When I Knew Dennis Rodman, He Barely Said a Word


In the mid-to-late 1980s, when I was writing sports in Boston, my job every spring was to cover the opposing team in what were then the annual visits of the Celtics to the NBA Finals. Consequently, I got familiar with the players on the Lakers, the Bucks, the Hawks and, ultimately, the Detroit Pistons who, in 1987, had on their roster two promising rookies.

One was John Salley, a loquacious, hilarious New Yorker who learned his verbal chops going door-to-door with his mother, a Jehovah’s Witness. The other was Dennis Rodman, a shy, reclusive young man out of tiny Southeastern Oklahoma State University, but a rebounding and defensive fool on the court. In two seasons, I couldn’t get Salley to shut up and I couldn’t get Rodman to come out with a mumbling word. Suffice it to say that Rodman’s subsequent (and largely successful) efforts in turning his life into an international carnival act came as something of a shock.

Dennis Rodman is now in Singapore, on the edges of a summit conference between the leader of North Korea and the president* of the United States, a conference that is taking place only a bus ride away from the airport in Malaysia where the half-brother of Kim Jong-Un was dosed with VX nerve agent and killed.

It’s a strange, strange world we live in, Master Jack.