The night before Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals I wound up in a Fort Lauderdale to a bar that a friend of a friend runs, and while I was there a man came up to let me know Dennis was outside and asked me to follow him.
Turns out Dennis was Dennis Rodman. He was on the patio, smoking a cigar. He introduced me to his hairdresser. (I guess that sentence would sound 10 times more absurd if wasn’t written about Dennis Rodman. But in this case, of course he did). He wanted to talk about what went wrong with the Lakers. I tried to give him the short version of this. He still couldn’t believe Phil Jackson lost his cool in Game 3 of the Dallas series. He’d never seen Phil lose his cool.
We went back inside the bar because a bikini fashion show was supposed to start. There was also a sign celebrating Rodman’s 50th birthday, which was May 13. I’m not sure if the bikini show and the birthday were connected, but they both shared the same space.
One point he seemed to want to make: “I’m still relevant.”
It echoed what he told the media last week in Chicago, when he was brought back to the arena where he won three championships in three years from 1996-98 and presented the ball before tipoff.
He provided this update on his life: “I just roam around the world, do my thing. You see me on TV doing this, see me doing that. It’s amazing that after all these years -- I retired at 38 years old [in 2000] --people are still talking about me. All the players have been around the league the last 10-15 years, people don’t give a [bleep] about it. Out of all the guys in the world, they say ‘He’s a troublemaker he’s an [expletive] he did this, he did that, he skipped practice, he was late this…. ‘ I’m still being talked about. And then make the Hall of Fame.”
He promises a Hall of Fame entrance like no other. He mentioned a float…and glitter…and six costume changes.
We’ve seen athletes who can’t reproduce the rush of playing at the highest level in front of packed arenas. As much as Rodman talks about the sport and the camaraderie, I think he misses the attention as much as anything. Rodman thanked the media when he was back in Chicago last week, as well he should have. Thanks to his manipulation the media made him a star, the most famous 7.3 career points-per-game scorer in NBA history. And here we were, in a bar in a hotel in Fort Lauderdale, and he was seeking out the lone media member he saw.
I wondered what he thought of Lady Gaga, the latest fame creature. Rodman called Lady Gaga “An imitation of something that’s been done already.”
Yes, Rodman knew the original, Madonna, intimately. He learned from the best. And Rodman’s so unlike anyone else that we haven’t even had a serious copy since.