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On Dennis Rodman, The Type of NBA Star We May Never See Again

As former Bulls star Dennis Rodman heads into the Hall of Fame, we look back at the career of a truly unique superstar.

Given the current non-existent state of the NBA, and the deep freeze that has encased any tangible piece of basketball-related news, it should come as no surprise that Dennis Rodman's name has popped up all over your favorite NBA media hubs this week. This is because Rodman will officially be enshrined in the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame today, and because Rodman never does anything quietly. On Thursday, he practically produced enough content-worthy ideas to fuel your basketball blog of choice for an entire day. Rodman said he paid the Hall $25,000 to bring in his family and friends, stated eight-figure NBA player salaries need to disappear, and, most notably, told the world how he'll arrive at the ceremony. Predictably, it won't be understated.

Dennis Rodman told us Tuesday he will arrive at his Basketball Hall of Fame induction Friday by helicopter. He wanted to enter the Hall on a colorful float, "but they wouldn’t let me block off the street" in Springfield, Mass.

He said he will hire acrobats to perform and "a couple of my outfits will be ‘out there.’

And all of this is without even bringing up perhaps the most galvanizing Rodman piece to surface of late, Jack McCallum's SI article bluntly titled 'Rodman doesn't belong in Hall'. While the blogosphere fired shots back at the esteemed writer without missing a beat, McCallum's contrarian opinion segues to an interesting debate: exactly how much of the pie should 'scoring' take up in regards to the making of a star basketball player?

Make no mistake, Dennis Rodman was a star. He played on high-profile, championship-winning teams, dated celebrities, and challenged the nation's enduring ideal of 'athletes as role models' with his never vapid antics both on and off the court. Because of the hair, the wedding dresses, and everything else, Rodman became the NBA's first ever superstar role player. But while infatuation from both fans and media alike came from seemingly everything Rodman did away from the court, his unparalled production on it is what truly makes him one of the game's all-time most unique players.

Consider the following:

  • Kevin Love led the NBA in rebounds per game by more than a full big board last season at 15.2. Rodman topped that number five times in his career. His top rebounding seasons ever look as follows: 18.7, 18.3, 17.3, 16.8, 16.1. One more thing: for the notoriously late blooming Rodman, every one of those years came when he was on the wrong side of 30.
  • Dwight Howard, the most dominant defensive presence the league has seen in some time, has never topped 14.2 rebounds per game in his career. Important: Howard is listed at 6'11; Rodman was listed at 6'7.
  • Number of Defensive Player of the Year awards: two. Number of All-Defensive first team selections: seven.       

The other number that paints a picture of Rodman's game is the same one McCallum used as the catalyst for his argument: 7.3. That's Rodman's career scoring average. He topped double-digits in scoring just once and never came close to reaching the teens.

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You've heard the old saying for Hispanic baseball players: you don't walk off the island. In much the same vein, the motto for contemporary youth basketball players in America may as well be 'you don't get out of the 'hood with defense and rebounding". Though the sentiment has surely existed for decades, the culture surrounding AAU has helped cultivate a disease that has plagued far too many of our finest high school-aged ballers over the past decade. Putting the ball in the hoop brings in attention from scouts, scholarship offers, and allows for grandiose, and often delusional, pro dreams to become a reality. It's also contributed to a startling lack of fundamentals from high caliber players, and sabotaged potential college-bound careers of non-elite players by brainwashing them into a 'score or die' mentality.

What falls by the wayside in the 'run and gun', 'I get mine' world of summertime ball is all of the things Dennis Rodman did better than anyone, ever. Positioning, timing, court sense, rotations. This is why there will never be another player like the Worm, and why Rodman undoubtedly deserves a spot in the Hall. Throw in five championship rings and it really shouldn't even be a debate.

As Tom Ziller pointed out at the mothership yesterday, if we live in a world where a laughably bad defender such as Steve Nash can become one of only a handful of men ever to win mutliple NBA MVP's, then we can certainly survive one Dennis Rodman in the Hall of Fame. Besides, what is the Hall if not a museum to capture the sport's greatest, most indelible players? Plenty of basketball players will come and go who can average 20 points in any given season, but we may never see someone again like Rodman. Not at that height, not with such refined intelligence and tenacity. Forget everything you thought was true: Dennis Rodman really *was* a role model, and his beloved sport will be better off once the next generation realizes it.

Twitter: @TUP_Ricky.