From playing a role for the “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons to being a more aberrant, headline-making presence with the Chicago Bulls, Dennis Rodman did whatever he could to irk his opponents and disrupt the flow of games. That included breaking into a mid-game salsa.
Rodman and the Bulls took on the Indiana Pacers on Feb. 17, 1998, in a matchup between two Eastern Conference foes. It might have seemed like an average regular season contest in the middle of February. But collisions involving the Worm and Pacers forward Antonio Davis never lacked excitement.
Dennis Rodman forced Antonio Davis to do the salsa and coaxed him into getting a technical foul
While he is one of the most dominant rebounders in NBA history, it’s important to remember that Dennis Rodman’s relatively small physical stature made him undersized for his position.
Rodman stood 6-foot-7 during his playing days, hardly the largest frame for a power forward. Though he lacked the standard size of a 4-man, Rodman made up for it with effort and instinct. He mixed it up underneath and scrapped with opponents when necessary.
The antics also played a role in Demolition Man’s ability to get opponents thinking more about him than rebounding the ball. Antonio Davis can relate. That aforementioned February 1998 matchup between the Bulls and Pacers? Well, it broke out into a ballroom dance.
Rodman and Davis got tangled up around the basket while fighting for a rebound, prompting the referees to blow their whistles. As seen at the start of this YouTube clip, the Worm essentially wraps his left hand around Davis’ waist and begins walking the Pacers forward back as if to mimic something of an amateur salsa dance.
The act prompted Davis to lash out. He shoved Rodman, resulting in a technical foul. In vintage Rodman fashion, the Bulls forward simply laughed as he retreated.
Little did Rodman know there wouldn’t be much to joke about when the Bulls and Pacers met in the playoffs in May.
The Pacers took the Bulls to seven games in the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals
Indiana turned a ho-hum series into a dogfight, taking the Bulls to the limit. The Pacers dropped the first two games of the series, only to win the next two. Chicago won Game 5, but Indiana took Game 6 and looked to be headed toward a monumental upset when it took an early lead in Game 7.
However, the Bulls clawed their way back. Chicago erased an eight-point first-quarter lead to seize the advantage heading into the break and later regained control after the Pacers opened the final period with a 7-0 run. Jordan helped close the show, as the Bulls outmuscled Indiana on the offensive glass and made all the late plays.
Still, the Pacers had given their all to the series. They played an incredibly physical and tenacious brand of basketball that proved challenging for the Bulls.
Perhaps past encounters with the Pacers could have foretold the nature of the series. Because while Rodman got under Davis’ skin, Davis had a similar impact on the Worm.
Rodman had numerous skirmishes with Davis
The brief dust-up between Dennis Rodman and Antonio Davis in February 1998 is but one in a string of incidents involving the two players.
During the 1995-96 season, Davis threw the Worm to the ground during a game in Indiana, clearly aggravating Rodman. They nearly came to blows at the United Center in March 1997, right after Rodman returned from a suspension for elbowing former Milwaukee Bucks big man Joe Wolf. Not even a couple of weeks later, the intimidators were at it again, with Rodman antagonizing Davis as he made his way up the court and the two even taking quick swings at one another.
Dennis the Menace had his share of altercations during his 14-year career. But playing against Antonio Davis seemed to bring something extra out of Rodman, even his more artistic and groovy side.