If one thing separates Dennis Rodman from any player in NBA history, it's his bold image and approach to life. The Worm never really cared about anyone's orders (well, except maybe Phil Jackson's), but not even former NBA commissioner David Stern had a say on what he could or couldn't do. Rodman thrived on being free, rebellious, and the "bad boy" of the league.
Stern didn't like Rodman's tattoos.
Surprisingly, tattoos weren't typical for NBA players back in the early '90s. Rodman was just one of the few who rocked them back in the day, along with his colored hair and piercings. This didn't sit well with Stern, who at that time was on a mission to change the image of the NBA.
Stern was very focused on eliminating the league's drug use and "bad boy" image. So one time, Rodman shared that when he was in Stern's office in New York, the commissioner threatened to kick him out of the league for having way too much ink on his body.
"When I was doing tattoos before anybody thought about doing tattoos, I was going to David Stern's office in New York, and he said, 'If you do any more tattoos, I'm gonna kick you out'," Rodman told Kevin Hart in 2019. "I was like, 'What?!?!' So basically, that just fueled the fire right there. I said OK, great, I went and got a tattoo that night, and then I just kept getting tattoos and piercings, kept doing my thing," Rodman said.
Stern stayed stern
After Rodman got more tattoos, Stern didn't punish him, but he kept his eyes on The Worm. Every little thing Rodman did, Stern was well aware of. It didn't help that Rodman built a notorious reputation for himself because of how he played and behaved.
In 1996, Stern suspended Rodman for head-butting a referee, and due to his reputation, the Bulls' big man was held out for six games. Rodman thought that six days was unfair and blamed Stern for his bias against him.
"I want to talk to him face to face, face to face and I want him to look me in the eye and say 'Dennis, you cannot do this, you cannot do that' and I want to put his face on the table and say 'What do you mean I can't do this?' What is the difference between me and everybody in this league?" Rodman said after learning about his suspension.
This instance was just one of the many episodes in the drama between Rodman and Stern. There's a lot to unpack about the beef between the player and commissioner. But for as much as Stern wanted to control Rodman, he never really got the best of him. And for as much as Rodman was against Stern, the commissioner still ended his career in a prosperous way.