Delivering a speech that was confessional, heartfelt and brave, Dennis Rodman was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame last Friday.
In the process, he did something that athletes rarely do. Instead of imparting the usual fake humility and bromides that such occasions demand, he talked about his personal shortcomings and the pain he’s been through in life.
It is unusual for an athlete to pull back the curtain on his public persona, and Rodman did so in a manner that was forthright. He spoke movingly about the guidance he has received from mentors throughout his career, describing them as: “Someone that you can call any time of day…a shoulder to cry on, a hand to shake. “
And he spoke openly about the difficulty of familial ties and obligations, along with the redemptive theme of paternal love and guidance, admitting at one point: “I have one regret; I wish I was a better father.” His own father abandoned him when he was five years old, and said that later in life: “He wrote a book about me and made a lot of money, but he never came and said hello to me.”
Rodman added: "I’m not like most of you guys who sit there and say, ’When I make money in the NBA, I'm gonna take care of my mother and my father.' I was too selfish for that, because of what she did to me in my life”, referring to his mother Shirley, who had kicked Rodman out of the house as a teenager. He added: “I haven't been a great son to you the last ten years, but now we can laugh about that.”
He acknowledged those close to him that he had hurt, and he ended by pledging that: “Hopefully, in the future, I can actually be somewhat of a good individual, and a good father to my kids.” Then, addressing his mom, he ended by saying: “Hopefully, I can love you like I did when I was a kid.”
Dennis Rodman has long been a freak show. The clothes, the hair, the nose rings and the provocations—he has cultivated this flamboyant persona over the last 20 years. In the run-up to Friday’s induction ceremony, there was a lot of speculation as to how crazy and outlandish his appearance and his speech might be. But he completely switched things up on us.
Instead, Dennis Rodman used the occasion to thoroughly humanize himself.