Every week we three kings of the SBN Chicago writing staff sit down and talk (email back-and-forth) sports. One of us will ask the other two some questions about the sports world around us. The other two will answer the best they can. We call it "The Ballad of Ricky-Bobby & Z.W." Yes, we stole the name from Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. This week we discuss if Dennis Rodman deserves to get his number retired. Get some.
Bobby Loesch (@bobbystompy):
Over at The Basketball Jones, Andrew Unterberger wrote about the respective Eastern Conference and Western Conference NBA teams (read: the entire league) and each organization's retired jerseys. He separated his sections into Already Retired (for former players) and Definitely, Possibly, Maybe Someday, and Long Shot (for current players).
For our Bulls:
Already Retired: Jerry Sloan, Bob Love, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen
Definitely: Derrick Rose
Maybe Someday: Luol Deng, Joakim Noah
He expands by saying Rose -- as early as we are still in his career -- is basically a lock to get his number retired, for a variety of reasons. Deng and Noah will probably have to catch more than a few breaks. (Note: he did not include Boozer at all, because Boozer sucks.)
But the Bulls section which interested me the most? (Emphasis mine):
By the way, do you notice a couple names conspicuously absent from that "Already Retired" list? Artis Gilmore averaged 20 and 12 (on 59 percent shooting) in his six seasons in Chicago, while all Dennis Rodman did in his three seasons as a Bull was win three rebounding titles and three championships.
So here's my thesis, right here, right now: Dennis Rodman should totally have his number retired by the Chicago Bulls.
Here's my case…
1) What Andrew said. Rings and rebounds should play huge into this. He did both en masse.
2) The Pistons already did it. Seriously, Detroit has retired five jerseys from the Bad Boy era Pistons. While Rodman played in Detroit for double the amount of time he played in Chicago, his three rings in Chitown trump his two in the Motor City.
3) The oddity of No. 91. This is actually my top reason, even though it's listed third: Rodman wore No. 91.Ninety-one! This isn't, like, No. 7*. Even if Rodman won one less title and played on the team two less years, do you really feel right about another Bulls player wearing his number? Shouldn't happen, man.
4) If the Bulls don't retire his number, that probably means MJ and Pip are the only players from the 90s Bulls to get the honor. Do we feel right about that? I mean, maybe we should. But do we?
Thoughts on this, guys?
(* - props Ben Gordon, Toni Kukoč, C.J. Watson)
Ricky O'Donnell (@TUP_Ricky):
Retired numbers are tricky. To me, it seems like a tremendous honor. You're immortalized forever in the stadium, you get a huge outpouring of props from the organization and fans during the ceremony, and often times, the pre-game/halftime show cementing your place within team history forever overshadows the actual game at hand. Do you remember who the Bulls played when they retired Pippen's number? I do not, but I remember being really happy that Pip was getting another much deserved accolade for his time in Chicago. He cannot get enough. Getting your number retired is like a low-grade Hall of Fame introduction, but I suspect the reception is actually warmer given that you're being presented in font of the team's fans, not in an abyss like Canton, Ohio*. It should mean something.
On the other hand, the No. 10 flag waving above Wrigley certainly didn't stop Ron Santo for inviting a pity party of television cameras every year he didn't make the Hall. Sure, the honors are separate and far from equal, but I would like to think getting that type of recognition from the team and fan base that loves you carries a certain amount of weight for the player. It's different for everyone, I'm sure.
This has been an R-B topic before many, many moons ago, but without the Bulls, I think it's safe to say I would not be doing this, ie: writing about sports. This is what happens when you grow up in the '90s weened by Michael, Scottie, and Rodman, who truly was a giant cog in the Chicago machine for the last three titles of the Jordan era. We know Jordan's will was ironclad, Tex Winter's system was run to perfection, ect. Still: those last three titles don't happen without Rodman. I feel comfortable saying that.
As such, yeah, Rodman deserves to have his number retired. Could you imagine another Bull wearing No. 91? It would be so unjustified.
I do wonder how much Rodman getting his number retired in Detroit has factored into him not getting No. 91 retired in Chicago. How many players have numbers retired by separate teams, particularly when those teams *hated* each other? I would guess the number is relevantly modest across the four major sports. It speaks to the uniqueness of Rodman as a player, and also his impact on the games. The man was a swing card. When you had him on your team, your team was probably damn good.
Another angle: if you retire Rodman's No. 91, do you have to retire Horace Grant's No. 54? I was just a pup for the first three Bulls titles, but from highlights/stories, Grant sounded like an animal. I know he exited to Orlando under bad terms, but he was clearly the third best player on the first three teams. He also boasted some pretty impressive stats in Chicago. Now, Rodman is a legend for reasons that extend beyond basketball, but the point remains: if you retire Rodman, what happens with Grant?
Z-Dubs, what you think?
*Editor's Note: I know the NBA's HOF is in Springfield, Mass. It was an Ohio joke.
Z.W. Martin (@ZWMartin):
Hey, guys! Good to be back. The flu really fucked with my game last week. Anywho, Rodman:
To me, a retired number is a nod to a player from an organization -- and their fan base -- that their name and number (and playing ability) exemplified what that organization represented during that era. The 90s Bulls were brash, hardened and did what they deemed necessary in any given situation. If it was Jordan taking up baseball, banging porn stars or playing with the flu, he did it. It didn't matter if it was on or off the court. Pippen carried a loaded gun around town. Rodman showed up to a book signing in a wedding dress. The Bulls attitude everywhere was the same: "Fuck you, this is our town." Rodman was a huge part of that edge, I think.
Coming from "The Bad Boys," Rodman already had a nasty reputation. In Chicago, that reputation evolved and grew into stardom. Rodman didn't become RODMAN until he stepped onto Madison Ave. Three rings, nightly jersey tossings and the occasional wacky antic made him a Chicago legend.
He was also a very good basketball player for what he was. Probably the best rebounders of all time. He's in the HOF, for fuck's sake. But that really isn't the issue; his playing ability. It's whether we as Bulls fans are endeared to him enough to consider him ours. I certainly do. Of course, a lot of this comes down to perception. Jordan and Pippen, obviously, are the two names that stand out from the 90s Bulls. No doubt. But -- try as I might to black out this image --The Worm is standing next to them, tatted, hair colored, lip pierced. Unfortunately, Horace Grant is not.
I asked my roommate if the Detroit thing hurt or helped Rodman. He said, if anything, it put more pressure on the Bulls to retire his number. I want to agree, but I just don't think they care all that much. Besides, those banners cost money. Money the White Sox, er, Bulls can't afford.
Three more reasons why he should have his number retired: 1) He bought two ferrets from my pet store (my mother witnessed this), so he totally supported to my local economy. 2) Ricky and I really want to start a website called theworm.com. 3) He boned most of the cast of Baywatch (I think).
One more thing: Stop with the Ron Santo jokes. He's dead. Isn't that enough, Ricky?