, 25th and there would be no post-season basketball in the city since 1983.

Daly and the Nets… got the sixth playoff spot.

April 25, 1993 was also the last time Rodman played a game in a Pistons’ uniform.

Isiah and Laimbeer were now bonafide old dudes. They would go on to play one more season and retire. Bill only got 11 games in before calling it quits. Thomas was hurt but limped through the entire ’93-94 campaign.

Dennis wanted out and the Pistons made it happen.

A trade to Phoenix fell through during the summer and it lingered into training camp. The Worm wanted no part of being back. Finally, on October 1st just as training camp was set to begin up in Saginaw, Rodman was history.

San Antonio took Dennis for Sean Elliott, David Wood and draft picks.

He was going back to Texas.

Despite all that went on in that strange, odd and crazy 1992-93 season, Rodman was named first team All-Defensive again. He had followed up his 18.7 rebound average with an average of 18.3. It was his second straight rebounding title; second of what would end up being SEVEN in a row.
Since 1973, 40 years now, NO ONE has rebounded at a clip anywhere NEAR what Dennis did in a five year span.

Well, as it turned out, Dennis played two years with the Spurs before joining Jordan in Chicago where he helped Michael and Scottie win THREE more championships. It was Jordan’s second “three-peat” after his return to the NBA after that failed baseball experiment.

The Worm owned FIVE rings.

It was with the Bulls that Dennis became the “Diva Dennis” He got happy, he dated Madonna, he got into women’s lingerie, he colored his hair, he pierced and even wore a wedding dress to promote is autobiography.

I would certainly see him when he came back to The Palace for games but in 1998, I was shopping with my girl at the 900 Building on Michigan Avenue in Chicago; where Bloomingdales is. I spotted Dennis with a woman in a lingerie store on the third floor.

He turned after I tapped him on his shoulder.

“WOW! What up?” he said smiling large and giving a big hug.

This was the NEW and somewhat improved Worm.

Sure looked like he was genuinely happy. As we walked around the store with Dennis, he even asked if we wanted to go to a party that night on North Avenue. He made no bones about the fact that it was a gay/bisexual club. He wanted us there and gave us the “password code” to get in.

We said we would and he gave another hug.

Upon further review, we decided NOT to go.

He left when Jordan and Pippen left and made his way to Hollywood where he fell in love with the nightlife. By then he was 37 years old and played only 23 games with the Lakers in that strike-shortened season. Magic quietly seethed over Dennis wearing the purple and gold.

And similar colored hair.

His sister was his agent and she brokered a deal to get him back to Texas… again.

Steve Nash was on board with a 38-year old aging rebounder hoping Rodman had even HALF his ability left.

Amazingly, he did.

Dennis played, and started, 12 games with the 1999-2000 Dallas Mavericks. He averaged 14.3 rebounds per game for Coach Don Nelson. Dirk Nowitzki was just in his second season. He didn’t like Rodman because he didn’t understand him at all.

On March 7, 2000 The Worm played the last of those 12 games with the Mavs.

It came in Seattle against the SuperSonics and he played 35 minutes. His 15 boards helped Michael Finley score 31 but Ruben Patterson countered with 32 for the Sonics. Seattle won it, 101-86.

15 rebounds and two points.


It was the kind of “stat line” that Dennis produced most of his career. He didn’t score more than six in any one of those 12 Dallas tilts.

Maybe he knew it then, maybe he didn’t.

That was the last game Rodman played in the NBA.

His final averages for 14 fun-filled, zany and sometimes towel-covered NBA seasons? 7.3 points and 13.1 rebounds per outing.

Nash was quoted as saying that Dennis “Never wanted to be a Maverick and therefore was unmotivated.”

Nelson released Rodman in the midst of bad year for Dallas. The Worm had been rejected twice and was just so odd that Nellie couldn’t handle him.

Rodman didn’t necessarily want it to be the end but he was pushing 39 and couldn’t find a team that wanted him. His sister tried but she came up empty.

Since then his actions have been well documented. Loud parties, wrestling, movies; he became a cartoon.

He got back to basketball a few years later playing in the silly American Basketball Association; not to be confused with the ABA of the 60’s and 70’s. Dennis even went overseas to play hoops in the UK and Finland.

I saw him again in 2004.

Rodman was in Las Vegas and I happened to be there and crossed paths at the Bellagio. Once again, the smile appeared with a mouthful of metal and got that BIG hug. Later that night, he was arrested for drunk driving which followed arrests in California for various items.

He pleaded no contest in April at Clark County Court.

After a brief marriage in Vegas to the hot Carmen Electra, he met Michelle Moyer.

They married in 2003. By then, he had two kids with Moyer. D.J. is now 13 and Trinity is now 12.

A year after the marriage, Michelle filed for divorce but Dennis continued to try working on reconciliation. It wasn’t until 2012, and with Dennis owing over $800-grand in child support, did the divorce become final.

We thought maybe he would “settle down” after marrying Michelle, she seemed good for him, but… nah.

This confusing relationship with Kim Jong-un in North Korea has much to do about money. I know; no SHOCKER there.

A different company is paying Rodman and not the North Korean government. Dennis made that clear after his almost illiterate rant on CNN. He brought a group of ex-NBA players with him including Kenny Anderson, Vin Baker and ex-Piston Cliff Robinson.

Jong-un loves the guy.

He finds the eccentricity of The Worm right up his insane dictator supreme leader alley.

Most Americans? Not so much.

Senator John McCain was on “The Tonight Show” last week and when asked by Jay Leno what he thought of Rodman’s “trip” to North Korea, McCain made his case loud and strong.

“I think he’s an idiot.”

From the day he was drafted in 1986 to his Bad Boy championship days to that life-changing night in 1993, Rodman has sure captured our interest.

From his three more titles with Jordan in Chicago to his flamboyance in the wrestling ring with Hulk Hogan to his “ambassador-like” apolitical junkets to North Korea, Rodman has had our attention; even this week as he announced a stint in rehab for his alcohol addiction.

Love him or hate him, you can’t help but notice him.

When his number was retired at The Palace— we noticed. When Chuck Daly passed away and he cried openly— we noticed.

Two decades after he had a shotgun in his truck, he is still living life to its craziest. At age 52, he has more tricks up his sleeve… and we’ll notice. McCain can call him an idiot and Jong-un can call him “friend.” Others think he’s off kilter, kooky-weird but harmless.

For us in Detroit, he’ll always just be… The Worm.Rodman