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Rodman Unchained
Michael Silver
May 29, 1995
The Spurs' no-holds-barred forward gives new meaning to the running game
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May 29, 1995

Rodman Unchained

The Spurs' no-holds-barred forward gives new meaning to the running game

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Later, in the jumpin' back room, shots of Jagermeister and Goldschlager are passed around. Rodman says that he has never been into drugs, but he can drink like a fish, and keeping up requires commitment. Haley, who played at UCLA, is getting autograph requests up the wazoo while Lovitz watches. Only in L.A. could Jack Haley be bigger than Jon Lovitz. "Hey," Lovitz protests, "he's not that much bigger than me. Only about a foot."

A woman with a sexy Middle Eastern accent wants to know what the deal is with the flame-haired dude. "Who ees this man?" she asks. "What makes heem so special? Why does everybody want so badly to speak with heem?"

The answer is that Rodman, after three decades of confusion, anger and longing for acceptance, turned a corner a couple of years ago. He became a man who strives to live for the moment, with no watch, no pager and few worries about how he may be perceived—but with a quenchless thirst to be noticed. His explanation: "I woke up one day and said to myself, Hey, my life has been a big cycle. One month I'm bleeding to death, one month I'm in a psycho zone. Then, all of a sudden, the cycles were in balance."

Rodman eats when he's hungry, sleeps when he collapses and does whatever the hell he pleases. Few celebrities can pull this off, and athletes almost never do. He lives more like a rock star, an updated version of Jimi Hendrix or Jim Morrison, than an athlete. There is a fatalistic side to Rodman, but he's more of a '90s dissident than a '60s insurgent. He thinks anything political is crap and has adopted a younger generation's everything-is-screwed-up-beyond-repair resignation. He is a man drunk on his own ability to do whatever he wants, a rebel without a boss.

Why don't more people in his position behave so freely? "They hide behind their money, fame and success," he says. "Then all of a sudden they have no opinion, or they're afraid to voice it because they're afraid someone will take away what they've got. You can be famous and still voice your opinion, as long as you don't hurt anybody. You can do anything you want."

It is not surprising that some of Rodman's friends, including Madonna and Eddie Vedder, are icons. Rodman met Vedder, the Pearl Jam singer, and other band members two years ago; he has hung out backstage for three shows, a number he plans to triple next month. "I'm going to tour with them for two weeks," he says. "They'd better let me sit in on drums, or I'm out of there."

He busted loose from Madonna a year ago, ending a hot-and-heavy romance, but not before he learned a great deal from her about shock value and self-promotion. It is 3:30 Friday morning, and a heated Rodman is out front of Sanctuary talking Material Girl with a bouncer. "She wanted to get married," he says. "She wanted to have my baby. She said, 'Be in a hotel room in Las Vegas on this specific day so you can get me pregnant.' She had ways of making you feel like you're King Tut, but she also wanted to cuddle and be held." Through her publicist, Madonna declined comment.

The Spurs return to San Antonio on Friday afternoon, and aside from a trip to a local workout facility, Rodman's day is relatively tame. That night he is back at his house with his inner circle, barbecuing. Included are Rodman's surrogate brother, Bryne Rich, whose family essentially adopted Rodman when he was 19; Rich's girlfriend, Frederick; and Dwight Manley, a Southern California rare-coin dealer who, despite being five years younger than Rodman, serves as his caretaker. Rodman has about 800 messages on his answering machine; he speeds through most of them and writes down nothing.

At 9 p.m., the meat still thawing, Manley announces Continental has a 10:40 flight to Vegas. "Let's do it," Rodman says, and an hour and 39 minutes later, the five of us sprint through the San Antonio airport like O.J. Simpson, circa 1977, making the flight with seconds to spare. As the plane takes off, Rodman is blasting his favorite Pearl Jam song, Release, through his portable CD player—"I'll ride the wave where it takes me"—and laughing. "What are we doing?" he asks, and everyone cracks up.

Everyone in the group is drinking Bloody Marys immediately after takeoff—everyone except Manley, who talks about Rodman and how he met him two years ago at a craps table at the Mirage in Vegas. "Dennis and Bryne were supposed to be out there for a few days," Manley recalls, "and they stayed for five weeks." Rodman has been known to drop as much as $30,000 on a trip but has won as much as $72,000 at a single sitting. Money, to him, seems incidental. "He makes $2.5 million a year," Manley says, "and he doesn't save a penny."

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