There is good reason why NBA fans almost universally love Dennis Rodman – he was one of a kind. Far from the most talented basketball player, Rodman left a considerable mark on the NBA with his defensive ability, hustling nature, and flashy character. All of those attributes made Rodman a 5x time champion and 2x DPOY, but what the stat sheet didn’t show were the mind games Dennis would pull on his opponents, throwing them off their game, even the greats like Alonzo Mourning.
Alonzo couldn’t believe what Dennis was doing
Alonzo Mourning is one of the best centers, and toughest players the NBA has ever seen. The big man is primarily remembered for his glory days with the Hornets and Heat, but he didn’t manage to win a championship until the very end of his career in 2006. A big reason for that was playing the Eastern Conference during the ’90s, running into the Bulls multiple times.
Mourning was a great player with numerous personal accolades to back that up, but one thing that plagued him was the mental side of the game. When the stakes were the highest, Zo failed to deliver. A lot of people, including Michael Jordan, said Alonzo was weak in the mind, making him easy to provoke or throw off his rhythm. Luckily for MJ, he had just the perfect guy on his team to do that job.
In a game between the Bulls and the Heat back in the ’90s, we had some of the most unique “trash-talk” ever from Rodman that made Mourning scratch his head. While lining up at the free-throw line next to each other, Rodman turned to Mourinign and started eyeing him out in a flirtatious way, commenting his rear end.
Mourning had no clue how to react, as he was visibly uncomfortable. Alonzo got subbed out, and you could just read his lips, talking to Dennis: “You’re sick, you’re crazy!”. Dennis could only laugh and rejoice in doing the job of provoking Alonzo in the most subtle way perfectly. All while Jordan was at the line, watching what Rodman was doing to Mourning like an eagle.
The Bulls bounced out the Heat in consecutive years (1996 and 1997 playoffs), with Rodman playing a huge part by not only defending Mourning but completely rattling his cage. That’s exactly what made Dennis Rodman special. It was not all about the numbers in the box score, but the effect you have on your team and the opponents on the floor. And Dennis’s presence influenced everybody. You need players like that to win, and it’s a shame there aren’t many similar guys in the NBA today.