Dennis Rodman is the epitome of toughness and basketball savviness, especially on the defensive side of the floor. Everything he accomplished in his career could be attributed to pure willpower, energy, and motivation to outplay all his opponents. Hustling on the court was Rodman’s primary goal in every game, which is why he is one of the best rebounders of all time, maybe even the greatest one when you consider he was only 6’7″.
On top of that, Rodman was a high IQ basketball player who knew how to position himself properly and get in other people’s heads when it was needed. Sometimes he would exaggerate, but most of the time, you could count on Rodman will get the job done and grad 15 to 20 rebounds per game. In one of The Last Dance episodes, Rodman shared more about the mindset he has when rebounding, and he broke down that part of the game to its most exquisite details.
“I practiced a lot about the angle of the ball and the trajectory of it. You got a Larry Bird, it’s going to spin, you got Magic it maybe spins. When Michael shots it here, I position myself right there. I just learned how to put myself in a position to get the ball.”
Dennis Rodman, The Last Dance
Isiah Thomas, who played with Rodman for several years during their time with the Detroit Pistons, shared one of the best anecdotes about Rodman’s approach to rebounding. Thomas remembered a time when they were in practice, and everyone was shooting except Rodman. When asked what he was doing, Rodman replied he is observing the rotation of the ball when other people were shooting. That would sound incredibly strange to a lot of people, but for Rodman, it was a part of his practice and learning how to calculate where the ball will fall so he can position himself better.
“We were standing in the lay-up line, warming up and shooting, and Rodman was standing back and watching everybody shoot. I said, ‘Hey, come on, you have to participate; everybody’s shooting lay-ups, you have to shoot lay-ups, too.’ And he said, ‘I’m just watching the rotations on the basketball.’ I said, ‘Excuse me?’ He said, ‘Like when you shoot, your ball spins three times in the air. Joe’s sometimes has 3 1/2 or four times.’“That’s how far Rodman had taken rebounding, to a totally different level, like off the charts. He knew the rotation of every person that shot on our team — if it spins sideways, where it would bounce, how often it would bounce left or right. He had rebounding down to a science, and I never heard anyone think or talk about rebounding and defense the way he could break it down.
Rodman accumulated almost 12 thousand rebounds in his illustrious career, and his career average is over 14 rebounds per game. On top of that, he was an exceptional defender capable of covering multiple positions on the floor. His energy, willingness to get better, and high basketball IQ enabled him to establish himself as one of the best defenders and rebounders the league will ever see for a man considered to be undersized when playing against much taller and stronger players. Dennis Rodman was simply different and dominant in every way you can imagine.