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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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The Sunday morning topics at Dennis Rodman's house have ranged from gay sex to Pearl Jam lyrics to his own drunken failures at Las Vegas craps tables, and now America's most provocative athlete has a more compelling matter to discuss. "Let's talk about shot selection," says Rodman, his low voice barely audible amid the clatter of 15 exotic birds and two German shepherds who actually hail from Deutschland.

It is the day before Rodman's employer, the San Antonio Spurs, will open the Western Conference finals at home against the Houston Rockets. Is Rodman so consumed by basketball that he wants to discuss it here amid a gathering so eclectic it makes MTV's Real World look like The Waltons?

"Hell, no," Rodman says, then clarifies. He wants to talk about the magazine photo shoot that is about to take place, one he thinks should include shots of him wearing makeup and women's clothing or, better yet, nothing at all. "I mean, why not be a little risqué?" Rodman asks. "Push the envelope."

The beauty of this attitude is not just that it is designed to test the boundaries of mainstream society but that Rodman has absolutely no concern for how his antics will play in the basketball community. And though he has a desperate and obvious need to draw attention to himself, Rodman doesn't give a flying halter top about what his NBA peers or employers think of his behavior. He is moved far more by the opinions of the people in his midst: Gregg, a manager for a mail-order company specializing in gay men's apparel; Lara, a dancer, model and horse trainer; Bill, who works for Rodman's excavation company; and several other guests.

"I don't give a——about basketball anymore," Rodman says. "It's like the Back to the Future ride in Orlando, like virtual reality. I'm already out of life in the NBA. I'm just living my life the way I want to. I'm not an athlete anymore. I'm an entertainer."

An hour later, when Rodman emerges wearing a shiny tank top, metallic hot pants and a rhinestone dog collar, his guests ooh, aah and gawk in amusement. "Dennis is in one of his transvestite moods," says Rodman's friend Amy Frederick, rolling her eyes. Were it not Rodman, a man who dreams of playing his last NBA game au naturel, this behavior might be a bit shocking.

This Sunday at home falls near the end of a 72-hour odyssey of Rodman-inspired insanity, a boundless weekend bender that has spanned three states and five figures' worth of frequent flier miles, and collected an entourage that at various times included Hollywood celebrities and fawning women, awestruck gamblers and acid-eating Deadheads, sultry strippers and a Bill Laimbeer-sized drag queen. Above all, this weekend has provided a rousing demonstration that Rodman is a rare human with both the positioning and the resolve to live by his own rules and attack life without regard to the demands or plans or standards imposed by others.

Flashbacks to impressions of Rodman that began to form three days earlier—on Thursday night, to be exact—now seem like dim and distant memories.

It's an hour before tipoff of the sixth game of the Spurs' Western Conference playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers, which San Antonio leads three games to two. The San Antonio players are gathered in the cramped confines of the visitors' locker room at the Great Western Forum. At one end of the room five Spurs are watching a video of Game 5 and quietly talking strategy. One man sits near that group but not with them, oblivious to his environs. Clad in plaid flannel pants and a white T-shirt, senses shielded by Oakley sunglasses and large headphones, the rebel hunches over in his chair, rocks out to the music and lets his mind run free.

At that moment it's impossible to tell where Rodman has flown off to. It's too early in the Rodman joyride to realize that the man who will be the catalyst for San Antonio's series-clinching victory is preparing for battle by listening to Pearl Jam at about 7,000 decibels and traveling via fantasy to places most people will never admit to venturing: horrific torture chambers, chosen suicide spots, bedrooms with various partners. This is a Rodman who is darker and weirder than his image—the one who, depending on your outlook, is either a selfish problem child or an authentic genius who transcends his sport. Most of the Spurs would choose the former, less-flattering description, and that would be hunky-dory with Dennis the Menace, who values the opinion of his basketball peers about as much as Albert Einstein valued his report card.

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