The court jester – basketball player Dennis Rodman

The court jester – basketball player Dennis Rodman – Interview

R. Kelly

In the basketball world, people know him as “Worm” for his phenomenal ability to get inside and steal rebounds on the court. But it’s by being one of the great outsiders in the world of sports that Dennis Rodman has stolen the show time and time again, both on the court and off. Like a court jester, he’s often been painted as the fool. As this interview by R. Kelly–who’s been called the “current prince of R&B”—shows, no one should be fooled by that.

R. KELLY: Hello?

DENNIS RODMAN: Yeah. It’s me.

RK: It’s about time …. What’s up, man?

DR: I’m out here in Orange County.

RK: Orange County?

DR: Yeah. I’m liking it.

RK: Now, you ain’t got no list of questions to ask me, huh?

DR: No.

RK: That’s cool. Means you get all the questions. So I’m gonna start out with this silly question: Madonna ain’t the one that inspired you to dye your hair all those colors is she?

DR: Oh no. That was going on way before I met her. A year before. I did all that myself. She just came into my life and then all of a sudden a lot of people were saying, Oh, now Madonna’s with you. A lot of people are still saying that. It was strange, though. When she came into the picture it was, like, Damn! [laughs] We [the San Antonio Spurs, DR’s team] were in Utah for the first round of the playoffs two years ago and people made such a big fucking deal out of our relationship. We went up to the mountains. Instead of me being with the team, I’m up in the fucking hills in a fucking IDg cabin with her. [laughs] It was wild.

RK: SO you wouldn’t say you and Madonna were In love or nothing like that?

DR: You know, it could have been. It still could be, but the fact is–not right now. She found somebody else, it seems like. No big deal–we’re still friends and stuff.

RK: Right. Now, about these gay bars, man… you really be hanging out at ’em?

DR: Oh yeah. They’re great. Got the best music there, got the best atmosphere. You know, you have to throw out all that bullshit, all that prejudice against gay people. I think a lot of people just want to, like, put a bubble over the gay community and pretty much sterilize that whole area and the people that’s in it. I think that’s a lot of bullshit. Because you got to look at it, like, everybody who’s walking and breathing are human beings, and you got to treat them like human beings, no matter if they’re gay, if they’re black, white, Mexican–no matter what they are. I mean, sooner or later you’re going to come in contact with somebody who’s different from you, and you got to respect the person for their beliefs and who they are. I got a lot of gay friends out there. So sometimes I hang out and chill out with my gay friends in gay bars. I’m straight, bro, but you can go anywhere you want to. You can go to a gay bar and be yourself, Doesn’t mean people have to consider me as gay or bisexual.

RK: Right. We all got Mends. We all need Mends. O.K. Let’s talk about ball. What you gonna do to surprise people this basketball season?

DR: You know, bro, there’s always something new in my bag of tricks.

RK: So what’s up with this I heard—something about you wanting to play your last game buttnaked?

DR: Oh, you know, that’s no big deal–that’s how I’m gonna go out when I retire. [RK cracks up] My last game, straight out like that.

RK: Man, you Just gave me an Idea. I might have to do that onstage for my last show. [laughs]

DR: All right.

RK: So how does it feel to have everybody loving to hate you?

DR: Oh well, they have to hate me, but at the same time, since I’ve been a professional athlete, everybody loves the independent that I am, [the independence] that I bring out. I don’t want and I don’t need to step into that plastic image that all the NBA players except for me represent. I’m being real. I play my own fiddle and my own drum, but I also go out there and bust my ass and do what I have to do to win.

RK: So what you’re saying is, basically, people Just have a problem with you being Dennis.

DR: That’s it. They don’t want me to be a human being. They want me to be a paid piece of meat.

RK: They want you to be a puppet.

DR: Yeah. And I’m not going to do that. That’s why I get a lot of respect from people outside of basketball.

RK: Does It Inspire you to have everybody going against you? It seems like it makes you play even better.

DR: Well, it doesn’t make me play better. It’s more, like, you know, I go out there and just say, “Fuck it.” I get technicals, kickin’ everybody’s ass and all that. But when I start doing that crap, all it does is motivate my other players. That’s what I’m good at. And the end result is I’m getting, like, twenty rebounds, so we win a ball game. But people don’t see the ins and outs of that. They only see the negative stuff. I keep right on truckin’, making positive things happen along with the negative stuff.

RK: Right. That’s how I like to think of it in my line of work, too. If you weren’t being you, no one would even know Dennis Rodman. They’d be knowing somebody that you ain’t. I ran relate to that, because people have their things to say about you, Just like people have had their things to say about me. And I’ve also taken It and turned it into something positive, man, and it gives me a lot of strength, and allows me to write my next song, But hold on …. Is there a real big conflict between you and coaches?

DR: The coaches expect me to keep a handle on myself and they pretty much control everything. I cross that line every once in a while, but it’s not really crossing the line–it’s just that I’m not following in everybody’s footsteps. That’s what the deal with that is, and they’re just making a big deal out of it. Like I said, I’m pretty much what they call an individualist. After my job is done, after the two hours I’ve got to spend on the basketball court [during a game], I’m pretty much on my own and they can’t stand that. They bitch about, you know, You got to socialize with the other players, you gotta do this and do that, and I’m saying to myself, No I don’t. I don’t have to socialize with nobody. I just gotta do a job, which is to make the people who pay fifty or sixty dollars a head watch us play basketball. As long as those people are satisfied, that’s what counts and I’m pleased.

Now you got all these players fighting over the union and all that crop. But if you really look at it, the players and the owners are both fighting for the same fuckin’ thing. All the rich basketball players making ten million dollars a year–they don’t give a fuck. And all it does is make the owners richer.

RK: So what do you think about these new guys coming Into the league and making all this money right off the top?

DR: I think it’s a bunch of bullshit. I think that these guys that are coming in, at least for the first year, should have to prove themselves. You got some guy that ain’t worth a shit, and they give him a five-year deal that’s worth fifty, sixty million dollars.

RK: Was it like that for you when you first started playing professional ball?

DR: No, no, no. It was nothing like that. It was basketball back then. We played basketball. We kicked ass. It was the love for the game back when I started. Everybody loved the game, and not just for the money. Now it’s for the money and players are, like, “Look at me, I look good.” That’s what the game has turned out to be, and the NBA is making it out to be like that. It ain’t about letting the guys play and letting them really express themselves. It’s more, like, we’ve got to keep up this image because now we’ve got more families and things like that coming to the games.

RK: Mmm-hmm. I understand …. But I heard you might not play this season if you don’t get more money. What’s going on with that?

DR: All that’s about is I want to be respected and rewarded for what I’ve done. All of a sudden you’ve got a guy like me who’s controversial, and it’s very interesting because they don’t want to reward me for what I’ve achieved in basketball. That’s crazy. I do more, basically, than anybody in this league, and I get more people excited. [laughs] I mean, even though I don’t score or nothing like that, people want to come see me. There aren’t many athletes who have that charisma. You got athletes who are popular but they don’t have that line to the outside world once they get into the NBA.

RK: Now, let me ask you something else, man. Where do you get your Ideas from for your hair? For instance, during last year’s play-offs you had an AIDS ribbon dyed Into your hair.

DR: Well, at first it wasn’t supposed to be an AIDS ribbon. When the disaster happened in Oklahoma [around the time of the play-offs], people were saying it was for that. Then, all of a sudden, it changed into the AIDS [awareness] symbol and I said, O.K. [laughs] I mean, I always wanted to do the AIDS symbol on my head anyway, because I just feel sorry for all the different kinds of people that have this disease, and I feel sorry for the gay community. I feel that it’s my duty to do anything I can to help people who have AIDS.

I don’t understand why people freak out about AIDS. It’s not like it’s only gay or bisexual people getting it. It’s everybody getting it now. And I think everybody’s aware of AIDS now. But people [in the sports world] are terrified because they don’t want people to think bad about their sport. I think it should be addressed by every sport. In basketball they talk about it, but it’s behind closed doors. We get papers about it here and there. We get speeches about it twice a year. They come in and sit down and talk to the players about AIDS for an hour, and that’s basically it. But no one [outside professional basketball] knows about this because they don’t want people to think that basketball’s in trouble. They might fear that some players have AIDS. Which you never know.

RK: So what are you planning on doing with your hair next?

DR: Whatever hits me, hits me. My next thing is to put a tattoo on the back of my head. It’s going to be, like, two eyeballs, two wicked eyeballs. It’s going to be pretty intense. [laughs] I don’t know if I’ll do it for this season. But if I do, it’ll just give the players something else to stir ’em up.

RK: Oh, that’s cool. I don’t do my hair–you know, I’m bald here–but I do tend to get creative with my music and sometimes I can go left. [DR laughs] Sometimes people understand, but they don’t want to understand. For Instance, people are always coming at me about my lyrics, man, with my music and stuff. You just can’t get caught up in It, that’s all. I don’t get caugh up in it. I go through a lot of the same things in my world as you do in yours. BUt I have a strong mother so, you know, I listen to her. That’s what I go by, right there. I don’t listen to what nobody says when they’re talking about trying to take me out of my character and out of what I live every day. Nobody knows what I live every day and what I go through every day dealing with life. [pause] Let’s see here, I’ve got another question: What’s your ideal basketball team? Like, if you put one together.

DR: If I put one together it would all be based around me–five Dennis Rodmans.

RK: [laughs] Damn!

DR: Five guys bustin’ their butts who don’t give a fuck about the money and the politics and what people think about them. Just go out there and fuckin’ win. And I’d pay the guys all the money they want, as long as they go out there and do the job. That’s the bottom line.

RK: Yeah, man, because you get the job done. And it’s, like, people should leave you alone when you’re getting the job done. Seems like they shouldn’t have nothing to say.

DR: It works to my benefit anyway. Like, last year, that’s all they talked about–Dennis Rodman this, Dennis Rodman that. I had everybody riding my back– coaches, players, the league, everyone. They tried to slow my ass down. But they couldn’t. On the court, I can control anything around my area. Anything. I’ve got the whole game in my fuckin’ hands.

RK: HOW did you feel when you had to sit out those games during last season’s NBA play-offs?

DR: Well, I felt like they wanted to show the world that they could fuckin’ contain Dennis Rodman. But then that shit backfired and they said, “Uh-oh.” You know who got screwed then. All I wanted to do was win a championship, not to show up anybody else.

RK: But at that point it was as if they didn’t care about your skills and your talent. It seemed they just wanted to prove something to you–it seemed almost personal.

DR: That’s all it was. I think everybody knew that. If you’ve got a guy like me who’s been in the league for nine years and has won two national championships [with the ’89 and ’90 Detroit Pistons], been in the finals now five times, and all of a sudden you put him down, you’ve only got half your team. If you’re gonna do something like that, do it after the season, don’t do it right in the middle of the play-offs. Put that shit to the side. Wait until the season is over, until you see what happens. But he [Bob Hill, head coach of the San Antonio Spurs] did it right there; he was trying to make a statement. The statement was: I’m a dumb coach. Look what happened–at a crucial moment when you needed somebody who’s going to go in there and take care of business you put people in that are scared as hell, they got their balls at home in a safety deposit box and don’t know the combination. Something’s wrong there.

RK: Yeah. [laughs] You got any kids, man?

DR: One little girl.

RK: O.K. Thinking about getting married again anytime soon?

DR: No, not at all. If it does happen, it would have to be a spontaneous deal. I’m not planning anything.

RK: I’m married to what I do with my music. Do you consider yourself married to what you do with basketball? Like, is this something you’ve always wanted to do?

DR: Well, it’s not that I’m married to basketball, man. I’m married to what I believe in. When I’m on the basketball court, I go out there and don’t take nothing for granted.

RK: Listen, I’m at this restaurant and I left my credit card somewhere. People are looking at me like I’m crazy. [laughs] But hey, man, I hope I get to meet you one day. We’ll kick It or whatever. I’m weird enough.

DR: All right, then.

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