Behind Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman, the Chicago Bulls won the 1996 championship over the Seattle SuperSonics in six games, capping off a historic season. They went 72-10 in the regular season, which at that time was the best record in NBA history.
Several pundits didn’t think the Bulls would win the championship in ’96 because of the polarizing move they made before the season started. Rodman was acquired from the San Antonio Spurs, and it was a trade not graded highly by critics and some fans in Chicago since the Worm misbehaved with the Spurs and was part of the most hated team in Bulls history: the “Bad Boys.”
However, Rodman played a critical role in helping the Bulls win 72 games and defeat the SuperSonics, and he made sure to call out his haters.
Dennis Rodman was proud for doing his job
After the Bulls defeated the SuperSonics in Game 6 of the ’96 Finals, Rodman perfectly called out his critics for doubting he could help Jordan and Pippen win a title.
“Everybody thought I would come in and tear this organization up,” Rodman said. “There are a lot of things about me that people don’t know. I’m a competitor. I stepped up and did the job, and I’m proud of it.”
Rodman was such a force on the boards in the ’96 Finals that SuperSonics head coach George Karl implied Rodzilla could have won Finals MVP over Jordan: “I don’t know who got the MVP, but Dennis Rodman won two basketball games. They got the extra possessions and the extra opportunities.”
Against the SuperSonics, Rodman averaged 7.5 points and 14.7 rebounds. He grabbed 11 offensive rebounds in Games 2 and 6 and 20 total in Game 2. It was the same type of production Rodman had during the regular season while the Bulls won 72 games.
Dennis Rodman led the NBA in rebounds per game in 1995-96
Rodman appeared in 64 games during the Bulls’ 72-10 season. He averaged 5.5 points and 14.9 rebounds while shooting 48.0% from the field. The two-time Defensive Player of the Year led the NBA in rebounds per game, a feat he accomplished seven times during his career.
Several Bulls fans and reporters were concerned that Rodman wouldn’t get along with Jordan and Pippen since he was on the Detroit Pistons teams that played dirty against Chicago. However, Dennis the Menace fit in perfectly with MJ and Pip. In fact, Jordan called Rodman one of the smartest players he played with in The Last Dance docuseries, while Pippen said the rebounding machine played his role perfectly and knew how to impact winning.
Rodman’s three-year run with the Bulls was historic. Although he didn’t make an All-Star team while playing in Chicago, he added other accomplishments to his résumé.
Demolition Man won three rebounding titles and three championships with Bulls
Rodman played in 199 games with the Bulls. He averaged 5.2 points and 15.3 rebounds and is the franchise leader in rebounds per game. The Hall of Famer won three rebounding titles and three championships alongside Jordan and Pippen.
The Bulls haven’t retired Rodman’s No. 91 jersey. It’s surprising since he won three rings and is the best rebounder in franchise history. It will be interesting to see if chairman Jerry Reinsdorf decides to honor Rodman one day and put his jersey in the United Center rafters next to Jordan and Pippen.
Rodman finished his NBA career with averages of 7.3 points and 13.1 rebounds. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011 and is undoubtedly one of the top rebounders of all time. The New Jersey native is 12th in NBA history in rebounds per game.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.