It’s no secret that Dennis Rodman was one of the most polarizing players to ever grace the NBA. He went about his way with almost everything happening in his life and it had to take someone he respected dearly to control him. That’s why when Michael Jordan was his teammate for 3 years on the Chicago Bulls, the former had a particular way of making sure he was focused on the court. Jordan would often grab Rodman’s temples and look him straight in his eyes to reprimand him — which to MJ’s credit, was the best way to catch Rodman’s attention.
Michael knew how to be a leader
According to “The Jordan Rules” author Sam Smith, the relationship between MJ and Rodman was formed out of mutual respect. Michael knew that he needed Dennis as much as the latter needed the superstar because they were both essential to their dynastic success. That’s also why Jordan made an effort to understand how to lead Rodman, especially when the big man would act out at times.
“Jordan would later say when he had to make a point to Rodman he’d grab him by both temples and demand Rodman look him in the eye and then ask him several times if he understood what Jordan was saying and to repeat if he did. Rodman wasn’t stupid. Really, just shy and eventually acting out.”
Aside from managing Rodman’s behavior on the court, MJ made an effort in the middle of the 1997-1998 season to go all the way to Las Vegas just to get his big man straight. It was one of the most iconic stories that was portrayed in “The Last Dance” documentary and one that depicted how much the Bulls really cared (especially Phil Jackson) for Rodman’s well being.
No Dennis, no rings
One of the biggest reasons why the Bulls cared about Rodman so much is perhaps because they knew he was essential to their success. His numbers during his Bulls tenure, 5.2 points, 15.3 (!!) rebounds and 2.6 assists per game, perfectly speaks for his game. He wasn’t the most impactful scorer but he was the Bulls’ interior presence who provided significant rebounding, rim protection and physicality that really uplifted the whole team.
The best part was that Rodman never cared about his stats because he knew he was contributing the right things to the Bulls’ success. Ultimately, that earned the respect of his teammates and coaches who in turn made an effort to get the best out of him.