Dennis Rodman was a candidate to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame this past summer.
For a player who should be considered a first ballot Hall of Famer, he was barred entry by eligible voters. The problem is that they let his off the court antics overshadow his accomplishments on the hardwood. While this is a subject that has been harped on many times, I present the definitive case for his enshrinement.
Defensively, Rodman was easily one of the greatest to ever play the game. No matter the position, he was able to expertly defend any player of all sizes from baseline to baseline. A feat not many, if any at all, can lay claim to.
Scottie Pippen, former teammate and recent Hall of Fame inductee, is considered one of the top five greatest defensive forwards. Rodman was not only better than him in that department, but the very best at the position.
While Rodman's height limited his ability to block shots and he never really gambled for steals, when you needed to lock down a player, the "Worm" was your man. Rodman was regularly placed out of position to guard the best centers and power forwards from the opposing team.
Not only did he effectively limit their offensive output, he shut them down on many occasions. He did all of this while at a considerable height and weight disadvantage. Back to back Defensive Player of the Year awards coupled with seven All-Defensive First Team selections only helps to further solidify the argument.
Rodman's rebounding prowess is unmatched in the history of the NBA. Standing at 6'7", 228 lbs., he battled against players who not only towered above him, but outweighed him by a substantial margin. Pound for pound, he had no equal in this department.
You can look no further than his record seven straight rebounding titles as proof of this.
To shed even more light on this aspect of his game, since 1973, he holds five of the eight highest season rebounding averages (18.7, 18.3, 17.3, 16.8, 16.1). His career rebounding average comes in at 13.1 per game, good enough for 10th best in the history of the sport.
These numbers are slightly skewed due to the fact that he entered the league as a small forward playing limited minutes on a stacked Pistons squad. Had he been given starter's minutes from the beginning, his career rebounding average would have undoubtedly surpassed the 15 rebound mark.
Since 1998, the only player to come close to approaching his rebounding numbers was Ben Wallace in 2002 (15.4 rebounds per game). The leading rebounder today, Dwight Howard, has a good four inches and 30+ pounds on him, yet he can barely crack the 14 rebounds per game average.
A criteria that frequently gets lost in all the stats is the fact that he made both his teams and teammates better. After the Pistons drafted Dennis in 1986, they went on to win their first of consecutive championships starting in his third year.
When he joined the Bulls in 1995, it started their next three-peat championship run following two years of droughts. Through all of this, it was Rodman who did all the unheralded dirty work. Something that was often overlooked as he was out-shined by his flashier, higher scoring teammates.
Offensively, he was considered to be middling at best.
His highest scoring output came in his second season with the Pistons where he averaged 11.6 points per game. This would be the only time his scoring average would crack the double digit barrier. Rodman didn't take many shots because he wasn't looking to score.
He left that burden to the likes of players such as Michael Jordan and David Robinson.
Early in his career, he was consistently near the top of the league in field goal percentage. His scoring totals could have potentially been much higher if he demanded the ball on offense. This unselfish attitude helped each team he played for thrive. It is no mere coincidence that Jordan captured three consecutive scoring titles and two MVP awards with Rodman at his side.
The same goes for Robinson who won his lone scoring title and MVP award playing with Rodman.
In the end, whatever bad press and headaches "Dennis the Menace" brought along with him was well worth the trouble. Rodman outworked and out hustled every single player on the court on any given night.
He had the heart of a winner with a ferocious tenacity to match.
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