Dennis Rodman he was already another man. At least, it seemed. He had left behind a stark childhood in Dallas without the figure of his father, a former Vietnam fighter who had made the decision to leave his family to move to the Philippines. Internal conflicts over his sexuality defined his childhood. Also the image of when his mother decided to kick him out of his house and had to sleep on the street for two years.
But it was thanks to his sudden growth in love for the game that Rodman became a basketball player. That allowed him to be recruited by the University of Southeastern Oklahoma State and show his full potential as a great defender and a rebound grabber, characteristics that drove him to be chosen by the Detroit Pistons in the second round of the NBA Draft in 1986. Yes, almost in one of the last available spots he was selected by one of the league powers in the decade that dominated the Larry Bird Celtics and Magic Johnson Lakers.
Over time, Dennis he felt he had finally found the family he never had. Thanks to the containment work of the Detroit coach, Chuck Daly, added to that the stars of the team Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars Placed on a pedestal, transforming it into a key piece in the team's structure, the Pistons found sporting success. While they struggled to beat Boston in the Eastern Conference, they made it to three NBA Finals in a row. The one in 1988 was lost in game 7 to Magic, but the following year they took revenge and were crowned champions for the first time in Los Angeles.
In the first season of the 1990s, Detroit revalidated the title by defeating the Portland Trail Blazers in the final. And for Rodman, that campaign was the finishing touch for his recognition as an NBA star. He was voted Defensive Player of the Year. At the award ceremony he could not contain his tears. Finally, after suffering the scorn of his family during his childhood, of having to sleep in the doors of other people's houses, his moment had arrived.
But that good stage was diluted over time. In sports, and after starring in historical crossings due to their physical harshness and dialectical duels, Jordan and his Chicago Bulls were able to leave the Pistons on the road to advance towards the NBA championship. After the Barcelona 92 Olympic Games, where he was the driver of the historic Dream team who won the gold medal, Daly left Detroit. For Rodman, that was perhaps a harder blow to the heart than he went through with his blood family.
Those Pistons, who received the nickname of Bad boys and that they won the hatred of the entire NBA, they were finished. Heartbroken by the estrangement of the father figure who sheltered him, Dennis missed summer training camp prior to the start of the season. Further, Rodman's private life was also in trouble: He had separated from his first wife, Annie Bakes, with whom he had his daughter Alexis, whom he stopped seeing over the years.
After being suspended by the franchise in late '92 for not wanting to join a tour with the team, it all fell apart for the Pistons' No. 10 on the night of the February 11, 1993. The day after a tough loss to Detroit against the Nets in New Jersey 109-86, a game that Dennis did not travel with his team, Rodman came face to face with death.
"Outside of me I had everything I wanted, but inside me was a lonely soul". That was the phrase that the protagonist of this story used to graph the moment when he analyzed the chance of taking his own life. This is how he titled it in his biography Bad As I Wanna Be (Bad as I want to be) that he released in 1996 and that became the first autobiography of an NBA player.
That winter night in Detroit, Rodman left friends' house in the city and parked with his truck in front of the old Pistons stadium. Just a few meters from the The Palace of Auburn Hills, sitting in the front seat was when Dennis picked up a rifle and thought about suicide. By the caliber of the weapon, the player would have had to use his feet to try to pull the trigger. That never happened.
As the king of rebounds in the NBA looked at the venue with nostalgia, he turned on the radio. In the background, at one of the local signs, a gang appeared that helped Rodman relax his mind and evade those old ghosts that had been with him for as long as he could remember. Two themes of Pearl Jam, the band that broke into their alternative rock in the early 90's, performed for Dennis to relax to the beat of Even Flow and "Black".
“I woke up and all the police were there. I didn't know what was going on. I completely forgot I had a gun in my hand. They took me out of the car. That was more or less what happened, "recalled the five-time champion of the world's most famous league in dialogue with the media Bleacher Report, a few years ago.
In the same sense, Rodman clarified that he felt betrayed by everything that happened with the future of the Pistons at that time. For him, the house that was in order had been dismantled without reason. And with that, his emotional stability. "I realized that what had brought me to that point is the need for love that I had and not so much feeling betrayed by what the NBA was, "he said.
Without looking for it, or maybe yes but unconsciously, that cold morning with a rifle on his lap was the starting point for Dennis Rodman's new life. Their last season in Detroit ended without penalty or glory: the team had more losses than wins and did not qualify for the NBA playoffs. On October 1, 1993, El Gusano moved his defensive ability and near the ring to San Antonio. And once he landed on the Spurs, the most controversial version of Dennis was born. From changing his hair color to turning his body into tattoo artwork, Rodman decorated his new figure with piercings on his face and other parts of his torso. In short, he gave way to his role as an entertainment character.
His controversial side had an impact rarely seen in sports history. From his relationship with the gay community, his fleeting love with Madonna that catapulted him as a personality that transcended his discipline, to the presentation of his book dressed as a bride. Her two seasons in San Antonio only served to expose her figure to the cameras of the world. That was the prelude to his arrival at the Mythical Bulls of Jordan and Pippen where, beyond his journeys in the fandula, he once again demonstrated what kind of player he was for the NBA world.
"That night I had to kill my old self for the new Dennis Rodman to be born.". This is how the man with long arms and legs described how he went through his most dramatic hours. To be reborn, you didn't need to take your life. Just living a borderline situation that changed him forever.
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