We're talking about practice! Why Dennis Rodman loved MJ and not The Admiral
4 Rodman nuggets from Roland Lazenby's "Blood On the Horns." Also — win a Bulls book!
“They had a male stripper up on the stage, stripped down to a G-string. I shocked (Rodman) and slipped one of the guys a buck. Ever since then, we’ve been good buds.”
— Jack Haley in 1995 on his relationship with Spurs and Bulls teammate Dennis Rodman
Hi all! For the first time since its release in 1998, I am reading Roland Lazenby’s outstanding, essential Blood On the Horns: The Long Strange Ride of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls — and now I want to raffle off a copy, along with two other Bulls books.
A bit later, I will share some of the wild stories that Lazenby captured from Rodman teammate and confidant Jack Haley (such as the stripper story above). But first, I want to raffle off three Bulls books by asking you to get your best Bulls fan friends to do the free sign-up to this newsletter.
We raffled three books last month, but only one of the three winners wanted a book. I sent Bob Greene’s Hang Time to reader Jess Obis, while The Jordan Rules and Transition Game remained unclaimed. Let’s get the others out!
The three Bulls books up for raffle:
Blood On the Horns — Roland Lazenby (1998)
Transition Game — Melissa Isaacson (1994)
The Jordan Rules — Sam Smith (1991)
How to win a book:
Step 1: Get your best Bulls fan friends to do the free sign-up to “A Shot On Ehlo”
I want to continue to build my subscriber base, starting with the free sign-ups. I hope you will help me by telling your best Bulls fan friends to sign up for the free version.
Just send them this link and tell them to subscribe! Free sign-up. That easy.
You can tell them that there is great free material on this newsletter; my favorites include a look at Bulls merch with Taco Trey Kerby and essays on the Pistons walkoff, the ‘91 Finals and Game 6 of the ‘92 Finals.
Step 2: Tell me who you got to sign up
Email me at email@example.com, or hit me on Twitter, or drop a comment on this page, and let me know who you got to sign up.
Step 3: Be the winner of Step 1
Whoever signs up the most people is an automatic winner. I’ll reach out and ask what book you want, and I’ll buy it and send it to you.
Everyone else who signs someone up will go into the pool, and I’ll then do the raffle to get two more winners.
Deadline to sign up your friends:
Tuesday, September 7 — one week from today.
And now… Dennis Rodman.
Gives you all the MJ you need and want
Covers the entire team with interviews from nearly every player
Gets interviews from lower profile people who fans might not think as much about but who have insight no one else can share (Tex Winter, Chip Schaefer, John Ligmanowski)
Gives a step-by-step rundown of how the relationships splintered between what Jerry Krause referred to as The Team (Phil, MJ, Pip, etc.) and The Organization (Reinsdorf and Krause)
Gives a full accounting of the actual on-court action that made that season so special
Lazenby also goes deep on Dennis Rodman, both with the Bulls and his time with the Spurs. Those were Rodman’s transformative wild man days that Sports Illustrated captured in its “Rare Bird” cover story (itself covered by Alex Wong for his upcoming book Cover Story). There is so much to love in Lazenby’s book, and the depth of coverage on Rodman is some of Lazenby’s best work.
Here are four of my favorite Rodman nuggets from Roland’s book.
Rodman was one of Tex Winter’s favorite Bulls
You might remember high school coach and Winter mentee Steve Fitzgerald noting that Tex said that “Rodman picked up the triangle faster than any other player he'd ever been around.” Lazenby’s book shows just how great a pairing Rodman and Winter were. He describes Rodman as embracing “old-fashioned family values” with regard to Tex, and treating him with “reverential respect.”1
On Bulls road trips, Rodman “would knock on Winter’s door in the evening, looking for extra videotape to study. The old coach and the player with the wild hair shared a love for the technical aspects of the game. “Rodman would never have wanted that information out. It was bad for his rebel image. But it was true.”
Here is what Tex told Lazenby about Rodman:
I enjoy Dennis. I enjoy coaching him. I talk to him about his life a little bit, but I’m not gonna correct him or tell him how to live his life. That would be a mistake. At my age, I think he sort of looks upon me as a grandfather figure. He’s willing to listen, and he’s very receptive, especially in the coaching aspect of it. And he’s been fun to work with on the floor as far as that’s concerned. … If you squelch him, if you say, ‘Dennis you can’t do this and you can’t do that,’ well then he’s probably not gonna be nearly the basketball player that he is.
That is what we always read about Phil and Dennis, and the difference between how the Bulls reacted to Rodman versus how the Spurs reacted to him. But I didn’t know Tex held that viewpoint and message as strictly as did Phil.
Jack Haley called Rodman’s bluff by not being scared of a gay strip joint
I knew that the veteran Haley, who passed away in 2015, was Rodman’s buddy on the Spurs, but their relationship was always characterized rather derisively, with Haley positioned as Rodman’s “babysitter.”
In reality, according to Lazenby, they were running buddies who bonded when they each came to the Spurs for the ‘93-’94 season, during which time Haley would tell Rodman his rebounding count during games.
From Haley, on their friendship, in an interview from 1995:
We were at our team black-tie dinner. Dennis and I had talked a couple of times. After the dinner was over, I’m standing there with my wife. I’m in a tuxedo. He pulls up in his Ferrari, and he says, ‘Hey, would you and your wife like to go to dinner with me and my girlfriend?’ We say, ‘Sure.’ And we went to a restaurant and had a nice dinner, and he said, ‘Do you guys want to go to a bar?’ I said, ‘Yeah, we’ll go to a bar.’
He takes my wife and I to a club, and it says right on the door, ‘San Antonio’s number one gay and alternative night club.’ I think he was just trying to shock me to see what kind of guy I was.
So we went in, and they had a male stripper up on the stage, stripped down to a G-string. I shocked him and slipped one of the guys a buck. Ever since then, we’ve been good buds. I let him know, ‘Hey, this is not my world, but I’m not shocked by it.’
Jack Haley was Rodman’s gambling partner
From there, Rodman (who won consecutive rebounding titles with the Spurs and was All-NBA in 1995) and Haley (who averaged 3.6 minutes per game) became close friends, with Haley serving as the liaison between Rodman and the organization. Their friendship included a lot of Vegas weekends.2
Dennis is not a shy gambler. He plays for very big stakes. That’s one of the things we have in common. I’m a big gambler myself.3 We spend a lot of time in Vegas. We’re out there a large portion of the summer. We fly in and out. … Dennis plays nothing but craps. I’m a baccarat player. …
The biggest night I’ve ever seen Dennis have, I think he won $89,000 one night. I’ve seen him drop $200,000 in a weekend. Part of the $200,000 he lost, though, was the $89,000 he had won the week before. He won 89 the trip before, and he went back, and instead of the average $500 bet, it was a $5,000 bet. The next thing you know you’re in big trouble.
Dennis Rodman did not respect David Robinson’s approach to practice
Haley became Rodman’s straight man in his relationship with everyone from management and the press to Madonna, whose torrid affair with Rodman included begging him to get her pregnant, angering his girlfriend, shooting a cover and interview for Vibe Magazine that ultimately did not publish4 and even hiding out with him in a heart-shaped jacuzzi in a couple’s resort in Park City, Utah during the 1994 Spurs-Jazz series, leaving only Haley to update Spurs management on Rodman’s status.
“I was eating it up though — I was on TV doing Madonna and Dennis updates for four days,” Haley told Lazenby.
But easily the most interesting portion of Lazenby’s chapter on Rodman is the insight into his relationship with David Robinson. We’ve long known that was a problem, and Robinson spoke to that last year during The Last Dance, calling Rodman “so destructive” for showing up to practice late.
Turns out, Rodman had his issues with Robinson’s practice habits, too.
Dennis had a real problem in his respect for David Robinson as a player. He had problems with David’s intensity and work ethic in practice. One thing about Dave: Dave could be the most talented player and athlete in the NBA. … Therefore, he’s not a big practice guy. Not a big work ethic guy. By [January], Dave would have sat out 30 practices. It’s tendinitis. It’s, ‘I’m sore today.’
Whatever it was, Dennis is a practice guy, and it didn’t sit well with Dennis. That caused a lot of problems…
Dave tried everything … imaginable to bond with Dennis Rodman, to get through with Dennis Rodman to form a friendship. I’m good friends with Dennis and I’m good friends with Dave. Dave would ask me, ‘Why don’t the three of us go to lunch? Why don’t we sit down and try to talk?’ He would try to talk to Dennis about basketball to form a bond. Dennis wouldn’t respond.
Dave is very religious. He felt that part of his quest was to get through to Dennis Rodman on a religious level, to try to turn his life around. That didn’t work out at all.
What’s interesting here is that Robinson is right: Rodman was regularly late to Spurs practice, which was part of the cause of the team suspending him at the start of the ‘94-’95 season. But Rodman is also right. We know Rodman is a workout and exercise junkie. And Haley’s statement about Robinson regularly missing practice tracks with what Jordan said about Robinson during the Dream Team days, that Robinson just didn’t have the passion for basketball that he had for other areas of his life.
Both Phil and Krause took a firm yet laissez faire approach to Rodman, all of which I described here. In the end, Jordan was one Rodman’s biggest supporters, telling reporters after the ‘97 title that, “You can’t find another player on the basketball court that works just as hard as Dennis Rodman.”
Three new interviews coming for paid subscribers:
That’s all from me! Coming up next are three interviews set to drop each of the next three weeks, starting on Wednesday:
In other words, if you’ve got the free subscription and you’ve been considering upgrading to the paid version, now’s a great time to do so! Subs start at $5 a month.
My favorite nuggets from each interview:
MJ telling Perdue years later: “We traded the wrong guy.”
Kendall’s explanation of MJ’s athleticism: “He and Vince Carter are the only two guys that I played against who, when they jumped, I could see the bottom of their shoes.”
Schanwowski as a young ABC-7 TV reporter interviewing James Jordan outside of the Bulls locker room in Phoenix after the third championship — just five weeks before James Jordan was murdered
Want to read those? Upgrade now for $5 a month of just $33 a year!
This is similar to what Steve Kerr told Lazenby about Rodman’s respect for and treatment of Jordan in Lazenby’s MJ biography The Life: “Dennis was like subservient to Michael in an emotional way, not a physical way. He never did anything for Michael that he didn’t do for the rest of us, but there was just this understanding that Michael is the ‘greatest’ and I’m below him, and so I’m not going to mess with him, and vice versa. It was really interesting.”
Haley began his NBA career with the Bulls in the ‘89 and ‘90 seasons, during which time he let his gambling habits get him into hock with MJ on the team plane. In Sam Smith’s 2014 MJ oral history There Is No Next, Johnny Bach shares a story of Haley losing about $17,000 to Jordan during a card game on a flight from Chicago to Los Angeles. When the flight was landing, Jordan demanded payment. Haley said he didn’t have the money.
From Bach: “Michael said, ‘Well, then you get it. You call Daddy Warbucks now.’ Daddy owns a restaurant. Daddy had to meet him next morning and give him cash. Michael said, ‘Don’t fucking play with me, Jack, if you can’t pay off. I don’t want your money, but you lost and Daddy has to come with that money in cash.’ You better take Michael seriously.”