During halftime of tonight’s Bulls-Pistons game in Detroit, the Pistons will retire Dennis Rodman’s #10 jersey. The Worm’s jersey will join those of Dave Bing, Bob Lanier and fellow “Bad Boys” Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Vinnie Johnson and (*cough*) Bill Laimbeer in the rafters of the Palace of Auburn Hills.
There’s no question that Rodman earned his place among Detroit’s all-time greats. He holds Pistons team records for most rebounds in a game (34), most offensive rebounds in a game (18), most defensive rebounds in a game (22), and most games with 25-plus rebounds (15). He had 30 or more rebounds three times and holds the team record for highest field goal percentage in a season (59.5 in 1988-89). While with the Pistons, Dennis won two rebounding titles (1991-92 and 1992-93), made five straight All-NBA Defensive First Teams (1988-89 through 1991-92) and won Defensive Player of the Year twice (1989-90 and 1990-91).
Most importantly, he was part of two championship teams, in 1988-89 and 1989-90.
With tonight’s ceremony as the backdrop, Patrick Hayes of PistonPowered asked me the following question: Will the Bulls ever retire Rodman’s #91?
It’s a good question. A very good question.
Rodman’s three seasons in Chicago were interesting to say the least. He won his fifth, sixth and seventh rebounding titles. On January 16, 1996, he had his first career triple-double (10 points, 21 rebounds, 10 assists). He earned another All-NBA Defensive First Team selection in 1995-96. He was a member of the Bulls team that won an NBA record 72 games an another Bulls team that tied the 1971-72 Lakers for second all-time with 69 wins. Rodman won three more NBA titles with the Bulls, and his defense on Karl Malone was a major factor in two of them.
Of course, winning wasn’t all Rodman did in Chicago.
During the 1995-95 season, Dennis was suspended for six games and fined $20,000 after head-butting referee Ted Bernhardt during a game in New Jersey. On playing with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, he said: “On the court, me and Michael are pretty calm and we can handle conversation. But as far as our lives go, I think he is moving in one direction and I’m going in the other. I mean, he’s goin’ north, I’m goin’ south. And then you’ve got Scottie Pippen right in the middle. He’s sort of the equator.”
During the 1996-97 season, Rodman kicked cameraman Eugene Amos in the groin. In the aftermath of this incident, Rodman had to pay Amos a $200,000 settlement and the league suspended him 11 games without pay. He also became a professional wrestler, wrestling alongside Hulk Hogan.
He also published his autobiography Bad As I Wanna Be. On the cover, Rodman appeared naked on a motorcycle. Inside, he discussed his bisexuality, his refusal to perform oral sex on Madonna and how he didn’t get along with most NBA players. During the book tour, he showed up at a New York bookstore in a horse-drawn carriage, wearing a wedding dress and a wig, and told people he was marrying himself.
Before Game 4 of the 1998 NBA Finals, Rodman skipped a Bulls training session to participate in a professional wrestling match in Detroit. Rodman was fined $20,000 but didn’t miss the game…which the Bulls won as Rodman grabbed 14 rebounds and helped hold Malone to a quiet 21 points on 10-for-21 shooting.
Yeah. It was a pretty wild ride.
But as wild and successful as it was, did it earn him a place in the United Center rafters?
In most cities, what Rodman accomplished would probably have earned a jersey retirement. But, as of this writing, the Bulls have retired exactly four jerseys: Jerry Sloan’s #4, Bob Love’s #10, Michael Jordan’s #23 and Scottie Pippen’s #33.
That leaves out several key contributors from six championship teams, including (but not limited to) Horace Grant, Bill Cartwright, John Paxson, B.J. Armstrong, Toni Kukoc, Ron Harper, Steve Kerr and, of course, Jud Buechler. It also leaves out another legendary Bulls player from an earlier era: Norm Van Lier. If Stormin’ Norman’s jersey hasn’t been retired, how could the organization justify retiring Rodman’s?
Retiring Rodman’s jersey — or Grant’s, or Cartwright’s, or whoever’s — introduces a problem: Where would the team start and when should it stop? How many players from those championship teams truly deserve the honor of having their numbers retired?
My guess is that Jerry Reinsdorf is going to stand pat. It’s going to be a long time before we see another jersey retired in Chicago.