If you watched basketball in the '90s, then you were probably tuning in to watch one team and one team only: the Chicago Bulls. Love or hate them, they achieved a rarefied status in the world of sports. Maybe you were watching to see them lose, or maybe you were watching the amazing team dynamics of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Steve Kerr, Toni Kukoc, and others tearing it up on the court. Oh and how could we forget one of the most memorable Bulls members of all time: Dennis Rodman.
The new 30 for 30 documentary sheds light on the infamous rebounder and his relationship with Michael Jordan.
Are Dennis Rodman and Michael Jordan friends?
There are a lot of takeaways about Dennis and his career on the Bulls, but one of the biggest ones was the "accusation" that he was a Michael Jordan idolizer, a word that teammates and those close to him said isn't hyperbole.
What's interesting about the documentary is that Michael Jordan agreed to be interviewed for it, and if you know MJ, you know that the sports legend isn't too keen on interviews.
When asked about it, Rodman says the term was "funny as hell," but Jordan offered up a different perspective:
"I wouldn’t say ‘idolize.' He viewed it as my team, and if things needed to be said, I could easily say it and Dennis would respect that."
To be fair, Jordan wasn't just the face of the Bulls at the time, but the face of basketball, period.
Past writer for the Tribune, Sam Smith, said that Rodman was "almost like a fan."
Former teammate John Salley was a little more to the point, "Dennis Rodman loves Michael Jordan's... drawers," he said of Dennis' view of the NBA legend.
Another thing His Airness commented on was how Dennis' hard partying never interfered with his ability to play or practice, even if his take on it was a bit dark: "In all honesty, playing with Dennis and (seeing) the lifestyle he lived, I never thought he’d see 40 because he burned the candle at both ends."
Jordan went on to say that Dennis would be able to "run like a gazelle" after a gnarly night out. He was basically a basketball rock star.
Another NBA legend, Isaiah Thomas, got emotional when he spoke about his former teammate. Dennis used to play with the Pistons during the "Bad Boys" era. For him, he saw a young man who needed help, and he wasn't sure he was getting it.
"The Dennis that we were watching, I knew that the places he was at weren’t giving him the unconditional love that he was looking for... and you could see there was a crying out for help. I just felt like nobody helped him." Thomas and Rodman were extremely close, and even though Rodman was launched into the public eye as a member of the Chicago Bulls (his wacky hairstyle helped) Thomas believes he'll always be remembered as a Piston.
Rodman's name was one of five players circulating the Bulls' clubhouse in 1995-1996 as part of coach Phil Jackson's initiative to make the team more "physical," and Scottie Pippen initially didn't want to hear it. The two men had some particularly grueling tiffs when the Bulls would battle the Pistons. In fact, Jordan went so far as to say that Pippen straight up didn't like him.
"Scottie was totally against it, which I understood because when we played Detroit, he and Scottie had some really heated battles. Scottie didn’t like him. My biggest concern (was): ‘Well, OK, Phil, who’s going to control this guy when he gets a little bit out of control?’ Phil said, ‘I got it.’"
Phil went on to warn MJ and Scottie, saying that there needed to be certain concessions for Dennis, to which Michael said, "Well, I don't have a problem with it." Pippen, according to Jordan "reluctantly accepted him."
Interestingly, Scottie Pippen doesn't make an appearance in the documentary, but any beef that the two had seems to be squashed. Scottie called Dennis one of the best players the league's ever seen and that he should be included in the hall of fame.
Dennis said that him and Scottie are actually "cool" with one another now, even if he claims that he only had conversations with Scottie and MJ on the court and that they weren't friends off of it.
While Dennis isn't phoning up his past teammates every single day, he does admit that he's cool with them. So don't expect a Space Jam film with the older athletes playing out buddy-buddy fantasies any time soon.
But it is nice to know that they all have each other's backs, and it says a lot that Jordan agreed to be interviewed for the documentary dedicated to his former teammate.