HOUSTON — Dennis Rodman never thought this day would come.
No, one of the most successful, unforgettable and oh yes, enigmatic ever to come down the pike thought his wild nights off of the court would cancel out his wild successes on it.
“I looked at the way I am, and I thought I wouldn’t get in, you do too many things off the court that don’t represent us” Rodman told a throng of reporters minutes after headlining the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s class of 2011.
Saying making the Hall “never came into my mind” since his retirement, Rodman said when he got the call, he thought it was a joke.
But yet, here the five-time champion, two-time defensive player of the year is.
“They looked past all the negativity and thought: Wow, he actually did change the game a little bit,’” Rodman said.
“I wasn’t a good scorer. I wasn’t the best athlete. But I was a part of the machine.”
He knows it could have turned out much differently if he didn’t grow a foot after high school and take up basketball.
“I can put it in very few words,” said Rodman, pierced as always, with a leopard scarf, alligator vest, Gucci shades and open-buttoned shirt with sequins on the cuffs.
“I could have been dead or in jail. I took such a long road to be here. I’m lucky to be alive, lucky to be here.”
Rodman talked of living in the projects in Dallas, of seeing people doing and selling cocaine all around him and how that growth spurt likely saved his life.
“Lucky for me I took the right side ... I never partaked, all I did was look at it and keep going.”
And go on he did to Oklahoma, to Detroit where he helped the Pistons win two championships and eventually, on to the Chicago Bulls where he won three more, winning seven straight rebounding titles along the way.
Why did those Bulls teams work?
“I always said I call Michael (Jordan) God. I call Scottie Pippen Jesus, I’m hell (but) we worked together,” Rodman said.
“That team was so special because everybody knew their role. There was no bitching, no arguments. We were so cool with each other. We could win every time and we knew it. Not many teams can do that.”
The team echoed what Rodman, the player was like. One of the most unselfish teammates ever, all he wanted to do was shut down the best big men on the other side, own the boards and feed his compatriots for open shots.
Rodman said he felt “out of place” being both in the Hall of Fame and with the rest of the 2011 class, which includes Chris Mullin, Artis Gilmore, Tom “Satch” Sanders, Arvydas Sabonis, former Harlem Globetrotter Reece “Goose” Tatum, Teresa Edwards and coaches Tara VanDerveer, Herb Magee and Tex Winter.
“Ya, I might have fell off the stage,” joked Mullin about what his reaction would have been if Rodman showed up in a suit.
“I’ve known Dennis a long time, minus our attire, we have a lot in common,” said the three-time Big East player of the year, alluding to his battles with alcohol as a younger man.
“He’s got a huge heart, he’s a very sensitive guy.”
How would Mullin, good enough to make the 1992 Dream Team describe the man nicknamed The Worm?
“Winner, champion, tough defender ... he was as tough a guy to play against as anyone and if you look at his career he didn’t just make his teams better, he was a key ingredient in championship teams and you can’t say any more about a player than that.”
And now, against all odds, you can also say Dennis Rodman is a hall of famer.