Rodman's father, Phil, deserted the family when Dennis was three. Rodman grew up in Dallas, around his mother, Shirley, and older sisters, Debra and Kim, both of whom were college basketball All-Americas. At 22 he was working as a janitor at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport before he got his life together through basketball and became a key member of the Detroit Piston teams that won NBA titles in '89 and '90. "He never got to be a rebel as a kid," Rich says, "so he's really going for it now."
Says Manley: "It's the classic case of a boy who grew up without a strong male role model. He is learning manhood on his own, and he's learning it with no one to tell him no. He can get away with anything. No one stops him. When you're raised without boundaries, you have to find them for yourself."
Vegas is going nuts on this warm Friday night. The Grateful Dead is in town, and Rodman receives glassy-eyed, LSD-inspired stares as he walks into the Mirage Hotel. He heads for the craps table and starts blowing dough.
The American public's lack of composure around celebrities never ceases to amaze, but Rodman handles it pretty well. One guy wants to trade his beat-up Vermont baseball cap for Rodman's black lid that says simply APHRODISIAC. "Schnay," Rodman answers. A pair of buxom Australian expatriates who have settled in L.A. end up with the crew and follow Rodman into the men's room. Later a man spots Rodman and lifts up his girlfriend's miniskirt, revealing her bikini underwear. Rodman smiles and moves on. Everyone wants to talk basketball, and he just wants to roll bones until dawn.
Sleep comes after Saturday's sunrise and is ended rudely at nine o'clock by the voice of Haley, who has tracked Rodman down and telephoned his suite at the Mirage. "What the——are you doing?" Haley rails at Manley. After some back and forth, Manley wakes up Rodman, now $5,000 lighter, and puts him on the phone.
The dilemma here is nothing new. Rodman has been in trouble all season with the Spurs. San Antonio general manager Gregg Popovich, a former Marine, and coach Bob Hill set rules for the team, and Rodman decides the rules are stupid and disregards them. Rodman refers to Hill as Boner and has nothing very positive to say about the hard-line Popovich.
This time Rodman wants to blow off a Saturday afternoon film session and a team dinner back in San Antonio. Haley, in the name of stability, urges Rodman to be there. The problem is, the harder you push Rodman, the more likely he is to rebel for the sake of rebellion. It's a dangerous prospect because he has already pushed his superiors and teammates near their limits. In San Antonio's Game 3 defeat by the Lakers, Rodman lay down on the floor with a towel over his head and took off his shoes during a second-half timeout. Hill sat him for the remainder of that game and all of Game 4, which the Spurs won, and held him out of the starting lineup for Game 5 as all the while he and Rodman engaged in a hissing match via the media.
"That's just immaturity," says Rivers, who joined the Spurs in December. "If you want to go out and party and have crazy hair, that doesn't make you a bad guy. But when your actions impact the team, that's not good. There have been guys who have decided we'd be better off without him. I haven't done that yet, but I haven't been here that long."
Despite Haley's protests Rodman wants to follow through with a plan to jet to Phoenix for Game 7 of the Sun-Rocket series this afternoon, "just to freak everyone out." Haley calls Hill, who promptly phones Rodman. After 20 seconds Rodman slams down the phone and launches into a tirade: "Yeah, I really want to go to a goddam dinner with all the wives and old people—that'll be really fun." Haley is relieved by Rodman's decision to attend the dinner, saying later, "The organization has been fair with Dennis. If he'd have blown this off, the players would have said, To hell with him.' "
It's Saturday afternoon, time to get down and dirty, though it takes a while to figure this out. Rodman is at a specialty store in the Las Vegas airport, buying a sheet of Elvis stamps, and I'm carrying four pieces of luggage and getting ready to fly home to Oakland. We walk to the gate for Rodman's 12:15 p.m. flight to Houston, and I start to say goodbye. "Why the hell don't you get your ass on this plane so we can do some talking?" he asks, and before a plausible answer comes to mind, we're sitting in first class, listening to Eddie Vedder moan, "Why go home, why go home...."