How David Robinson and the San Antonio Spurs Turned Dennis Rodman into a Madman
By Joe Edwards
“You can like me or you can hate me, all I know is one thing; when I step on this floor I’m gonna get things poppin.”
Directly after that statement, Dennis Rodman took off his hat at a San Antonio fan appreciation day only to reveal a blonde mohawk to roughly 14,000 fans.
Some may say that moment would forever define the bad boy image forever carried by Dennis “the Menace” Rodman.
After a stellar year in Detroit, Rodman was traded to the San Antonio Spurs before the start of the 1993-1994 season. Once he arrived, he welcomed playing with the great David Robinson; as well as Dale Ellis, Willie Anderson, and Vinny Del Negro as the supporting cast.
In his first year as a Spur, he averaged 7.6 points per game on top of an impressive 16.8 rebounds per game to accomplish his third rebounding title and an All-Defensive team call up.
Regardless of the on-paper perspective of Rodman’s performance, it was easily seen through his brute force approach to the game that he would never deny exposure to his true character. From his outward appearance, it was clear that Rodman would lose no opportunity to express himself.
The infamous dyed hair was, apparently, a product of boredom—and a trip to the mall with a female friend at home in San Antonio.
After being approached by a big, random fan who was a hairdresser “at least 6’8, 250 pounds, with mad hair;” the stylist volunteered the idea of dying Rodman’s hair into a blonde mohawk.
History was made.
Throughout Rodman’s career fans caught rainbows of color continuing to change into his hairdo. A character was born into a city and team that would forever help define the career for a young rebounding phenom.
Rodman continued to reflect his wild, aesthetic outlook with an equally intense play style; soon growing into one of the most feared young rebounders ever to play the game.
It’s undeniable that his sporadic fights and temperamental relationship with referees would not only fill seats, but also differentiate Rodman from any other player in the NBA—most notably one of his teammates.
David Robinson’s presence on the court as well as off the court was undeniable and palpable. The All-Star, NBA Defensive Player of the Year and soon-to-be MVP was incomparable to the budding firecracker named Dennis Rodman.
There was almost an awkward balance seen amongst the two men both on and off the court. Between erratic tussles, Rodman would find himself tangled in things like wedding dress publicity stunts, and his everyday lifestyle seemed the birth of NBA’s first true rebel—who started next to an extremely conservative David Robinson.
Rodman recounts of times when David Robinson would take him out to dinner in the hopes of converting him to a Christian and believing in God. “He said this is a type of city where people love to go to church, they’re not very edgy, and (he gave me) the whole spiel…I said I can’t live that life.”
Around the same time of the birth of the rebel, many news outlets reported that Rodman had recently tried to commit suicide after finding him with a shotgun and an introverted note in his vehicle. Although he disputes this claim to a rare coincidence, it still may be connected to the sudden burst of character expressed by Dennis Rodman while in San Antonio.
The start of the 1994-1995 season was ushered in under new incoming head coach Bob Hill, who was looking to direct the stacked roster to an NBA championship.Due to a motorcycle injury from an intoxicated driving accident and arrest—and managerial differences—Dennis Rodman’s playing time was diminished from 79 games and 51 starts in 1993-94, to 49 games and 26 starts in 1994-95.
Regardless, Rodman’s statistics didn’t falter, and the team reached the Western Conference Finals to be heartbroken by the unbelievably clutch Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets.
Many of the general public would put Rodman at fault when associated with that lost: “Blame the bad boy.” Not only could the fans see a distance, but Rodman was also foreshadowing the drift between him, the city and the organization.
There is a burning image I remember when seeing Rodman in a Spurs jersey holding up a towel with the words “I’m sorry, Please let me play,” written in sharpie.
The city that praised the conservative and straightforwardly talented David Robinson & Crew was slowly turning its back on their once beloved maniac.
With the season in retrospect; Dennis Rodman succeeded at being elected to the All-Defensive team, having a fling with Madonna and staying alive/going crazy in the relatively calm city of San Antonio. Needless to say; a star was born.
Tyson Chandler has a long way to go to match @DennisRodman‘s five different streaks of 20+ rebounds for 4+ games: http://t.co/gvw5b1k2
— BSports (@BSports) February 5, 2013
Before the start of the 1995 season Dennis Rodman was traded to the Chicago Bulls for Will Perdue and cash considerations to join former rivals Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. He left behind a disgruntled organization to join a championship-winning franchise in a city that embellished him as a total rockstar.
The same rockstar that was born in San Antonio.
The same rockstar that rebelled against the Christian superstar in David Robinson to his right and middle-class conservatives in the stands.Was Dennis Rodman truly such a wild card, truly such an eccentric character; or did the time he spent in San Antonio affect him psychologically forever?
Who knows, yet one thing is for certain: Sometimes it’s good to have a mad man underneath the backboard.