“Where there’s controversy, I’m always in the middle of it.” This was Dennis Rodman's career in a nutshell. Whether it was on the court or off the court, Rodman has been known to stun people. But there's a different side to him, the kinder, gentler side to the persona that was The Worm.
Perhaps the biggest controversy Rodman was in the middle off took place in '97, in the third quarter of the Bulls' 112-102 victory over Minnesota. Dennis failed to get a rebound, and while stumbling out of bounds, he hit the cameraman Eugene Amos, who had to be taken off the court on a stretcher.
“He had his camera right there. The camera people are too damned close to the baseline. All of a sudden,`Boom' I step on his camera. Any athlete would react the same way. That's your career. I stepped on a camera and I twisted my ankle. I don't care who he is, he doesn't need to be that close.”
Dennis Rodman, Chicago Tribune
Despite his explanation, Rodman was about to deal with the consequences. What followed was the harshest punishment the league had handed out in 20 years - 11 games suspension and a $25,000 fine, plus a request for Dennis to see a therapist of his choice, giving him the authority to decide when will Rodman be ready to get back on the court.
On February 5, 1997, Rodman was reinstated by the NBA and was set to make his NBA return on February 11th in a game against the Charlotte Hornets. What was announced next took everyone by surprise. Rodman's agent Dwight Manley said his client will play his first 11 games back for free. Later on, Dennis portended the same thing.
“In light of my recent suspension, I have decided to donate my regular game salary for the next 11 games to charity. This is in addition to the 11-game fine I have already received. I am doing this as a gesture of appreciation to all the fans that have supported me throughout my career. The charities I have chosen represent all types of people, from all walks of life.”
Rodman donated money to 11 different organizations, but perhaps the dearest one to his heart was the Wilma Rudolph Learning Center - the school which works with physically challenged children. After visiting the school himself, Rodman became the children's favorite. "He was very charming with the kids," the school's principal Mary Walsh said. "He just really likes us and we're ecstatic to get the money. He's always been very generous to us."
Dennis also donated money to the JUF - the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago. The story about the donation made it to Israel, where the Jerusalem Report commended Rodman for his philanthropic side. The Worm also sent money to Y-Me Breast Cancer Awareness, after cooperating with the organization for the past year. Y-Me was the reason Rodman dyed his hair pink in '96, as he used his global platform to raise awareness on the issue close to his heart since his aunt was also one with breast cancer.
For all the antics that were a trademark of Dennis Rodman the NBA player, and the bizarre things he did off the court, Rodmans intentions were never questioned. All the organizations agreed on one thing - he was doing it simply because he was a generous individual.
“It wasn't like,'I'm buying my way back.' I don't think that ever entered his mind.”
Ralph Scheu, president of the 100 Club
Rodman also made donations to the 100 Club of Chicago, James Jordan Boys and Girls Foundation, March of Dimes and Magic Johnson AIDS Foundation, Sickle Cell Disease Association of Illinois, Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation, Rainbow Coalition, and Chicago Housing Authority Youth Programs. Rodman donated a total of $576,892 to 11 different organizations. Ultimately, the suspension cost him the same amount - in total more than $1.1 million.
This was Dennis Rodman showing the world that there really was a gentler, kinder side to him. And an act of kindness like this one is the ultimate proof for it.
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