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How Dennis Rodman became successful in marketing the bad boy image in the NBA

The Worm was eccentric, but fans still loved him because of his hard working attitude on the court.
Dennis Rodman is honored during halftime as an NBA 75th anniversary team member at the 2022 NBA All-Star Game at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse

Dennis Rodman

Everyone loves winners and champions - they are the ultimate role models. That’s why we’ve seen Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Steph Curry making millions from endorsement deals. Meanwhile, the bad boys are the undesirable ones - the players others warned you about. And then there’s Dennis Rodman, who was a bit of both: a bad boy and a winner.

Dennis Rodman being himself

Players are becoming more concerned with their image off the court than how they perform on it. And that’s not a bad thing. It just reflects how big the game has become and how personal branding and marketing are important now. LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and other stars have their own production companies and host their shows. Still, these clean and polished images aren’t for everyone, so for those who are on the other side of the spectrum – who are eccentric and weird –, there’s Dennis Rodman, who can be their role model.

Rodman was the quintessential bad boy in the NBA in every sense of the word. He didn’t follow norms and made his own rules. No one could control him because he was a ticking time bomb. Even Phil Jackson relented in giving the Worm his freedom in the midst of a hectic season for the Chicago Bulls. The difference was that Rodman was one hell of a player who knew his role. No one could argue that he was as important as Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen during the Bulls’ dynasty in the 90s, but without him, there would probably be no second three-peat for MJ.

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In an article published by Sports Illustrated, the rebounding machine shared how he was ahead of his time.

“Dyeing my hair, dressing in drag…it all just came naturally to me. I was probably the only player in the history of sports to build an image by himself. It was all raw and natural, no Nike, no Adidas, no Converse. I would be accepted now. I wouldn’t be as flamboyant now as I was then. I would be one of many,” Dennis said.

He was one of the pioneers of just being himself. Back in the day, he was considered to be weird, eccentric, and even wild. Still, people accepted Dennis because he was just being true to himself.

Why other stars draw flak, but Rodman was accepted by fans

Kyrie Irving is one of the most eccentric stars today. He has his own views about almost everything outside basketball, especially what some consider conspiracy theories. While he is entitled to have opinions, they become dangerous because of the platform he has, and that is why many fans and analysts criticize him.

Rodman was known as a party animal but also as a hard worker who gave it his all during games. No one could question his desire to help his team win. So no matter what he did off the court, it was none of other people’s business because of his consistency in helping his team win. That’s the big difference between Rodman and Irving: one kept working hard, while the other became louder off the court and less visible on it. The former Chicago Bull won titles; the former teammate of LeBron James is still searching for his second title without The King.

The Worm wasn’t the first ever bad boy in the NBA, but he paved the way for successful marketing of such an image even without major sponsors backing him. There will certainly be bad boys in the NBA in the future, and if they want to become successful while not maintaining a clean-cut image, they should look up to Dennis Rodman and how his work ethic won the hearts of his doubters. 

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