From Homeless, to the NBA, to Controversial Figure

Dennis Rodman remains one of the most captivating figures in the NBA and all of sports.

Dennis Rodman

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A Hall of Famer and one of the NBA’s all-time greats, Rodman’s outsized personality and off-court life made him a massive celebrity in the 1990s and has kept him in the spotlight after basketball.

dennis rodman rebound

Tim Boyle/AP Images

From reality TV appearances to his involvement in international affairs, Rodman’s post-NBA life has always kept people guessing.

Dennis Rodman.


Dennis Rodman.

Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP

Rodman described himself as “really shy” growing up, saying he’d hide behind his mother and sisters.

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via ESPN Films

Rodman grew up without his father, Philander, who fathered 28 children. He has said his mom was often more interested in his sisters, who were local basketball stars. Rodman was not athletic and barely played sports.

Source: “Rodman: For Better or Worse”

Rodman bounced between jobs, lacking direction until his mother kicked him out of her house two years later.

dennis rodman

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Rodman lived on the streets, sleeping at friends’ houses, in their backyards, in parks, or behind a 7-11. He said he did nothing during his days, simply walking around town. Rodman said he had begun to accept that “this was the way it was gonna be for the rest of my life.”

Source: “Rodman: For Better or Worse”

Though Rodman flunked out of junior college and never played a full season of basketball, Lonn Reisman, an assistant coach of Southeastern Oklahoma State University, a small NAIA school, noticed Rodman and recruited him.

lonn reisman sosu

via “Rodman: For Better or Worse”/ESPN Films

Reisman said when he went to Rodman’s mother’s house to recruit Rodman, Rodman did not come out his room for several hours. Eventually, when he did, he was convinced to visit Southeastern Oklahoma State.

While in Durant, Oklahoma, Rodman worked at a local basketball camp where he befriended a 12-year-old named Bryne Rich. Rodman and Rich eventually grew closer and Rodman moved into the Rich’s house, calling them his “surrogate” family.

dennis rodman bryne rich


Dennis Rodman and Bryne Rich.

via CBS

Rich became the college basketball team’s ball boy. Rodman called it a “changing point” in his life because “someone actually liked me.”

Source: “Rodman: For Better or Worse”

Rodman was 26 when he entered the NBA, far older than most rookies. Former Pistons president Tom Wilson called Rodman “extraordinarily, painfully shy” and hard to get comfortable around.

dennis rodman plane

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Isiah Thomas called Rodman “sweet” and “innocent.” Many of the Pistons loved Rodman, but felt he was immature and naive.

Source: “Rodman: For Better or Worse”

However, on the court, Rodman wowed teammates and the NBA with his unique style of play. Rodman didn’t care about scoring. Instead, he focused on rebounding and defense.

dennis rodman block

Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Rodman also had a knack for tirelessly chasing loose balls. Isiah Thomas said Rodman turned the NBA “upside down, on its own head.”

Source: “Rodman: For Better or Worse”

Rodman became a key cog on the “Bad Boy” Pistons, known for their rough, physical style of play. The Pistons made three straight Finals appearance from 1988-1990, winning the championship in 1989 and 1990.

dennis rodman celebrates

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Rodman made his first All-Star appearance in the 1989-90 season and won back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year awards in 1989 and 1990.

On February 11, 1993, Rodman was found asleep in his car outside the Pistons arena, with a loaded rifle.

dennis rodman pistons 3

Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Rodman said in 2019 of the incident:

“I had the gun in my lap, and next thing you know, I fell asleep listening to Pearl Jam. Then I woke up, and all the cops and everyone was there. I didn’t know what was going on. I totally forgot I had a gun in my hand. They got me out of the car. That was pretty much what it was.”

Rodman said he was struggling with the business of the NBA and had little connection to loved ones in his life outside of basketball.

Source: Bleacher Report

In 1993, Rodman was traded from the Pistons to the Spurs, which marked a turning point in his career.

dennis rodman spurs

Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Rodman not only began to embrace that he was different than many NBA stars, but he also began to show more personality. At his introduction in San Antonio, he revealed he dyed his hair in a blonde mohawk like Wesley Snipes in “Demolition Man.”

Rodman let his “freak flag fly,” according to Michael Silver, who profiled Rodman for Sports Illustrated in 1995.

dennis rodman green hair spurs

David J. Phillip/AP Images

Rodman called himself an “entertainer” in San Antonio and frequently changed his hair color and appearance.

Source: “Rodman: For Better or Worse”

Silver’s 1995 profile of Rodman also revealed that Rodman liked dressing in drag, partying at gay night clubs, and had sexual fantasies about men, though he denied being gay.

dennis rodman vma

The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Rodman’s embrace of the LGBTQ community was rare in the sports world at the time and also exposed him to new audiences, raising his national profile further. However, some debated whether Rodman’s involvement in the LGBTQ community was genuine or meant to be “shock value.”

Source: “Rodman: For Better or Worse”

After retiring, Rodman also struggled with substance abuse.

dennis rodman party

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His ex-wife Michelle said in the early 2000s, Rodman partied five times a week, often drinking all day long. Rodman was often seen partying in bars and police were frequently called to his Los Angeles beach home.

Rodman has been cited for DUIs in 1999, 2003, and 2018. He was sentenced to three years probation in 2018.

Source: USA Today

Rodman also flew to the Donald Trump-Kim summit in Singapore in 2018.

dennis rodman potcoin

Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Images

He did not take part in the summit and appeared to be there to promote a cannabis cryptocurrency. He told Business Insider in 2019 that he frequently receives invites to North Korea, but is not allowed to go.

“It’s up to Donald Trump,” Rodman said. “So if he opens the doors — I get calls all the time. They want me to come back every month, but I can’t go because Donald won’t let me go.”

Read more:Dennis Rodman says Kim Jong Un is not like ‘people portrayed him to be’

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