Friday, April 1, 2011
Posted: 6:20 p.m.
By Aggrey Sam
AUBURN HILLS, MICH.As a player, Dennis Rodman was reviled by most opposing fans and loved by the faithful in the cities where he was employed. No better example of that is Chicago, where The Worm was hated by Bulls fansand playersduring the Bad Boy Pistons era, during which he was at the forefront of Chicago fans misery, before relocating to the Windy City and playing a major role in three Bulls championships.
When asked about the legendary rebounder and defender, however, the current Bulls are nothing but complimentary about the man whose jersey will be retired at a halftime ceremony of tonights game against the Pistons.
Bulls veteran Kurt Thomas, like Rodman, a native of Dallas, competed against Rodman in the NBA, but he looked up to him from a unique perspective long before he made it to the pros.
As a player, Ive been watching him my whole life growing up in Dallas. I followed his career, thought he was an unbelievable player. To lead the league in reboundingI think it was for six years straightthats an unbelievable feat. The number of championships that hes won in this league, just a tremendous player, Thomas, who grew up in the same gritty neighborhood of Dallas as Rodman, told CSNChicago.com. Just the fact that hes from Oak Cliff, Im from Oak Cliff. Growing up in that area and to see a guy like that make it to the highest level, playing in the NBA. Then, the way he played.
Off the courtI know the real Dennis Rodmanhes an unbelievable person. He has a great heart, hell give you the shirt off his back. Hes a great guy. Hes just an amazing person, he continued. Throughout his career, hes always giving back to the poor. Hes always done amazing things in Dallas, in the area where he grew up. Everywhere hes played, hes done an amazing job of giving back, second to none.
Now 38, Thomas also received on-court advice from Rodman as a young player.
He told me, Hey, young fella, just keep working hard. Never give up and never settle.
Its great to actually be here, to know that all the fans are going to come out, support him because he gave a lot this league and its definitely an honor for me to be here to witness and be in the building, said Thomas. He definitely should be a Hall of Famer, without a doubt.
Joakim Noah, perhaps the Bulls player that most embodies Rodmans on-court spirit (and free-spirited nature away from the game), also gushed about Rodmans influence.
Dennis has always been a hero of mine and Im just really excited for him and its very well-deserved, said Noah, who slyly confirmed hes partied with Rodman a few times and the experience was very fun, before the teams Tuesday morning shootaround. Hell yeah, hes a Hall of Famer. People always talk about his antics and all the other stuff, but I think people forget he was a hell of a basketball player.
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau offered yet another perspective on Rodman.
I coached him two years in San Antonio. Real smart player, very unselfish player, team player and more of a complete player than hes given credit for. Everyone knows about the defense and the rebounding, but he was a great screener, great passer and he could score when he needed to, praised Thibodeau. Fierce competitor. I have a lot of respect for him. He had a great career.
What I remember about him is just how hard he played, added Thibodeau, who said hed try to greet Rodmantime-permittingduring Fridays game. I really like him. Hes a good guy, really good guy.
When asked about Rodmans Hall of Fame worthinesshes been nominated for the upcoming class; many observers feel his off-court antics will prevent him from ever being enshrinedThibodeau was adamant that Rodman is deserving.
I think so. And those things sometimes, you can never tell why. But I think hes deserving. When you look at what he did over his career, he maintained a high level of excellence for a long period of time. Hes one of the all-time great rebounders in the history of the league. He helped you execute, he played tough, he played big in big moments, so you have to give him a lot of respect for that, said the coach. Statistically, its still pretty amazing numbers when you look at what he did, but he wasnt a big-time scorer, so sometimes that goes against you. But hes a big-time winner.
Rodman was one of them best defender Thibodeau ever coached. He could defend multiple positions. Great rebounder, great multiple-effort guy, too. I often think about his rebounding, where he tipped the ball two, three, four times. Hed just keep going until he got it. He was always in great shape and again, hes looked at sometimes in a negative way for the stuff off the court, but on the court, he was fabulous, terrific.
Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.