In October 1995, the Chicago Bulls made a bold move to acquire a defensive stopper for Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. They traded Will Perdue to the San Antonio Spurs for the one and only Dennis Rodman.
When the trade went down, pundits immediately questioned the fit since Rodman was a controversial player who had bad blood with Jordan and Pippen. He was on the old Detroit Pistons teams that beat up the Bulls with hard fouls and walked off the court in Game 4 of the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals after Chicago won.
No one thought Jordan and Pippen would accept Rodman on the Bulls and mesh with him. However, the trio got along better than expected and made NBA history in their first year together.
Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman led the Bulls to 72 wins in 1995-96
The Bulls made NBA history during the 1995-96 season by going 72-10. Before the Golden State Warriors won 73 games in 2015-16, Chicago held the record for the most wins in a season.
Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman were a lethal Big Three in their first year together. They had great chemistry on the court and helped the Bulls rack up the best scoring offense in the NBA and the third-best scoring defense. Jordan led the league in scoring and won his fourth MVP Award. Meanwhile, Rodman was the top rebounder in the NBA and restored the Bulls’ defensive prowess.
Chicago lost only three games in the 1996 playoffs. They swept the Miami Heat in the first round, defeated the New York Knicks in five games in the second round, swept the Orlando Magic in the conference finals, and beat the Seattle SuperSonics in six games in the Finals.
There weren’t many experts who thought Jordan and Pippen could co-exist with Rodman given their history with the Worm. However, the Bulls legends did their best to put aside their hatred for the Pistons and make things work with Dennis the Menace, who played a big part in Chicago’s second three-peat.
Michael Jordan was surprised by Dennis Rodman’s basketball knowledge
During the 1995-96 season, Jordan did an interview where he said he was surprised by Rodman’s basketball knowledge. He was impressed by how quickly he picked up the Bulls’ offensive and defensive system.
“I’m surprised with his basketball knowledge, his fundamentals, and his understanding of the system,” Jordan said. “He’s picked it up quick because he’s played against it for so many years, but he’s still a little shy, and he does things that are totally different than a lot of people, but when he steps on that basketball court, he gives it 110%.”
Jordan also spoke about how playing with Rodman was a new experience for him, Pippen, and Phil Jackson since the defensive star was part of the most hated team in Bulls history, the “Bad Boy” Pistons. It took some time for MJ to get used to playing with a guy he used to hate.
“This is a new experience for Scottie, myself and for Phil and for other guys who’ve been on that championship team and faced Dennis, but we put that aside for a common goal which is to win a championship and imma cheer them on as if they’re my teammates, but yet I do that knowing that I’ve got a lot of scratches from those years.”
The Rodman trade proved to be one of the best trades in Bulls history. Not only did the two-time Defensive Player of the Year help Chicago win the ’96 championship, but he was also a key cog in 1997 and 1998.
The Bulls won three straight titles after acquiring Rodzilla
Rodman played for the Bulls for three years. He won three straight titles in Chicago with Jordan and Pippen and finished his career with five championships.
The Bulls defeated the Sonics in ’96 and the Utah Jazz in ’97 and ’98. Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman will go down as one of the most successful trios in NBA history since they won three straight rings together.
All three NBA legends are in the Hall of Fame. Jordan and Pippen have their jerseys hanging in the rafters at the United Center, but Rodman doesn’t. Many Bulls fans believe owner Jerry Reinsdorf should retire No. 91, especially after the Last Dance docuseries documented how vital Rodman was to the organization.