During the prime of his career, Dennis Rodman had one of the more entertaining stat lines in history. Let's look at it for a minute.
His averages during the epic Bulls run from 1995-1998 include the following numbers:
1995-1996: 5 ppg 15 rpg
1996-1997: 6 ppg 16 rpg
1997-1998: 5 ppg 15 rpg
Just beautiful. The president of the "rebounding is a state of mind" group, he was a 6'7" PF in a league full of phenomenal centers (O'Neal, Ewing, Olajuwon and Robinson to name four) and still managed to be the best rebounder in the league. Only a crazy man could do that. And Rodman was just that person.
Dennis Rodman was nuts. How many people can say that they won a title playing with MJ, own 5 championship rings, and has fought alongside Hulk Hogan and Diamond Dallas Page? Rodman also took on a lead role next to Jean Claude Van-Damme in the film Double Take .
Dennis Rodman may have been crazy, but that's not all bad considering Rodman cared the most about the following:
1. Nobody, and I mean nobody, is going to out-rebound me, whatever the cost.
2. I'm going to date the most successful female pop star ever (Madonna) and the hottest model of the '90s (Carmen Electra) and nobody will ask questions.
3. If people think I'm crazy, so be it. I'm going to cause nightmares for every power forward I play against and just cause total hell for every minute I'm on the floor.
We don't really need to go into why Rodman was a lunatic, but here are some highlights:
-The man has participated in the WWF World Championship and the NBA championship. The members on this list are few and far between.
-For the tour of his second book, "I Should Be Dead Now," Rodman sat in a coffin during the book signings. He also promoted his first autobiography, "Bad as I Wanna Be" by posing in a wedding dress.
-He once claimed he was bisexual because he wanted to marry himself.
-That's forgetting Rodman's glowing reality TV career which included Celebrity Rehab, Celebrity Apprentice, and Celebrity Most Likely To Base Jump Naked From the Empire State Building.
We are good for a Dennis Rodman every 10 years or so. Enter Ron Artest, who has been more than happy to fill the void.
We couldn't honestly begin talking about Ron Artest without mentioning the darkest day in David Stern's time as NBA commish. I actually just finished re-watching the Malice in the Palace about an hour ago and it still never ceases to amaze me. The events that transpired that night are an unforgettable circus and Artest was the ringleader. (One of my favorite comments on that is from Simmons again, who swears Artest punched out Turtle from Entourage when he got back to the floor. The guy looks identical to him.)
Moving on, Ron Artest and Kobe were not exactly the best of friends in the league before he was traded to the Lakeshow. Artest played for the Kings and Rockets before joining the Lakers and enjoyed his moments guarding Kobe while playing for both. Just like Rodman being a part of the hated "Bad Boys" of the Detroit Pistons, then joining the team they despised the most in the Bulls, Artest played for rivals of the Lakers and even got into it with Kobe over they years. Now it seems, however, that as a member of the Lakers he will achieve what nobody thought was possible: a championship ring.
Artest has his moments of total insanity. Bill Simmons' account of how Artest rode to a game wearing nothing but his boxers on the team bus, to the Malace in the Palace, to the fact he once saw someone murdered after a pick-up bball game with the leg of a chair, it's fair to say he's a couple fries short of a Happy Meal.
Enough about that though, let's talk about why it works.
Randy Galloway, a longtime DFW sportswriter and radio voice, has a terrific theory on how and why "bad character guys" work on championship teams. He always says that all the best teams have a "little bit of crazy" on them. Not enough to totally distract a team, but just enough to keep them focused on the task at hand.
The example he always used was the 1990's Dallas Cowboys dynasty with Irvin, Nate Newton, Erik Williams, and Charles Haley.
I'm on the record of saying this is one of my favorite theories of all time.
Dennis Rodman was the ultimate illustration of this and Ron Artest is fitting that role as well.
If you have one player who is willing to dedicate himself to one cause, whether or not that gains him public recognition, you have one dangerous player. With Rodman, it was rebounding; with Artest, it's defense. That's the only argument you can make for signing Artest and letting go former Laker Trevor Ariza: The fact that Paul Pierce will not score over 25 pts in a game this series. Artest owns him.
(Side Note: I've been to probably two dozen NBA games in my life and no one is bigger in person than Ron Artest. He is an absolute beast. We know the tall guys are tall and the guards make us look at our 6' 4" friends in a different light, but Artest is huge at 6'7", 260.)
Artest has proven that, despite his craziness (which was the most evident when he took a wide open three pointer last series against Phoenix with 20 seconds left on the shot clock of a 32 second game), he is still someone you want in crunchtime (which was evident when he went barreling to the rim after Kobe chucked up a shot in the closing seconds, only to have Artest put it back in as time expired.)
That's as good as it gets in terms of a player's entire career being summed up in 30 seconds. Fans are always holding their collective breaths before he does anything but, at the same time, you are guaranteed Ron Artest will work his ass off if it means winning games.
Tonight's Game 1 against the Celtics is a classic example of that. Right from the get go when Paul Pierce and Ron Ron were issued a double technical 30 seconds into the game, you knew Artest has been chomping at the bit for this chance. Pierce still managed 24 points but his +/- was -13 while Artest was at a startling +26. Say what you want about that system, but it translates into the fact when Artest and Pierce were on the floor, it benefited the Lakers.
It's too late for Ron Artest to ever have the career that Rodman had, however it's not too late for him to prove why a little bit of craziness works sometimes. Jordan and Rodman were able to coexist perfectly because no matter how insane Rodman got sometimes, he understood his role for every 48 minutes of any game he was involved in.
Artest has come to this realization as well. At first, I think he rejected this notion as not only being way behind Kobe as a talent, but also trailing enormously in terms of players that fans actually wanted to see.
In due time, he got over it and now, after the biggest basket of the Conference Finals, Artest has come full circle in his role as Rodman. He is one crazy SOB, but any team contending for a title would want him on their team. Just ask Boston.