The Lakers had a wild 1998-99 season, featuring a 37-year-old Dennis Rodman. Los Angeles signed Rodman a few weeks into the lockout shortened season in an effort to add defense, rebounding and experience. The team ripped off a 10-game win streak shortly after Rodman joined the squad, however things quickly soured.
Reports of Rodman constantly throwing parties and showing up late to practice (sometimes without shoes or socks) began to pile up. Just seven weeks after the Lakers brought him in, Rodman was waived. The Lakers would get swept by the Spurs in the second round of the 1999 NBA Playoffs.
It’s impossible to say, but it’s interesting to speculate whether the failed Rodman experiment actually helped the Lakers in the long run. Clearly needing more stability and leadership, Phil Jackson was brought in after that season and with Shaq and Kobe, he led the Lakers to three straight championships. Perhaps getting a front row seat to the Rodman show was a wake-up call for the Lakers organization.
Rodman is one of the greatest rebounders and defensive players in NBA history but his best years were with the Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls.
A five-time NBA champion, Rodman was a key part of the Bad Boys Pistons that won two NBA Championships and years later he joined Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen to form perhaps the most formidable Big Three in NBA history, winning three NBA Championships in three years with the Bulls.
Dennis Rodman tried to help the Lakers reach the promised land but he played just 23 games for them, despite averaging 11.2 rebounds in 28.6 minutes at 37 years old. According to then-Lakers head coach Kurt Rambis, the team decided to let him go because he kept arriving late to practice.
“I think it was justified,” Kobe Bryant in the wake of Dennis Rodman’s release by the Lakers. “When a guy shows up continuously late… Yeah, it was definitely justified.”
Per Rambis, Rodman arrived late for a Lakers practice at Los Angeles Southwest College and then was slow getting ready because he couldn’t find his socks and shoes.
This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Rambis lost his patience and sent him home. He later had a pointed conversation with Lakers executives Jerry West and Mitch Kupchak and Rodman was released on April 16, 1999.
“This is a time where we need an ultimate focus and concentration,” Rambis said back then. “I just think this is better for the team.”
Rambis also added that he was disappointed about releasing Rodman because he did show what he was capable of doing when he was motivated.
A few years ago Rodman shared a story from his time with the Lakers. The seven-time NBA rebounding champion appeared on CBS Sports’ “Reiter Than You” with Bill Reiter and said that he was fed up with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal’s bickering.
“So I start playing, right, we won 10 games in a row,” Rodman explained. “Ten games in a row when I got there, right? I said, ‘Jerry, I gotta take a break.’ One reason: Shaq and Kobe.
I couldn’t deal with those [expletives]. I’m not going to lie to you: I couldn’t deal with them. I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I’m not used to this,’ right? I’m used to winning, but I can’t deal with these [expletives expletive-ing] every [expletive] game. Like, [expletive]. I mean, every, I’m like, [expletive], we’re winning, what? So I go and I say… ‘I’m so used to having calm and serenity and stuff like that.’”
How did Phil Jackson got Dennis Rodman to buy into his philosophy in Chicago?
“Phil Jackson was a master of managing personalities,” former Bulls forward Jason Caffey recently told Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson via text message. “He controlled Dennis by not attempting to control him. Read that twice!”
‘The Last Dance,’ ESPN’s documentary on the 1998 Chicago Bulls evidences that Dennis Rodman and Phil Jackson had great chemistry. MJ himself has said on numerous occasions that Jackson was a player’s coach. The fact that Jackson played 12 seasons in the NBA has something to do with this. As a player, Jackson won NBA Championships with the New York Knicks in 1970 and 1973, which clearly prepared him for what came later.