OC Weekly’s 2018 Man of the Year is Dennis Rodman, which should . . . um . . .
Hey, why are you laughing?
Stay with me here, people, because when you break it down, there is no one more fitting for the honor than the sometime Orange County resident. (A July Houston Chronicle article on Rodman’s supposed day-to-day role with a ticket-selling venture mentioned he had a new residence in that Texas city to go along with homes in Las Vegas and Newport Beach.) Wherever the 57-year-old laid his multicolored hairdo on a pillow this year, he was an OC renaissance man without equal.
Dennis Keith “The Worm” “The Freak” “Dennis the Menace” Rodman was too short and awkward to play high-school basketball. While working as a night janitor at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, he had a 9-inch growth spurt that led to hardwood glory at a junior college, then at Southeastern Oklahoma State and, as the second-round pick in the 1986 NBA draft, the Detroit Pistons. He helped the Bad Boys win back-to-back championships in 1989 and ’90, left for two seasons with the San Antonio Spurs, and then landed with the Chicago Bulls, where he joined Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen in fitting fingers for three more NBA championship rings. By the time Rodman’s 14-year career ended—after stints with the Lakers and Dallas Mavericks—he had made two All-Star appearances and seven All-Defensive First Team rosters. In 2011, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and watched the Pistons retire his No. 10.
Anyone who follows Rodman on Twitter these days knows he is still full of knowledge and opinions about the game he dominated for so long. Asked to pick between Michael Jordan and LeBron James as the NBA’s greatest player, Rodman said, “I would say Jordan, but as I say that, it’s amazing how no one includes Kobe [Bryant] with that. . . . I think Kobe is better than LeBron was in his early years. Kobe was everything.”
Nick “Swaggy P” Young signed with the Denver Nuggets this month, but while playing in the NBA Championship with the Warriors in May, he credited Rodman for his improved defense. “Dennis Rodman came in my dream last night, and I was wondering why he came in my dream. He had the purple hair, all kinds of stuff. He told me, ‘Tomorrow, you’re going to play a little defense,’ and I was like, ‘Nah, that’s not my game, Dennis Rodman; why you in my dream?’ But it just so happened I played a little defense.”
HOOPS DREAMER SPAWNER
Rodman’s son, Dennis Rodman Jr., also has some serious hoop skills, having buried the game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer in the Dec. 8 final of the North Orange County Championships. The senior at JSerra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano finished the game against Lakewood’s Mayfair High with 29 points—21 of which he scored in the second half—helping The Worm Jr. make the all-tournament team.
Having entertained the world on such reality-television shows as The Rodman World Tour, Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew and Celebrity Apprentice (twice), the star of past films Cutaway, Simon Sez and Double Team was cast this year to play School Trainer Anthony in the family dramedy Mission: S.O.P. It’s about a 10-year-old girl with a plan to save her family by Christmas. (Get ready to carve D-E-N-N-I-S into your nameplate, Mr. Oscar!) Rodman displayed his standup-comedy chops during July’s Comedy Central Roast of Bruce Willis, during which he zinged not only the man of the hour, but also his good buddy in North Korea. “Bruce, you keep making these fucking bombs. Well, guess what? So does Kim Jong-Un. But at least Kim is smart enough not to release his.” But seriously, folks, ESPN just revealed a new 30 for 30 documentary on Rodman will debut during the 2019 NBA Finals.
Rodman made a musical love connection with Kanye West, after the rapper posted on social media in July that the Bulls power forward had been one of his “biggest inspirations.” Knowing Ye was a ’90s-era Bulls fan, Rodman shipped Kim Kardashian’s husband a signed Chicago jersey, praised him for his “amazing work around the world,” invited him to come along with The Worm to North Korea and suggested the pair collaborate on sweet, sweet music. But Rodman is actually a huge Pearl Jam fan, as you can tell by his social media posts from the rock band’s concerts across the country. In August, Eddie Vedder and the boys brought Rodman onto the Wrigley Field stage in Chicago, where The Worm told the crowd, “You people here are the only people on this planet Earth [that] gave me support. Thank all you guys!” He then promised to be buried in Chicago when he dies, although Vedder pleaded with him to put that off for as long as possible.
SOBER LIVER (AT TIMES)
The Worm began the year entering rehab yet again because of a DUI arrest (yet again) in Newport Beach. He was clean again as he helped promote his manager Darren Prince’s new cautionary book about overcoming substance abuse, Aiming High: How a Prominent Sports & Celebrity Agent Hit Bottom at the Top. In a Dec. 11 TMZ story, Rodman admitted making a mistake by hitting the Newport Beach bar scene over the previous two weeks, but he vowed to fight the good fight via AA meetings, which he had stopped going to because they were “boring.” Spice ’em up, AA, and you’ll have a lifetime 6-foot-7 celebrity endorser who puts the rebound in rebounding.
The cover of the May 29, 1995, Sports Illustrated had the words “Rare Bird” and a photo of Rodman wearing only a rhinestone dog collar, short leather shorts and a shiny vest as he held a blue parrot. Promoting his autobiography Bad As I Wanna Be in 1996, he famously wore a wedding dress. At New York Fashion Week in August 2011, an ad was unveiled with Rodman wearing nothing, making him the first man to pose nude for PETA. His words and actions fed the rise of gender identity, acceptance and letting one’s freak flag fly, which is why the Los Angeles fashion brand FTP released photos in November of the “superstar baller” in its various shirts, overcoats and hoodies in bright colors. “From his wild haircuts to his even wilder outfits, The Worm was a certified style icon of the ’90s,” states the announcement. “Now, he’s back to reclaim that title with help from LA’s own FTP in the lookbook for the brand’s fall 2018 offerings.”
Rodman’s greatest contribution to 2018—or any year—was his role in making the planet a safer place. His friendship with Kim Jong-Un dates back to 2013, when Rodman travelled to meet the North Korean leader with a Vice Media reporter and members of the Harlem Globetrotters. Rodman and ’90s-era Bulls fan Kim quickly became “friends for life,” and there have been five more visits to North Korea. Two trips, including The Worm’s last one in 2017, were sponsored by PotCoin, a crypto-cannabis company with logos that are often found on T-shirts Rodman dons. During his last visit to North Korea, he had given Kim a copy of Donald Trump’s book The Art of the Deal, and coupled with steady cheerleading of the president and having twice been on the yuuuugely popular Celebrity Apprentice, he figured his services might be called upon during June’s Singapore summit. Alas, Trump tweeted that Rodman would not be joining him at the meetings with Kim. Rodman took it in stride, telling Trump (through the media), “If you get the Nobel Peace Prize, I want you to do one thing for me. I want you to give me a handshake and a hug. That’s all I want.” After The Worm tearfully exposed all the emotions he was feeling in an interview with CNN at mid-summit, former director of National Intelligence James Clapper told host Chris Cuomo, “I saw a Dennis Rodman that I have never seen before on the course of that interview, and you drew that out of him. A lot more depth there than I think meets the eye, and he does understand Kim Jong-Un, and all the rest of us pundits were kind of amateurs and haven’t had that direct contact like he has.” When Nikki Haley announced in October that she would be leaving as UN Ambassador at the end of the year, Rodman tweeted, “Should I replace #NikkiHaley as #UNAmbassador?” It was directed to us@realDonaldTrump and included a video of The Worm on a horse.
JUSTA GOOD DUDE
A fellow named Bobby was celebrating his 60th birthday at Casa Machado Restaurant in San Diego on June 4 when members of his party recognized Rodman. (How could they miss him?) The family asked for a photo with The Worm, but according to TMZ, he instead sang “Happy Birthday” to the surprised fellow.
In the end, Rodman is just a solid, albeit freaky-deaky, dude helping to make the world a better place. At a live Q&A in Chicago this past April, he was genuinely surprised so many seats were filled. “To me, it’s shocking to see these people here,” he said. “Because people look at me and don’t take me too serious. They think I’m always doing this, doing that, going to North Korea, doing all this crazy stuff, right? They don’t take me too serious. They think I’m always having a good time. But my life has changed so much. I think I’m one of the few people on the planet who has a very diverse life. I don’t need to be in basketball. I don’t need to be a coach. I don’t need to do all that stuff to be known or to be seen. I think I’m doing enough good things in the world people can say, ‘Wow, he’s actually changed his life around from being the wild animal to this human being.’ So I’m pretty proud of that.”
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.