Editor's Note: Over the next week, NBC Sports Chicago and NBC Sports Bay Area will try to settle the debate about which is the best NBA team of all time: the 1995-96 Bulls or the 2016-17 Warriors. Check out NBCSportsBayArea.com for the Warriors perspective.
The '90s Bulls and 2015 to 2019 Warriors are two legendary dynasties forever connected due to their rank among the best single seasons in NBA history. Those teams were nearly unbeatable due to a combination of coaching, roster construction and, of course, talent itself. Both squads relied on a dominant power forward during their best stretch of basketball.
The Bulls needed Dennis Rodman to replace the lost production of power forward Horace Grant, who won three titles in Chicago before he departed for the Orlando Magic. The Warriors were offensively potent with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson clicking almost immediately as a sweet-shooting backcourt, but Draymond Green's toughness and defensive versatility are what put Golden State over the top. Green and Rodman each had their fair share of controversy as players, and though social media has made it easier for Green's exploits to spread around the web, Rodman has done plenty in his retirement to keep up. So, who is the more controversial star?
Draymond Green was drafted 35th overall by the Golden State Warriors in the 2012 NBA Draft, and after two quiet seasons to start his career, he morphed into an all-around star in his third season, averaging 11.7 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game as he helped the Warriors win the first of three NBA championships. But there were plenty of bumps along the way.
The Warriors infamously blew a 3-1 lead in the 2016 NBA Finals, and the turning point in that epic series was when Green was suspended on flagrant foul points after a Game 4 incident in which he made "unnecessary contact" with LeBron James' groin. The Cleveland Cavaliers would win Games 5, 6 and 7 to take down the Warriors and win the first NBA title in Cavaliers history. Green became the scapegoat despite posting an impressive, stat-stuffing 32 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists in Game 7. After the series, Green had an embarrassing social media incident, then went on to help Team USA grab the gold medal at the Rio Olympics.
There are plenty of extremely impressive highs (2016-17 Defensive Player of the Year), along with some annoying lows (see: Green's never-ending feud with Charles Barkley), but Green is clearly the X-factor and, perhaps, the most underappreciated member of the Dubs dynasty.
"The Worm" joined the Bulls in 1995 as part of a one-for-one trade for Will Perdue, as the San Antonio Spurs were looking to get rid of the dominant rebounding forward for being too controversial. For those who think Green might have even a chance at taking the controversy title belt from Rodman, remember that "The Worm" averaged a preposterous 16.8 rebounds per game the season before the Spurs decided they needed to move on. From the moment he landed in Chicago, Rodman was clearly the missing piece in returning the Bulls to their past glory.
Following the departure of Horace Grant, the power forward for the Bulls’ first three-peat team, the Bulls went with Toni Kukoc starting at the 4. While an immensely talented scorer, Kukoc lacked the toughness needed to bang with the bullies in the paint down low: enter Rodman.
Across three playoff series with the Bulls, Rodman averaged 5.4 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game. Just as important as his points and rebounds were his 4.1 personal fouls per game, as Rodman's physicality often set the tone on defense. Though Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan were the best overall defenders on the floor, Rodman's ability to guard everyone from speedy guards to lumbering bigs (like Green) unlocked the Bulls D.
In the paint, Rodman played excellent defense against Shawn Kemp and Karl Malone across three NBA Finals, with the Bulls, of course, going a perfect 3-0. His ability to frustrate Malone, specifically, was key to the Bulls preventing the Jazz from getting any hardware with their great teams throughout the 90s. Rodman's on-court dominance made his off-court life even more interesting. The most outrageous things to happen during his Bulls stint include a 1996 publicity stunt where he married himself, marrying Carmen Electra for just over a week in 1998 and wrestling with Hulk Hogan (against Malone no less) during the 1998 NBA Finals.
In his post-playing career, Rodman has garnered significant attention for his friendship with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, which is detailed in the documentary "Dennis Rodman's Big Bang in Pyongyang.” Rodman's Bulls career was a wild ride that produced nothing but Ws and storylines along the way.
The Verdict: Dennis Rodman
Green and Rodman were the missing ingredients to their respective dynasties, and they each did it in their own ways. Both were extreme headaches to their opponents and coaches alike, and their ability to guard a variety of positions made life easier on their teammates. Green has the statistical edge on Rodman, outside of rebounds, because of his multifaceted role on offense, but the sheer quality of the opponents Rodman slowed with his defensive combined with the absurd nature of his off-the-court exploits tips the scales in his favor. While Rodman's off-the-court incidents were wild, they never affected the Bulls on the court, while Green's hot-headed nature took himself out of an NBA Finals game and cost his team a title.