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Lightning Rodman
Richard Hoffer
March 01, 1999
Monday's press conference was another Electrafying turn by the Worm
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March 01, 1999

Lightning Rodman

Monday's press conference was another Electrafying turn by the Worm

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Well, that was fun. But how could it be otherwise—Dennis Rodman on the loose, with rings in his nose and colorful upholstery on his head, doing the kind of slow grind with the Los Angeles Lakers that had decent folks averting their gazes and the rest of us mesmerized by the wonderful obscenity of it. That's his specialty. Still, who dreamed that Rodman's free agency could offer so much entertainment value? Two weeks of it! Even in a nondescript season like this one, a two-week contract negotiation in which there was nothing to negotiate was a stretch. The public's patience with tattooed cross-dressers who don't currently lead the league in rebounding normally would, have long since expired. Rodman's genius, though, is his ability to create and sustain commotion. Until he finally said he would sign with the Lakers, there was nothing but commotion in Los Angeles. Since "retiring" this year, dubiously marrying actress Carmen Electra and then quickly unretiring, he hasn't spent more than two straight days out of the news. Once he trained his sights on this thoroughly unsuspecting franchise, it was above-the-fold all the way.

Blame Lakers owner Jerry Buss, who thinks he knows something about free spirits. Assuming Rodman actually signs, which he hadn't as SI went to press, this semipreposterous bachelor is about to discover what a Ward Cleaver he really is. It was Buss who thought L.A. could use a power forward (it could) and thought his staff might develop a tolerance for players who tie their Windsor knots on feather boas (it won't). Rodman guessed correctly that the fun thing about an offer from Buss would not be in taking it up but in toying with it. The L.A. media all had Rodman signed immediately—what else was he going to do, chores for Carmen?—but for nearly two weeks he coyly dodged the actual event.

Finally, last Friday, Rodman appeared on ESPN to announce his decision and, amid consideration of his sex life, announced a Monday press conference instead—an event that would also devolve into sex talk. Meanwhile, the Lakers lost patience. Shaquille O'Neal, who had been for signing Rodman, was shrugging. Coach Del Harris, who said he knew about eccentrics because he once handled Cedric Ceballos, ordered his team silent. Minority owner Magic Johnson said the whole thing was "driving me crazy." Get used to it.

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