"Take it for a spin," a manager of a Las Vegas gentlemen's club urged Dennis Rodman, handing him the keys to his custom-made Carlini motorcycle. It was 9 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 19, and Rodman had spent the past couple of hours engaging in two of his favorite recreational pursuits: sucking down sweet drinks and getting lap dances from strippers. For whatever reason, the manager just had to have Rodman ride his bike, and eventually the former rebounding king climbed on.
Alas, he never made it out of the parking lot: Within seconds Rodman tried to pop a wheelie, rammed into a pole and careened into the concrete, gashing his right shin (20 stitches) and ending his hopes of beginning this season on an NBA team's roster. Instead of arguing for playing time, Rodman is to be in court this month after being cited for suspicion of DUI in the accident.
Rodman's life has been veering wildly since his last NBA stint ended after just 12 games with the Mavericks in 2000. Contrary to common assumption, the 42-year-old party animal is not broke, but he does blow dough with abandon, usually in connection with massive alcohol consumption. (In September he was jailed briefly for alleged public drunkenness near his home in Newport Beach, Calif., though no charges were filed.)
"He's way out of control," says Floyd Raglin, a Florida sports marketer and former NFL defensive back who's a friend of Rodman's. "Everybody likes to have fun, but I don't want to see him get seriously hurt or kill himself—because that's where he's headed."
In the wake of the motorcycle crash, even stronger messages were delivered by Rodman's agent, Darren Prince, and by Michelle Moyer, who became the third Mrs. Rodman last May. Prince and Moyer both threatened to leave Rodman I unless he got help for his drinking problem, and for now he appears to be taking them seriously.
Prince says Rodman has already begun seeing an alcohol counselor and is taking Antabuse, a drug that causes violent illness if alcohol is consumed. "This is a huge chapter in Dennis Rodman's life," Prince says. "I told him, 'You're an alcoholic, and you need to take care of it' In the past he'd always said, 'Yes, dude,' and brushed it off. This time he said, 'I know I do.' "
Rodman's story doesn't have to end tragically. He still makes good money from personal appearances (he recently flew to Croatia to guest-star on that country's Saturday Night Live equivalent), from his Dallas excavation company and from Josh Slocum's, the Newport Beach restaurant and nightspot he co-owns. While his former agent, Dwight Manley, told The New York Times in June that "Dennis could earn $200,000 a year just being Dennis Rodman," Prince says, "Hell, he made more than that in the last month. He's about to shoot his first national TV spot for a FORTUNE 500 company [ MasterCard]." A production company is talking with ESPN about a reality show chronicling his escapades, Rodman on the Rebound.
In May, Rodman started making plans to return to the NBA, a comeback that drew interest from a half-dozen teams. But the September incident scared off most of them, and Prince says his strongest suitor, the Nuggets, backed off after the motorcycle crash. Now Rodman is weighing an offer from a Chinese pro team but hopes to land in the NBA by the All-Star break.
Rodman was back in Vegas last Saturday night, dining with friends at P.F. Chang's and drinking bottled water. "I'm cool, bro," he insisted. "I know everyone out there's waiting for me to crash and burn, but I'm going to be O.K."
It won't be easy, but if he pulls this off, it will be his greatest rebound of all.