I’m often amazed at how little respect Dennis Rodman receives from NBA pundits. Three years ago, ESPN had a panel of their NBA experts vote on the ten greatest power forwards of all-time. That panel was comprised of Greg Anthony, Chris Broussard, Ric Bucher, John Hollinger, Scoop Jackson, Brian James, Tim Legler, Eric Neel, Jack Ramsay, Marc Stein, and Tom Tolbert.
Players received 10 points for a first-place vote, nine points for second and so on and so forth.
Tim Duncan was voted the greatest power forward of all-time, and rightfully so. Karl Malone was second, Charles Barkley was third, Kevin McHale was fourth, Bob Pettit was fifth, Kevin Garnett was sixth, Elvin Hayes was seventh, Dave Debusschere was eighth, Buck Williams was ninth, and Dirk Nowitzki was tenth.
Rodman was thirteenth — behind second year pro (at the time) Amare Stoudemire and Chris Webber.
Yesterday, I linked to a blog from the Orange County Register that quoted Phil Jackson as saying Rodman was the greatest athlete he ever coached.
“He could probably play a 48-minute game and play the 48th minute stronger than the first minute of the game,” Jackson said. “He was that terrific an athlete.”
Not surprisingly, Rodman is third in the Orange County Register’s poll asking their readers that very question. Kobe Bryant is first and Michael Jordan is second. I would advise readers who chose Bryant over Jordan to watch ‘Come Fly With Me’ and call me in the morning, but that’s a blog for another day.
Athleticism encompasses more than running and jumping. As Jackson pointed out, it involves stamina and agility.
Rodman didn’t have Kobe or Jordan’s vertical leap or quickness. But neither of those players had/have the strength, stamina, agility, or quick hops to lead the league in rebounding for seven consecutive seasons.
Neither of those players had/have the physical tools to defend everyone from Magic Johnson to Shaquille O’Neal.
And it’s not as if Rodman was blessed with a great deal of size. At 6-7, Rodman was an inch taller than Bryant and Jordan, and maybe ten to twenty pounds heavier.
As great as Jordan and Scottie Pippen were, they weren’t getting past the Orlando Magic in 1996 without Rodman. It was Rodman that split time defending Shaquille O’Neal and Horace Grant — two players that torched the Bulls the year prior.
Before his stint with the Bulls, Rodman shut down Larry Bird and stymied Magic Johnson in consecutive playoff series.
In Detroit’s second championship season, Rodman was named Defensive Player of the Year and the Pistons finished the season 39-4 with him as a starter. Rodman was named Defensive Player of the Year again the following season. In Rodman’s second full season as a starter, he averaged 18.7 rebounds a game, the highest per game average since Chamberlain recorded 19.2 rebounds twenty years earlier.
Rodman ended his career with five NBA championships, seven rebounding titles, back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year awards, and seven All-Defensive 1st team selections.
Rodman belongs on any list of the top ten power forwards of all-time. And when you look at what Rodman was able to accomplish and the manner in which he accomplished it, it’s not far-fetched to believe Jackson when he says Rodman was the greatest athlete he ever coached.