Once enemies during the heated rivalry between the Bulls and Pistons in the early 1990s, Michael Jordan and Dennis Rodman became teammates in 1995, joining forces to lead Chicago to three consecutive NBA titles from 1996-1998.
Dennis Rodman was certainly no picnic off the court. But once the ball was tipped, he was a rebounding machine, a defensive menace that Michael Jordan knew could help his team. And that’s all MJ really ever wanted in a teammate, somebody that would show up to work and do his part. So during “The Last Dance” season of 1997-1998, when Rodman failed to return to the team after an approved trip to Las Vegas, Jordan put it on himself to go and retrieve No. 91.
It’s no secret that Dennis Rodman loved Las Vegas
Dennis Rodman has never made it a secret that he loves Las Vegas. So many stories have come out over the years of Rodman living it up in Sin City, drinking and dancing and gambling and pretty much anything you can think of. After all, it is Dennis Rodman.
Rodman believed that trips to Vegas were necessary, even therapeutic at times. During the 1997 NBA Finals, when the Bulls were in Salt Lake City to visit the Utah Jazz, Chicago head coach Phil Jackson gave Rodman permission to sneak away to Las Vegas following the Bulls’ loss in Game 4. Rodman partied all night with Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan but still managed to make it back to the team shootaround the next morning without having slept. The famous Michael Jordan “Flu Game” would take place in Game 5 and the Bulls went on to win the series in six games.
The Rodman in Vegas trend continued in the 1998 NBA Finals, again against the Utah Jazz. Michael Jordan didn’t seem to care that his teammate was flying off as long as Rodman came to play. However, before the Bulls got back to the title series, there was an instance during the regular season where Rodman was given permission to go to Las Vegas for 48 hours and didn’t make it back on time, prompting Michael Jordan to get on a plane himself to bring him back.
Michael Jordan needed help at the start of “The Last Dance” season with Scottie Pippen injured
While we obviously know how “The Last Dance” season of 1997-1998 ended with Michael Jordan and the Bulls winning a sixth championship, it’s sometimes easy to forget that the year didn’t start off that great. Scottie Pippen was on the shelf for the first 35 games following foot surgery and Jordan needed a little extra help. Some of that help came from Dennis Rodman.
With Pippen sidelined, Rodman had an elevated role with Chicago for the first half of that season and was the type of teammate that Jordan truly needed. But it was driving him crazy. Rodman was used to things being a certain way and sort of being the wild card. So when Pippen returned to the team in January, Rodman needed an escape. Naturally, he opted for Las Vegas. As Jordan explains in “The Last Dance” documentary, Rodman just needed to go.
“When Scottie was out, Dennis was a model citizen, to a point where it was driving him [expletive] insane.”Michael Jordan on Dennis Rodman
Rodman was granted a 48-hour pass from Phil Jackson and he was off.
Jordan had to go to Vegas to retrieve Rodman
Dennis Rodman was given 48 hours to “let loose” by Phil Jackson but things got troublesome when he didn’t come back. Rodman was now disrupting Michael Jordan’s universe and that’s something that doesn’t sit well with No. 23. So MJ hopped his own plane to Las Vegas to retrieve his teammate.
“He did not come back on time. We had to go get his ass out of bed, and I’m not going to say what’s in his bed, where he was, blah, blah, blah.”Michael Jordan on Dennis Rodman
Rodman was dating actress and model Carmen Electra at the time (the two would marry in November 1998) and she was with him in a Las Vegas hotel room when there was a knock on the door.
“There’s a knock on the door and it’s Michael Jordan. I hid. I didn’t want him to see me like that so I’m hiding behind the couch with covers on me.”Carmen Electra on Michael Jordan showing up in Las Vegas to get Dennis Rodman
Jordan obviously got Rodman back to the team and that was that. The Chicago Bulls won their sixth title later that year and then the two went their separate ways. Michael Jordan retired following the season and Dennis Rodman joined the Los Angeles Lakers for the 1998-1999 season, his last in the NBA.