For those of us old fogies who were teens in the 80's, we remember Dennis Rodman vividly. He played basketball with reckless abandon - hardly an offensive force, but when it came to rebounding, defense, diving for loose balls, and psychological warfare, he was as good as they come.
It has, at times, been quite difficult to determine whether D-Rod's antics, both on and off the court, helped or hurt his legacy. The distractions included things like the various eye-catching hair color changes, dating Modonna, promoting his book Bad as I Wanna Be by declaring himself bi-sexual, donning a wedding dress, and marrying himself, and a brief marriage to Carmen Electra.
Did these antics that called so much attention to him outside of basketball demean his talents as a player, and render them less relevant? Or were his accomplishments on the court so impressive that the sideshow was less relevant? Chicken vs. egg.
Well, the NBA has had its say: Rodman is in the Hall of Fame, and his induction speech was perhaps more shocking than anything Dennis did in his playing days.
I remember hints of the "real" Dennis, from a time before he became the "show," when he had been known to cry when discussing the important people in his life. But this speech, this was more than that. This was a man far removed from the bigger-than-life, egotistical, unhinged spectacle he made of himself for so long. Oh sure, he had a glittery name and number 10 on his suit coat and all, but the man who spoke at this ceremony had something Dennis almost never allowed us to see - perspective, humility, and remorse. Impressive stuff from someone who has always been defined as a "role player," albeit one of the greatest role players of all time. Wouldn't it have been nice if Jordan had behaved like that for his ceremony?
But this isn't about M.J., or about trying to make him humble. You could more easily rip a ham bone out of a pit bull's mouth than humble M.J. This is about Dennis Rodman, and about marveling at something OTHER than his appearance or his staged theatre. Sure, he's covered in earrings and nose rings, and wearing a pimped up outfit. You've seen that side of him before, and it is hardly shocking or over-the-top these days (thanks to pop-culture precedents that he himself has set). What makes this speech shocking is a man willing to stand in front of his peers and the press and say things like: "I wish I had been a better father" or looking down at his mother and saying things like "Me and my mother have never gotten along" and "She kicked me out" and "I resented her" and "my mother rarely ever hugged me or my siblings....she didn't know how" and yet still make everything he's saying sound like a remorseful, respectful tribute to her.
My attempts to reconstruct it don't do it justice, so just watch. It is enough to simply say: D-Rod, even today, can still shock us. Good job, man. You may not be the most talented public speaker, but nobody can doubt your heart.