Dennis Rodman gives humanizing speech at Hall induction ceremony
Wearing a red-and-black jacket with the words “Bulls” and “Pistons” glittering on his back and a feather boa around his neck, Dennis Rodman followed his two youngest children down the aisle to the stage on Aug. 12 where, after two-plus hours of Hall of Fame induction speeches, he would finally give his.
No one knew exactly what to expect from Rodman, long one of the most colorful (literally and figuratively) players in NBA history. Would he do something wild and crazy? Would he let loose with a litany of profanities directed at anyone he felt had ever slighted him? Maybe challenge Karl Malone to another wrestling match?
As it turns out, he did something even more surprising — he let the world see the real Dennis Rodman.
Clearly nervous and battling back emotion that caused him to pause several times, Rodman himself stripped away the layers of the shell he had built around himself for years. “I didn’t play the game for the money. I didn’t play the game to be famous,” he said. “What you see here is more just an illusion that I love to be just an individual that is very colorful.”
Rodman continued by delving into his difficult upbringing, explaining how his father had left him when he was five years old and how basketball helped him avoid the many pitfalls that such an upbringing can lead to. “This game’s been very good to me,” said Rodman. “I could’ve been dead. I could’ve been a drug dealer. I could’ve been homeless; I was homeless.
“A lot of you guys that are in here in the Hall of Fame know what it’s like to be in the projects and trying to get out the projects. And I did that. But it took a lot of bumps along the road.”
He thanked specifically the four men whom he called father figures and who had been the biggest influences in his life: former coaches Chuck Daly and Phil Jackson, Lakers owner Jerry Buss, and James Rich, the man whose family took Rodman in after he was kicked out of his home by his mother. Rodman credited them for being there for him whenever he needed a shoulder to cry on, a hand to shake, or just someone to speak his mind to.
He also lauded former Bulls teammates Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan as the best duo to ever play the game.
Rodman then moved on to apologizing to the people he felt he had wronged over the years, starting with his wife and kids.
“My wife, Michelle, has put up with a lot of crap from me. I’m being honest. I haven’t been a great father, haven’t been a great husband,” stated Rodman.
“If anyone asks if I have any regrets in [my] career being a basketball player, I say I have one regret: I wish I was a better father.”
Rodman also took the time to set the record straight on his relationship with his mother.
“Me and my mother have never got along,” he said. Rodman explained that he was a good kid up until his late teen years. That’s when his behavior started to change, and when his mother had enough, she kicked him out of the house.
“I resented her for a long time,” he said. “My mother rarely ever hugged me or hugged my siblings. She didn't know how.”
“I’m not like most of you guys that say, ‘When I make money in the NBA I’m gonna take care of my mother and father.’ I was a little selfish for that because of what she did to me in my life. But as I got older things changed. I haven’t been a great son to you at all the last 10 years, and you know that. But we can laugh about this.”
Rodman, who for years had created a caricature of himself as he lived a roller-coaster life, closed on a very sobering and humanizing point.
“I was really burning both ends of the candle for a long time. That’s the reason that I said I’m surprised I’m still here. But I’d like to set the record straight just for the time being, and maybe hope for that in the future I can actually try to be somewhat of a good individual and a good father to my kids and hopefully that I can love you (gesturing to his mother) again like I used to when I was born.”
However, Rodman was not the only person enshrined on the day. In fact, nine others shared the honor with Rodman, and each had stories to share and people to thank.
Chris Mullin thanked seemingly everyone who helped him along the way and spoke about, among other things, his favorite years in pro basketball — the Run-TMC team in Golden State with Tim Hardaway and Mitch Richmond that was coached by Don Nelson.
Artis Gilmore, who for years was ignored by the Hall of Fame, tried to answer once and for all any questions about any bitterness he may have felt for not being recognized earlier by the Hall. Gilmore, as dignified as ever, instead thanked Jerry Colangelo, chairman of the Hall of Fame, for facilitating his induction this year. And if anything told how Gilmore felt about his induction, the beginning of his speech, saying simply, “My name is Artis Gilmore, and I am a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame,” summed it up perfectly.
Tom “Satch” Sanders also gave an extremely dignified speech and related advice received from former Philadelphia 76ers player Al Attles about public speaking, saying to “remember the three B’s: Be brief, brother.”
Reece “Goose” Tatum’s son, Reece Tatum III, shared a moving story of how his father faced segregation while playing for the Harlem Globetrotters and how his father was buried in an unmarked grave with no service. He also shared how when Marques Haynes, his former teammate and friend, found out, he bought a Bible and read from it over his grave.
Teresa Edwards told how she didn’t have women basketball players to admire growing up as a young girl in Cairo, Georgia, so she looked to Julius Erving and Michael Jordan for inspiration, almost killing herself trying to emulate their moves, as she put it, in the process.
Arvydas Sabonis was brevity personified on the evening, speaking at the podium for all of 48 seconds.
Stanford women’s basketball coach Tara VanDerveer quoted Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers in explaining how she reached her level of success.
Coach Herb Magee poked fun at his university’s history and especially its former name, Philadelphia Textile Institute, saying that people would joke that “you not only had to earn your sweater, but you had to make it” and that it was a “close-knit team.”
Unfortunately, Chris Winter, who now speaks for his father, Tex Winter, after Tex suffered a stroke two years ago, gave a disappointing speech that did his father little justice. In fact, Tex made more of an impression on the crowd by simply being in attendance than Chris did in his 10-plus minute meandering recap of his father’s career.
But the night truly belonged to Rodman. For all the antics that defined the man and overshadowed the player over the years, he showed that the real Dennis Rodman is nothing like that. And while Rodman may be one of the least likely Hall of Fame inductees ever, on this night — just as he did whenever he took the court over his 14-year career — Rodman stepped up big and proved yet again that he did, in fact, belong.
By: Eric Lorenz
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