Michael Jordan and Dennis Rodman played three seasons together on the Chicago Bulls in the late ’90s. It was a unique partnership since the two stars had an intense rivalry when Rodman was on the Detroit Pistons and trying to hurt Jordan physically.
Given their checkered past, the NBA world was curious to see how Jordan and Rodman would co-exist on and off the floor in Chicago. Many pundits thought the Worm wouldn’t get along with MJ and Scottie Pippen and would destroy the Bulls’ culture.
However, Rodman fit in so well in the Windy City that he received the ultimate compliment from Jordan.
Michael Jordan on Dennis Rodman: One of the smartest guys I played with
Jordan played with several clever players during his run with the Bulls, which makes his praise of Rodman even more noteworthy. The 10-time scoring champion called the two-time Defensive Player of the Year one of the most intelligent players he played with in Episode 3 of The Last Dance docuseries.
“Dennis was one of the smartest guys I played with,” Jordan said. “He understood defensive strategy with all the rotations. He had no limits in terms of what he does.”
Legendary NBA reporter David Aldridge said in The Last Dance that Rodman is the best on-ball defender he’s seen in all his years of covering basketball. Jordan may have despised Rodzilla during the Pistons years, but he certainly loved playing with the big man in Chicago.
Michael Jordan and Dennis Rodman won three rings together
Jordan and Rodman played in 199 regular-season games together. The Bulls were 165-34, good for a winning percentage of .829.
Chicago won three straight rings during the Jordan-Rodman era. They defeated the Seattle SuperSonics in 1996 and the Utah Jazz in 1997 and 1998. Jordan and Rodman helped the Bulls win 72 games in 1995-96. Although the 2015-16 Golden State Warriors won 73 games, they lost the 2016 Finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers. So, the 1995-96 Bulls are still widely considered the best team in NBA history.
In 177 games with the Bulls, Rodman averaged 5.2 points and 15.3 rebounds. He’s the franchise leader in rebounds per game and is 12th in NBA history in rebounds per game (13.1). It’s fascinating that he won championships with the Pistons and Bulls, two central division rivals.
The Bulls obviously don’t win trophies without Jordan. However, Rodman believes they wouldn’t have three-peated in the late ’90s if he wasn’t on the team.
Demolition Man knew what he brought to the table
Rodman said in The Last Dance that if he wasn’t on the Bulls in 1996, 1997, and 1998, the team might not have three-peated despite how special Jordan and Pippen were.
“You got the great Michael Jordan, the great Scottie Pippen, the great Phil Jackson, but if you take me away from this team, do they still win a championship? I don’t think so,” Rodman said. “I love Michael Jordan to death. I love Scottie Pippen, all these guys, but they really don’t do the things that I do. I’m the only guy who does all the dirty work.”
Rodman led the NBA in rebounds per game all three years he was with the Bulls. He restored Chicago’s rebounding and defensive prowess starting in 1995-96 after Horace Grant left for the Orlando Magic in the summer of 1994.
Jordan and Rodman will forever be linked. Both players are Bulls and NBA legends and will likely always cherish the three titles they won together.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.