Anyone familiar with Dennis Rodman would be pleased to know he was just as eccentric as he is now — if not more — back in his playing days.
Sunday night’s episode of “The Last Dance,” ESPN’s docuseries about Michael Jordan and the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls, focuses heavily on Rodman, who was a key contributor to that team. He was especially crucial during the early portion of the season, when teammate Scottie Pippen was out with an injury.
But as the season wore on and Pippen returned, Rodman “became dramatic, drinking, partying and losing his connection with reality,” as Bulls writer Sam Smith said. He approached the team and said he needed a vacation, specifically to Vegas — which was met with skepticism.
“You let him go on vacation, we’re not going to see him,” Jordan said. “You let him go to Vegas, and we’re definitely not going to see him.”
The Bulls relented and allowed him to go, telling him he had 48 hours until he had to be back with the team. Footage shows Rodman drinking a beer and meeting a biker friend that night, as fans cheered from afar. Actress Carmen Electra, who was dating Rodman at the time, documented the wild nights that ensued.
“It was on, the party was starting right away,” Electra said. “We’d go to his favorite restaurant, then we’d go to a night club, then we’d go to after hours, it didn’t stop.
“It was definitely an occupational hazard to be Dennis’ girlfriend. He was wild.”
But two days later, Rodman had not returned. Meanwhile, the Bulls were in the midst of the season, trying to defend their NBA championship. After they didn’t hear from Rodman for several days, Jordan himself had to travel to Vegas to retrieve his eccentric teammate.
“He didn’t come back on time, we had to go get his ass out of bed,” Jordan said. “I’m not going to say what was in his bed, where he was, blah blah blah.”
“There was a knock on the door, it’s Michael Jordan, and I hid,” Electra said. “I didn’t want him to see me like that, so I’m just hiding behind the couch with covers over me. Come on, we got to get to practice.”
Somehow, when Rodman returned to practice, he hadn’t lost a single step physically. Bulls coach Phil Jackson forced the team to do conditioning workouts to get him back into game shape, but Rodman sprinted past everybody.
“The Last Dance” airs on ESPN Sunday nights at 9 p.m.