Hall of Famer Rodman talks Jackson, Rose and Noah
By Adam Fluck | 03.20.2012
Dennis Rodman returned to the United Center on Friday for the first time since being inducted to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in August.
“It’s awesome,” said Rodman, who took in the Bulls-Trail Blazers game, of being back. “Since 1998, I’ve been here three times. I can’t believe it; every time I come here, I get chill bumps. When you come back and people still love you… wow.”
Rodman had most recently visited the arena which he called home for three seasons last May when the Bulls and Miami Heat faced off in the Eastern Conference Finals. His only other appearance at the United Center since his playing career was in 2005 for Scottie Pippen’s jersey retirement.
On Friday, as Rodman looked backed on his Hall of Fame enshrinement, he acknowledged it was an extremely emotional experience for him.
(Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images)
“You saw me, I broke down quick,” laughed Rodman, who will turn 51 in May. “It was cool, though, for my kids. They never saw me play, so it was cool for them and they had a good time the whole week.”
In his enshrinement speech, Rodman talked at length about the four men who had a great impact on his life and acted as father figures. Former Bulls coach Phil Jackson was among them, along with Lakers owner Jerry Buss, the late Chuck Daly, who coached Rodman for seven seasons in Detroit, and James Rich, whose family essentially adopted Rodman while he attended Southeastern Oklahoma State University.
Rodman’s own father left when he was only five years old, but the combined qualities of those four men represented a “perfect individual” to Rodman, providing him with the support he needed during tough times throughout his life.
Rodman said he still talks with Jackson, who retired from coaching following the 2010-11 NBA season.
“He’s doing his thing, living the good life in Montana and L.A.,” said Rodman of Jackson, who won 11 NBA championships as a head coach. “Phil has been a very, very big inspiration on my life. I’ve got a lot of love for him.”
As for Jackson’s future plans, despite some speculation on him coming out of retirement for another coaching job at some point, Rodman doesn’t believe that will happen.
“I think he stays away from it,” said Rodman. “He’s been around the game so long and it is hard to keep going after that many years. How many years has it been since he’s been in the NBA? Almost 40 years? You need a break after awhile.”
Rodman, you could say, is taking his break from the game now. He doesn’t follow the Bulls closely, but he’s seen enough of the team over the last couple seasons to know he’s impressed by reigning NBA MVP Derrick Rose.
Having played with Hall of Fame point guard Isiah Thomas in Detroit, Rodman compared the two Chicago natives.
“I think Isiah had more of a point guard mentality as far as distributing the ball,” said Rodman of Thomas. “He was more like a Harlem Globetrotter-type of guard. He was also one of the toughest guys I’ve played with.
“Derrick is more like a pit bull,” said Rodman of Rose. “He gets out there and it’s boom, boom, boom. He’s like a speed racer out there. Derrick Rose’s ability is probably more enhanced than Isiah’s.”
(Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images)
As much as Rodman appreciates Rose’s game, it’s another Bull who he really enjoys watching—Joakim Noah.
“His energy is off the charts,” said Rodman of Noah. “I like the fact that he is 6-11, he can still move and he’s agile, he’s smooth on the floor, and he’s not clumsy like a lot of tall guys.”
Many of the same qualities which helped make Rodman successful as a pro—placing an emphasis on defense, possessing tenacious rebounding abilities, and having a remarkable passion for the game—also exist within Noah, so it’s easy to understand the connection.
“He’s as important as anyone on this team, I think,” said Rodman of Noah. “If he keeps his mind straight and keeps this team together, they’ll go a long way.”
Just how far the Bulls go, Rodman isn’t sure. But he thinks a seventh championship this season is within the realm of possibilities.
“If they can get over that hump, they can win the whole thing,” said Rodman.
To most observers, the proverbial “hump” comes in the form of the Miami Heat. And though the Heat fell short from winning the title last season, the consensus is that they are the team to beat.
Pippen recently compared this year’s team to the Bulls of the late 1980s, when it was Rodman’s Pistons they had to surpass prior to winning the organization’s first championship in 1991.
“I see the same thing,” agreed Rodman. “And it was just like for us too. When I was in Detroit, we had to get past Boston. Once we got past Boston, we had to get past the Lakers. After we did that, we were two-time champions. Then all of a sudden, the Bulls came on. Once they dethroned us, it was all uphill for them. They won six championships and it was all good.”
Before he left the building, Rodman was asked if he’ll return to the United Center for another trip if the Bulls reach the NBA Finals. There was no hesitation at all.
“Hell yeah, I’ll be here,” said Rodman.