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Dennis Rodman with the Bulls
Dennis Rodman was, in many ways, the forerunner of Ben Wallace—a world-class defender and great rebounder who struggled to score offensively.
Unlike Wallace, Rodman was drafted, grabbed late with the 27th pick of round two in 1986 by the Detroit Pistons.
Rodman's basketball journey began late, just like his growth spurt. Rodman topped out at 5'11'' and failed to earn a spot on his high school team, but grew nine inches after high school.
After growing to 6'8'' in sneakers, Rodman played a year at Cooke County College near Dallas before earning a scholarship to Southeastern Oklahoma State University, an NAIA institution. His career there was stellar, and he earned All-American status 3 times.
Rodman's career took off in '88-'89 with the Pistons, and he earned all-defensive team honors.
As a tough, gritty performer Rodman's style of play and approach to the game was a near-perfect fit for the Pistons, known as the "Bad Boys."
Playing alongside Isaiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer, Joe Dumars, Vinnie Johnson, Rick Mahorn and John Salley the former janitor Rodman excelled in his role as a shutdown defender and glass cleaner.
Rodman eventually earned a staggering eight all-defensive team selections. He earned the league's defensive player of the year award twice. He was known to guard all five positions on the court with amazing effectiveness, guarding both the sub 6 footers and the 7 foot plus giants.
Rodman earned five Championship rings, (two with the Pistons and three with the Chicago Bulls). He also managed two all-star births and landed on the all-NBA third team twice.
In addition to his defensive prowess, awards, and championship rings, his rebounding resume is impressive.
Rodman possesses the five best rebounding seasons since 1979 and five of the 10 best rebounding seasons on record since 1973. He led the league in rebounding seven times in consecutive seasons.
At 36, he was the oldest player ever to lead the league in the category. He grabbed 25 or more rebounds in a game a staggering 33 separate times.
Rodman trumps Wallace ever so slightly in career point per game output, posting a 7.3 ppg average compared to Wallace's 6 ppg.
Rodman's greatest attribute, even more so than his lateral quickness, quickness of the floor, or his wiry-strength, may have been his plain old tenacity and hunger. Of that, Rodman said, (from searchquotes.com):
"I go out there and get my eyes gouged, my nose busted, my body slammed. I love the pain of the game."
At another time, he spoke further about his tenacity and hunger saying:
"I'm hungrier than those other guys out there. Every rebound is a personal challenge".
Rodman's greatest attribute, even more so than his lateral quickness, quickness of the floor, or his wiry-strength, may have been his plain old tenacity and hunger.
Rodman was hungry for rebounds and considered grabbing them to be a personal challenge. And though he may have enjoyed the "pain of the game," the real pain was felt by those he defended and competed against during his improbable 14 year career.
In the end, Rodman will certainly be remembered as one of the most unique players ever in many respects.
His personality, behavior, and shock appeal crossed over as he became a pop culture icon off the court.
But he will be revered and remembered as one of the best defenders and rebounders to ever lace 'em up on an NBA floor.
In 2011, Rodman was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Besides winning titles with both the Pistons (twice) and the Bulls (thrice), Rodman played with the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers, and Dallas Mavericks.