He was known as “the Worm,” “Country,” “Demolition Man,” and “Dennis the Menace.”
There was also the multi-colored hair, the copious tattoos, and the wedding gown and makeup when he dressed in drag.
Dennis Rodman also became a five-time NBA champion, one of the best defenders in league history, and is a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Dennis Rodman understood the assignment pic.twitter.com/1NY7yHCPIY
— PointsBet Sportsbook (@PointsBetUSA) August 4, 2022
Rodman overcame a tumultuous youth and shy demeanor to become a notorious cult figure on the hardwood and beyond.
This is the story of Dennis Rodman.
Dennis Keith Rodman was born on May 13, 1961, in Trenton, New Jersey.
It's a Bad Boy birthday.
— Detroit Pistons (@DetroitPistons) May 13, 2018
Not long after his birth, Rodman’s father, Philander, who was in the Air Force, left for the Vietnam War.
Philander then relocated to the Philippines to start a new family.
Rodman was only three at the time, and he recalls that his dad simply did not come home one day.
With his father out of the picture, Rodman’s mother moved him and his two older sisters to Dallas.
As a single mother, Shirley Rodman worked multiple jobs to try and make ends meet.
That left Dennis in the care of his sisters, and he has since stated that being raised in a household with only women was difficult.
By the time high school arrived, the Rodman kids experienced different levels of sporting success.
Dennis failed to make the South Oak Cliff High School football team and was a 5’7” bench rider for the basketball team.
Meanwhile, his sisters, Kim and Debra, were becoming basketball stars for the school.
Eventually, Kim would attend Stephen F. Austin State University and Debra went to Louisiana Tech.
Both would become college All-Americans, and Debra’s teams also won two national titles.
Dennis was a pretty good pinball player, and his mother gave him the nickname “The Worm” as she watched him gyrate when playing the game.
By the time he graduated from high school, Dennis was 5’11” and had received more beatings from classmates who bullied him than licks on the hardwood.
After graduation, Rodman was like a ship without a rudder.
He found work at various jobs including as a janitor at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport.
Crazy to think Dennis Rodman was working as a janitor until he had a large growth spurt and decided to try basketball at the age of 21
He was then drafted by the Pistons at age 25.. pic.twitter.com/ZqVAie5O04
— NBA Memes (@NBAMemes) September 30, 2021
One night while working at the airport, Rodman made a foolish decision that would change his life.
“On a dare, he stuck his broom handle through a gift shop grate and stole 15 watches. He was arrested, jailed for a night, and released after he told the cops where the watches were,” said Mark Seal of Playboy Magazine.
Rodman was fortunate that no charges were filed.
However, the incident put further strain on his relationship with his mother.
Shirley Rodman gave her son an ultimatum: go to college, enlist in the military, or find a new job.
Dennis chose not to pursue any of her choices, and Shirley kicked her son out of the house.
For a few months, Rodman was homeless. He was also still growing.
By the time he was 20, Rodman had sprouted to 6’7”.
He continued to play hoops when he could and started to develop the game he didn’t have while in high school.
A Missed Opportunity
One day, an onlooker saw Rodman playing at a rec center and suggested he try to play basketball for Cooke County College (now North Central Texas College) in Gainesville, Texas.
Rodman enrolled at Cooke County and was a diamond in the rough.
— Darin Allred (@DASportsTX) January 14, 2014
Lonn Reisman, an assistant coach at Southeastern Oklahoma State University (an NAIA school), was passing through Dallas that year for recruiting purposes and saw Rodman at a practice.
He was entranced by the young man but stumped as to why he didn’t remember seeing Rodman play in high school.
“I’m going back through my notes and I couldn’t find his name,” Reisman recalled in 2020.
With the overwhelming potential he saw that day, Reisman was sure that Division I schools would soon come in droves to offer Rodman a scholarship.
“That’s when I left,” Reisman said. “I wrote his name down, but I knew it would be a very, very long shot to recruit him.”
Reisman would continue his recruiting trip and Rodman would leave school not long after.
Frustrated with classwork, Rodman decided to quit school and returned home to live with his mother.
Reisman then traveled back to Cooke County College to see Rodman’s in-game action and found out he had quit.
That would lead Reisman to the Rodman household.
A Second Chance
After several phone calls to Cooke County administrators and students, Reisman finally got the phone number of Shirley Rodman.
He called and Shirley invited the coach to her apartment in Dallas.
When Reisman arrived, he knocked on Dennis’s bedroom door.
Rodman, still shy and awkward, refused to answer the door for several minutes.
Finally, when he couldn’t stand Reisman’s persistent knocking, Rodman answered the door.
“He finally opened that door,” Reisman said, “and we had an immediate connection.”
After talking for a while, Reisman had to return to Southeastern Oklahoma, and Rodman went with him.
When they arrived at the school, the two played HORSE and then continued to talk for several more hours.
Reisman told Dennis that he believed in Rodman’s untapped ability.
Rodman was won over by the coach’s enthusiasm and trust and decided to enroll in Southeastern Oklahoma.
Most people don't know that NBA Legends Scottie Pippen & Dennis Rodman both played NAIA College Basketball! pic.twitter.com/2p9p4F091j
— Cross Over Hoops (@COH_Training) April 12, 2016
He would eventually play three years for the school and thrilled crowds every game.
“Dennis came along, and superhuman is about the only way I can explain this guy’s ability,” said Kenny Chaffin, a forward at Southeastern from 1982–86. “He could just do some things that were not explainable. I mean, that’s why the crowds came.”
Rodman got the fans on their feet with his unmatched stamina, speed, and athleticism.
There were the high-flying dunks, but there was also the rebounding.
During his junior and senior seasons in 1985 and 1986, Rodman had 16.1 and 17.8 rebounds per game, respectively.
Both marks would lead the NAIA.
Also as a senior, Rodman helped lead Southeastern to the NAIA tournament and played a thrilling third-place game against St. Thomas Aquinas of New York.
After being down by several points, Rodman took over and eventually scored 46 points and grabbed 32 rebounds to help Southeastern win the game.
With his final college game in the books, Rodman’s three-year averages in college were 25.7 points and 15.7 rebounds per game, and he was a three-time NAIA All-American.
It’s Dennis Rodman’s 60th birthday 🎂 #DYK? He played basketball at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant for 3 seasons (1983–86). While there, he was a 3-time NAIA All-American. After college, Rodman went on to become a 5-time @NBA champion.
(OHS photo dated 1984) pic.twitter.com/77NbezL5PR
— Oklahoma Historical Society (@okhistory) May 13, 2021
His performance in the St. Thomas game (and for leading Southeastern OK to a number three ranking in the NAIA, best in school history) brought an invite to an NBA pre-draft camp.
Rodman put on a display during the camp and was named the MVP.
He also caught the attention of the Detroit Pistons.
Daly Rebuilds Detroit
In 1986, the Pistons were finally beginning to see the fruits of their labor.
The franchise had last won a championship when they were the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons and won back-to-back National Basketball League (NBL) titles in 1943–44 and 1944–45.
After World War II, the Pistons made the playoffs consistently until the early 1960s.
The remainder of that decade, and the entire 1970s, saw the franchise reach the postseason only five times.
Detroit’s fortunes began to change in 1983 when former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Chuck Daly became the head coach of the Pistons.
The Pistons’ roster at the time included point guard Isiah Thomas, shooting guard Vinnie Johnson, and center Bill Laimbeer.
— Isiah Thomas (@IsiahThomas) March 10, 2016
With Daly’s coaching style, the team returned to the playoffs after the 1983–84 season for the first time since 1976–77.
They lost in the first round but returned to the postseason in 1985 and advanced to the Conference Semifinals before losing.
Before the 1985–86 season, Detroit drafted McNeese State guard Joe Dumars and added Rick Mahorn, previously of the Washington Bullets.
That squad went to the playoffs and lost in the first round yet again.
Rodman Joins the Pistons
In the second round of the 1986 NBA Draft, the Pistons grabbed Rodman with the 27th overall selection.
Detroit’s first pick that year was Georgia Tech forward/center John Salley, and the Pistons brought in former Utah Jazz forward Adrian Dantley.
Rodman bonded immediately with Daly and came to view his coach as a father figure.
At the same time, Daly marveled at his rookie’s intense, almost manic, playing style, as he shared with Reisman during a visit.
“Lonn,” Reisman recalled Daly telling him, “this guy is as fast as a Ferrari and he never runs out of gas.”
Rodman received sporadic playing time and only started one contest as Detroit won 52 games and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals before losing to the Boston Celtics.
The series saw Rodman go toe-to-toe, and mouth-to-mouth, with Celtics guard, Dennis Johnson.
Larry Bird made 4 straight baskets on Dennis Rodman and walked over to Pistons head coach Chuck Daly. “Who’s guarding me, Chuck? Is anyone guarding me? You better get someone on me or I’m gonna go for 60.” pic.twitter.com/9F4y7uuf5O
— Real Talk 🏀 (@Real7Talk) March 4, 2022
Then, when Boston won the series, Rodman “shared” with the media his thoughts on Celtics star Larry Bird.
“Larry Bird is overrated in a lot of areas. … Why does he get so much publicity? Because he’s white. You never hear about a black player being the greatest,” said Rodman.
One year later, Rodman started 32 games and averaged 8.7 rebounds and 11.6 points per game as the Pistons won a franchise-best 54 games and lost in the 1988 NBA Finals to the LA Lakers in seven games.
The “Bad Boys” Are Back-to-Back Champions
In 1988–89, Detroit finally put together a winning formula.
Rodman was a role player off the bench and responded with 9.4 rebounds and 9.0 points per game.
He was then named to the league’s All-Defensive First-team for the first of seven times.
With the Pistons firing on all cylinders, the team won 63 games—a new franchise record—and took down the Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, and Chicago Bulls in the first three rounds by a combined 11 games to two.
They faced the Lakers again in the NBA Finals, but the Pistons were a completely different team than the year before.
With their gritty play, collection of hard-edged players, and no-holds-barred demeanor, Detroit’s roster became known as the “Bad Boys.”
Rodman fit right in and helped pace the squad during the Finals.
In Game 3 alone, he pulled down 19 rebounds and hounded the Lakers unmercifully on defense.
33 years ago today, the Detroit Pistons won their first NBA championship with a win over the Los Angeles Lakers. This game marked the end of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's 20-year career while Dennis Rodman won his first championship, putting up two points against the Lakers. pic.twitter.com/DFhbd4pjY4
— Basketball Reference (@bball_ref) June 13, 2022
When the smoke cleared, Detroit had swept LA 4-0 for their first NBA championship.
The 1989–90 Pistons continued to throttle their opponents and returned to the NBA Finals after 59 wins and eliminated the Indiana Pacers, New York Knicks, and Bulls in the first three rounds.
Rodman was once again everywhere on the court.
Averaging 9.7 rebounds and 8.8 points per game, he was acknowledged by his peers, named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year, and was voted as an NBA All-Star.
— Isiah Thomas (@IsiahThomas) May 13, 2020
Although an ankle injury hampered him during the NBA Finals against the Portland Trailblazers, Rodman did enough to help the Pistons beat Portland in five games to repeat as champions.
Rodman Is Honored Again Before Detroit Falls Apart
In the 1990–91 season, Rodman started 77 games and was viewed by the entire NBA as the premier lockdown defender in the game.
That season, he averaged 12.5 rebounds and 8.2 points per game and was again selected as the league’s Defensive Player of the Year.
“Just leave him alone.
You don’t put a saddle on a mustang.”
Detroit Pistons Head Coach Chuck Daly telling his assistant who was coaching Dennis Rodman
🔑Point is don’t over coach certain players or situations pic.twitter.com/S70InUO1Ch
— Sam Allen (@CoachSamAllen) August 11, 2021
Unfortunately, all good things come to an end.
For the previous three years, the Pistons had knocked Michael Jordan and the Bulls out of the playoffs.
However, this time Chicago would not be denied and they swept Detroit in the Conference Finals.
In 1991–92, the Pistons won 48 games and lost to the Knicks in five games during the postseason’s First Round.
By then, the Pistons were already beginning to unravel. In early May, Daly resigned as Detroit’s coach.
The move was shocking to many of the Pistons and Rodman in particular was upset that his beloved coach was no longer around.
“I feel really, really bothered by this. He shouldn’t be gone. Losing a basketball game is not as important as losing the person you love and care about,” Rodman said shortly after Daly’s resignation.
Rodman Hits Rock Bottom
Although the Pistons were in the process of being dismantled, Rodman continued to play his heart out.
In 1991–92, he averaged a career-best 18.7 rebounds per game (along with a career-best 1,530 total rebounds for the year) and nearly duplicated that mark with 18.3 rebounds per game in 1992–93.
He was also voted as an NBA All-Star for the second time.
The problem was that Rodman was feeling alone, uninspired, and abandoned.
The Pistons weren’t as competitive and would miss the postseason that year.
Plus, without Daly, Rodman missed the relationship he had with his coach and began to fall into a deep depression.
“Dennis kind of grew up with us,” Daly explained in USA Today. “The Pistons were Dennis’s first professional family, and he really liked what the team stood for. … It was a family to him, and when it disintegrated around him, it was tough for him to deal with.”
The Darkest Moment
In February of 1993, he drove to the Palace at Auburn Hills (where the Pistons played) at night and parked in the arena parking lot.
He was in deep inner turmoil and wondered where life was taking him.
Rodman eventually fell asleep in his truck and was awakened sometime later by police.
They found a loaded rifle on Rodman’s lap, and the best defensive player in the game admitted that he had thought of taking his own life.
a loaded rifle. Four years later in his biography As Bad As I Wanna Be, he confessed having thought about suicide and described that night as an epiphany: "I decided that instead [of killing myself] I was gonna kill the impostor that was leading Dennis Rodman to a place pic.twitter.com/RZhARNMxip
— Evie Mazzone (@Evie_Calling) February 21, 2019
Although life appeared dark, at that moment, Rodman experienced an epiphany that would change the course of his life.
“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.’ At that moment I tamed [sic] my whole life around. I killed the person I didn’t want to be,” Rodman wrote in his autobiography, Bad As I Wanna Be.
In other words, Rodman was going to throw caution to the wind and be himself.
He would no longer try to please other people and, instead, become the person he believed had been trapped in a shell his entire life.
Trade to San Antonio
By the end of the 1992–93 season, Rodman was finished with Detroit.
In the fall of 1993, he demanded a trade, and the Pistons shipped Rodman to the San Antonio Spurs.
On paper, it looked like a great addition to the San Antonio roster.
The Spurs already had the likes of center David Robinson, J.R. Reid, Vinny Del Negro, and Terry Cummings.
Rodman did his part on the court in 1993–94, averaging 17.3 boards per game (which led the NBA) while starting 51 games as the Spurs won 55 games and lost to Utah in the First Round of the playoffs.
His rebounding acumen had become the stuff of legends and it was no accident.
There will never be another player like Dennis Rodman…
We will never see a stat line like this again😳 pic.twitter.com/VIiA6TZE7T
— NBA Memes (@NBAMemes) July 24, 2022
Rodman spent a fair amount of time studying the habits of a missed ball, especially how it could carom off the rim.
“People think I just go get the damn ball, because they don’t take the time to really look at what I do,” he said in Sports Illustrated. “Rebounding isn’t brain surgery, but there’s more to it than being able to jump higher than the next guy. A lot of work is done before you ever even jump.”
However, Rodman’s newfound oath to be himself began to clash with the button-down, business-like culture of the San Antonio team.
The somewhat reserved Rodman from Detroit suddenly began acquiring tattoos as well as various piercings and odd coloring in his hair.
Nearly every contest became a quest by Spurs broadcasters in describing what new hair color and design Rodman was sporting.
Then, in 1994, Rodman began dating singer/actress Madonna, and the two were tabloid fodder regularly.
The 1994–95 Spurs under new coach Bob Hill loaded the roster with Avery Johnson, Sean Elliott, Moses Malone, Doc Rivers, and “The Rifleman” Chuck Person.
That season saw San Antonio win 62 games, beat Denver and the Lakers in the first two rounds, then fall to eventual NBA champion Houston Rockets in six games in the Conference Finals.
Rodman had 16.8 boards per game and came off the bench in key moments.
However, his outlandish lifestyle and frequent arguing, headbutting, and berating of opponents and officials had become too much.
Dennis Rodman poses with a Macaw for his 1995 SI cover shoot pic.twitter.com/YVEFdtU1t4
— Rare NBA Photos (@OldNBAPhotos) July 24, 2022
There was also a shoulder injury from a motorcycle accident and a leave of absence during the season.
Furthermore, Rodman was critical of Hill’s game planning and also lashed out at general manager Gregg Popovich.
Once the season concluded, Popovich traded Rodman to the Chicago Bulls who were looking for more depth as well as defensive help.
We know about Kobe and Shaq’s struggles to coexist. More recently Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert couldn’t make it work
But honestly the most fascinating NBA personality mismatch EVER occurred in the 90s, when Dennis Rodman briefly suited up in San Antonio beside David Robinson pic.twitter.com/NziMKfbXaO
— Once Upon a Dribble Podcast (@OnceDribble) July 22, 2022
Rodman couldn’t have been more ecstatic to leave San Antonio and expressed his frustrations about his former GM in his book.
“Popovich wanted to be the guy who tamed Dennis Rodman, and he tried to use (Bob) Hill to do his dirty work,” wrote Rodman. “That was Popovich’s big challenge. Mr. Military was going to make me a good little boy, a good soldier. He lost sight of everything else, and then when he decided he couldn’t do anything with me, he badmouthed me and gave me away for next to nothing. Then he pretended it was good for the team.”
For his part, Robinson was relieved when Rodman was traded.
“It was like a zoo last year. Now we’ll be able to just focus on basketball. There won’t be any of that other garbage. Everyone is relieved,” Robinson said.
New Life with the Bulls
With bridges burned in San Antonio, Rodman was headed to Chicago, although it was a shocking move, to say the least.
Initially, Bulls general manager Jerry Krause had zero interest in bringing Rodman on board.
However, after three straight titles from 1991–1993, Michael Jordan retired to try his hand at professional baseball.
He returned in March of 1995, yet the Bulls lost in the Conference Finals for the second year in a row.
Chicago wanted to reload for 1995–96, and those around Krause convinced him the team needed Rodman’s defensive and rebounding presence.
Before making the move, Krause, head coach Phil Jackson, Rodman, Jordan, and fellow Bulls star Scottie Pippen met at Krause’s house to talk about the idea.
“I was shocked the Chicago Bulls even asked me to come,” Rodman said. “I think I was a little more eccentric for them. We had to break bread then at the house. So basically, he (Jackson) said, ‘Dennis, you wanna come play for the Bulls?’ I said, ‘I don’t care. Whatever. What’s up.’”
All parties agreed to Rodman’s addition although fans, and some in the national media, believed that Jordan’s laser focus would clash with Rodman’s free-wheeling personal style.
On Oct. 3, 1995, the Bulls traded for Dennis Rodman to fill a gaping hole at PF in a move that was considered a desperate gamble. The Bulls won the next three NBA titles. 💪🏽 pic.twitter.com/UlP8HP29hh
— Bulls Nation (@BullsNationCP) July 5, 2022
They would prove incorrect.
Rodman still styled and profiled with his outlandish hair colors and got in hot water after head-butting a referee and also kicking a sideline photographer.
Alonzo Mourning and Dennis Rodman hugging it out pic.twitter.com/LL30d58FIS
— Rare NBA Photos (@OldNBAPhotos) July 25, 2022
However, he promised that his main purpose was to bring the Bulls another championship.
A Third Title for Rodman
During his first season in Chicago, Rodman only averaged 5.5 points per game.
However, he also averaged a league-high 14.9 rebounds per game and won his fifth NBA rebounding title.
Dennis Rodman only had 19 career games with 20+ points…
He had 158 20+ rebound games🤯 pic.twitter.com/BbYXB0rDlU
— NBA Memes (@NBAMemes) July 25, 2022
Chicago tore through the regular season, winning a franchise-best 72 games and eliminating Miami, New York, and Orlando in the first three rounds of the postseason.
In the 1996 NBA Finals, Rodman was a crucial asset in the team’s 4-2 series victory over the Seattle Supersonics.
During Game 2 alone, he gobbled up 20 rebounds including 11 rebounds, which tied a record.
In the decisive Game 6, Rodman again hogged the glass while netting 19 boards including another 11 offensive rebounds.
After the game, Seattle coach George Karl gave Rodman all due respect.
“As you evaluate the series, Dennis Rodman won two basketball games,” Karl said. “We controlled Dennis Rodman for four games. But Game 2 and tonight, he was the reason they were successful.”
Two More Rings
In 1996–97, Chicago and Rodman continued to thrash opponents on the way to 69 victories.
The playoffs were a breeze as they defeated Washington, Atlanta, and Miami by a combined 11 wins and two losses.
Rodman won his sixth rebounding title while averaging 16.1 boards per game and his seventh NBA All-Defensive First-team award.
While the Bulls were beginning their march toward another ring, Rodman’s biography Bad As I Wanna Be was released in the fall of 1996.
He made national headlines when he arrived for a book signing attired in a full-length wedding gown and makeup because he claimed to be marrying himself.
Did you know Dennis Rodman once married himself? That’s what you call self love 😂🙏🏽 pic.twitter.com/vEZAxoFUjC
— NBA Memes (@NBAMemes) August 3, 2022
It wasn’t the first time Rodman appeared in drag, and it wouldn’t be the last.
In the 1997 NBA Finals, Rodman had a difficult time defending Jazz forward Karl Malone, but Chicago still won the series in six games for their second straight title.
During the fall of 1997, Rodman began appearing in various professional wrestling matches, including events for the World Championship of Wrestling.
He also drew more national attention when he began dating actress Carmen Electra.
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) April 27, 2020
That same year, the 1997–98 Bulls won 62 games and dispatched New Jersey and Charlotte in seven games total before winning a slugfest in seven games against the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Rodman won his seventh rebounding title after getting 1,201 total rebounds, averaging 15 boards per game.
Chicago faced the Jazz for the second year in a row in the NBA Finals.
This time, Rodman did a better job on Malone and the Jazz.
Before Game 4, Rodman decided to make a quick trip to the wrestling ring and compete in an event with Hulk Hogan, which exasperated his teammates.
He returned and helped the Bulls win the series in six games.
It was Chicago’s sixth world championship and Rodman’s fifth title ring.
A month later, Rodman would face Malone again, this time in the squared circle during a WCW event.
Basketball Nomad and Retirement
Perhaps a bit prematurely, Krause decided to break up the Bulls after the 1997–98 season.
Rodman was released in early 1999 and played a few contests with the Lakers, grabbing 11.2 boards per game in 23 games.
(1999) One year after winning their 3rd straight ring with the Bulls, Dennis Rodman and Scottie Pippen face off playing for the Lakers and Rockets. pic.twitter.com/SczcUwOUn2
— Timeless Sports (@timelesssports_) February 27, 2018
In 1999–2000, Rodman returned to Texas and played in 12 games for the Dallas Mavericks.
He then took a hiatus from basketball for a few years to pursue other interests including wrestling and various roles in movies.
In 2003, Rodman returned to the hardwood. He played sporadically for various teams in the U.S., Mexico, Finland, and Britain.
This included winning an American Basketball Association championship with the Long Beach Jam after the 2003–04 season.
By the end of 2006, Rodman retired from basketball.
In 14 NBA seasons, he had 11,954 total rebounds for a 13.1 per game average.
Rodman also had totals of 1,600 assists, 531 blocks, and 6,683 points.
He was a five-time NBA champion, two-time NBA All-Star, two-time All-NBA Third-team, two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, seven-time NBA All-Defensive First-team, All-Defensive Second-team once, and seven-time league rebounding champion.
Rodman’s number 10 was retired by the Pistons, and he was voted to the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team in 2021.
Still Making Headlines in Retirement
Just because he was retired didn’t mean Rodman stayed out of the spotlight.
In 2005, he published a second book titled I Should Be Dead By Now and playfully promoted the book by lounging in a coffin.
That same year, Rodman got involved in the Lingerie Football League where he was named Commissioner.
In 2011, Rodman was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Two years later, Rodman made a visit to North Korea as a self-made ambassador of basketball and met with dictator Kim Jong-un.
They asked Dennis Rodman if he had a choice of living in Utah or North Korea and he chose… pic.twitter.com/nLPu7lh8YE
— Vernon Maxwell (@VernonMaxwell11) June 17, 2021
By the end of the visit, Rodman encouraged President Barack Obama to reach out to Kim Jong-un to try to heal diplomatic relations, stating that both men shared a love of basketball.
“People say he’s the worst guy in the world. All I know is Kim told me he doesn’t want to go to war with America. His whole deal is to talk basketball with Obama. Unfortunately, Obama doesn’t want to have anything to do with him. I ask, Mr. President, what’s the harm in a simple phone call? This is a new age, man. Come on, Obama, reach out to Kim and be his friend,” said Rodman in 2013.
Rodman also asked Kim to release Kenneth Bae, an American missionary who had been imprisoned in North Korea.
Kim Jong-un eventually relented and released Bae months later.
Rodman and the Nobel Prize?
Rodman would visit North Korea a few more times during the next few years, and at one point, promised to train the North Korean basketball team.
He also continued to push for peace and encouraged North American leaders to do more to ease tensions with North Korea.
In the meantime, world leaders, especially in the U.S., were critical of Rodman’s North Korea visits and his view of Kim Jong-un, stating that the former ball player had seen only one side of the dictator.
For Rodman’s part, he views the visits a little differently.
“My mission is to break the ice between hostile countries,” Rodman said. “Why it’s been left to me to smooth things over, I don’t know. Dennis Rodman, of all people. Keeping us safe is really not my job; it’s the black guy’s [Obama’s] job. But I’ll tell you this: If I don’t finish in the top three for the next Nobel Peace Prize, something’s seriously wrong.”
Before the 2016 presidential election, Rodman wholeheartedly endorsed Donald Trump for president.
During Trump’s presidency, Rodman continued to act as a bridge between Kim and Trump.
— New York Post (@nypost) February 27, 2019
Rodman, now 61 years old, has two children, Dennis Junior (DJ) and Trinity, from a previous marriage.
DJ followed in his father’s footsteps and played college basketball at Washington State.
Trinity plays professional soccer for the Washington Spirit of the National Women’s Soccer League.