In January 1998, Dennis Rodman told Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson that he needed a mini-vacation to let loose. Jackson allowed Rodman to go to Las Vegas for 48 hours, but Jordan knew Rodzilla wouldn’t return to the Bulls on time.
MJ was against Rodman going on vacation in the first place, but Jackson understood that the Worm had different needs in his personal life and would be a better player for the Bulls if he could be himself off the court. So after getting permission from Jackson, Rodman jetted off to Las Vegas with Carmen Electra and had a great time.
However, as Jordan predicted, the two-time Defensive Player of the Year didn’t honor the agreement.
Michael Jordan: You ain’t gonna get Dennis Rodman back in 48 hours
Jordan told Jackson there was zero chance Rodman would return to the team in 48 hours. The five-time MVP recounted the January 1998 conversation at the end of Episode 3 of ESPN’s The Last Dance docuseries.
“I’m looking at Phil, ‘You ain’t gonna get that dude back in 48 hours. I don’t care what you say. He’s done.’ He leaves that room, goes straight to the airport, boom! We don’t hear or see Dennis for 48 hours.”
Rodman was living his best life in Las Vegas with Electra and lost track of time. He stayed in Sin City for more than 48 hours and also partied in Chicago. Demolition Man only came back to the Bulls because Jordan went to his apartment across the United Center and dragged him back to practice.
Michael Jordan brought Dennis Rodman back to the Bulls
According to The Last Dance director Jason Hehir, Jordan went to Rodman’s Chicago apartment with the Bulls’ athletic trainer and grabbed Rodman by his nose ring to bring him back to practice. Electra was hiding behind a piece of furniture with no clothing on because she didn’t want Jordan to see her.
“He didn’t come back on time,” Jordan said. “We had to go get his a** out of bed, and I’m not gonna say what’s in his bed and where he was and blah, blah, blah.”
Jordan was probably the only person who could drag Rodman back to practice. He was also angry when Jackson made the team participate in the Indian drill to help Rodman get back in shape.
MJ: Indian drill pissed me off
Jordan was already in elite shape, so he didn’t want to do the Indian drill. The six-time champion told his teammates to jog instead of run, but everyone had to start sprinting once Rodman got to the front of the line since he controlled the pace.
“So, I’m saying, ‘F***, this is kind of messed up because now I’m getting caught up in Dennis getting in shape drill when in essence, I hadn’t taken a vacation.’ So, I tell everybody in the group, ‘Look, whoever gets in the front of that row, slow down to a f****** walk. We just gonna jog and jog and jog and jog.’ So, Steve Kerr and Jud Buechler, they all get to the line, we just slowly running and then Dennis takes off,” Jordan said in The Last Dance. “Boom! Now, he (Jackson) blows the whistle. Now, we cannot stop until we get back in front of Dennis. It took us four laps to catch up to Dennis. It was like in his psyche. He needed to get away, but in all honesty, Dennis was always there. He was always on point.”
Jordan didn’t enjoy the Indian drill, but he relished playing with Rodman. His Airness won three straight championships with El Loco in 1996, 1997, and 1998 and developed a bond with him after their early fights during the “Bad Boy” years.
Rodman is lucky he played when he did because there’s no way he would be able to take a mini-vacation during the season in today’s NBA. It’s incredible that Jackson was OK with one of his players having an extended absence non-injury related, but the Zen Master knew how to get the best out of his players.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference