Given Dennis Rodman’s wildman style, one would think he didn’t share many things in common with his teammates — at least regarding things outside the basketball court. This is true in many ways. No one goes to Las Vegas to party in the middle of the playoffs. However, one teammate of Rodman once said yes to accompanying him to a gay bar. And this started a strong bond between them.
Dennis Rodman and Jack Haley first became teammates in San Antonio. Haley was pretty much your typical bench warmer. He filled up the roster spot and when his number was called, did ok. What catapulted him to fame was not his basketball skills, but his friendship with Dennis Rodman. Apparently, this bond started with an invite to a gay bar double-date.
“But Haley stuck around in the league in part because he had one indispensable skill: He was, as the Times put it, ‘the only person who speaks fluent Rodman.’ The two men first played together in San Antonio, and bonded after Rodman invited Haley and his wife to a double-date at a gay bar, where Haley impressed with his unflappability,” per Vulture.
Note that this was in the 90s when sexuality was a taboo topic, even amid Magic Johnson’s HIV diagnosis. Rodman probably asked a couple of teammates to accompany him to his favorite gay bar. It was Haley who didn’t shoo him away.
Rodman almost walked away
After two seasons with the Spurs, Rodman’s relationship with the team (its players and front office) fell off, to say the least. Dennis said the problem was he ” wasn’t the church-going guy, and David Robinson called me the devil.” Robinson kind of confirmed that story when he said the team was” like a zoo” while Rodman was there, saying “there won’t be any of that other garbage.”
So Rodman was traded to the Chicago Bulls. Lo and behold, Haley — who was actually drafted by the Bulls in 1988 — was included in the package.
Phil Jackson and Jerry Krause knew that while Rodman was a serious basketball talent, you would need to put a leash on him. Taking in Haley was an imperative move. Of course, Jackson and Krause were right. Reports reveal that Rodman almost walked out on the Bulls before Game 6 of the 1996 NBA Finals. Haley was the one who pulled him back in with the magic phrase.
“He only appeared in one game in the championship 1996 season, but proved his value in the Finals by convincing Rodman not to quit on the team before the pivotal Game 6 — allegedly by telling him there’d be a fun afterparty.”
In Game 6, Rodman snagged 19 rebounds — one short of tying his series best. The Bulls won the game and took home their NBA Championship — Rodman’s third and Haley’s first. The Bulls’ dynasty has always been traced back to Jordan’s greatness or Jackson’s coaching mastery. Now, we can say that the Bulls’ triumph in 1996 could be traced back to that gay bar double-date featuring Rodman and Haley.