“It’s all a mind game. If you want to get caught up in what I’m doing, you’re screwed,” said Dennis Rodman after the Bulls won game 3 of the 1996 NBA Finals against the Seattle Supersonics.
At that moment in time, the Bulls were up 3-0 and everyone thought they would return to Chicago with their 4th NBA Championship. To put everything into perspective, even though the Supersonics won 64 games that year, everyone viewed the series as more of an inevitable Bulls coronation than a clash between the two best teams in the NBA. Something similar to the modern duel between the Warriors and Cavaliers.
The Rodman vs. Brickovski rivalry doesn’t receive a lot of attention in the NBA sphere, but these guys really went after one another on the court. Brickowski played insanely physical defense against Rodman, leading to several technicals and flagrant fouls in the aftermath.
Here’s what happened, Rodman taunted Brickowski by standing, staring, and laughing while the Sonics shot free throws. Then late in the 4th quarter, Rodman initiated a wrestling match with Brickowski, who pushed Rodman, earning a flagrant foul and an ejection. Once again, Rodman had kept his composure while the Sonics had lost theirs, and after Game 3 in an interview with Jim Gray, Rodman reminded everyone that when it came to mind games “you can’t mess with the master.”
The Sonics accused Rodman of being a flopper and Brickowski denied he deserved an ejection. George Karl railed against Rodman and his antics as bad for the NBA, acting as though Rodman flopping was a new tactic that only a crazy player like Rodman could bring to the game. The Seattle Times went on an unofficial “flop watch” and changed the Bulls name from the “Un-stop-a-bulls” to the “Flop-A-Bulls.”
“A flopper…He’s a flopper. It’s a joke. Rodman breaks the rules. He laughs at the NBA. He taunted our bench. Brickowski gets thrown out of the game without one cuss word being said….They get four free throws. Rodman flops all over the place. He laughs at everybody. I think it is silly that he gets any credibility at all.” –George Karl, June 7, 1996
“The thing you’d do to Dennis Rodman if you were on the playground is fight him. The thing that bothers me is here’s a man who’s taken the no-punching law and is using it to his advantage. Because he never throws a punch. But he’ll throw a lot of elbows and do a lot of dirty stuff out there that’ll make you punch him.” –George Karl, June 11, 1996
While Dennis Rodman continued playing the innocent victim:
“They try to get in my head, but no one can do that. Frank Brickowski tried to distract me, basically. But in the last two days, I’ve been telling myself to be ready to play. Let’s get two here and go home. Everyone wants to get in my face. The Seattle Sonics got off their game. They were worried about what I was doing. It’s just a mind game. They were caught up in all that and it messed them up.” –Dennis Rodman, June 10, 1996