In a star-studded Hall of Fame class that included the likes of one of the most prolific shooters of all time in Chris Mullin, ABA and NBA legend Artis Gilmore, perhaps the greatest international basketball player in Arvydas Sabonis and Boston Celtic great Tom “Satch” Sanders, all eyes were on Dennis Rodman during the enshrinement ceremony Friday night at Springfield Symphony Hall.
From his arrival at the Hall, the larger-than-life persona Rodman built away from the basketball court captured the attention of fans and fellow basketball greats, as many eagerly awaited to witness what outrageous antics the former love interest of Madonna and Carmen Electra would have up his sleeve.
But outside of Rodman’s classically flamboyant attire, the larger-than-life off-court persona for which he is best known took a back seat Friday, as he was honored for his unparalleled work ethic and defensive prowess on the hardwood, and gave the public a glimpse into the mind of one of basketball’s most enigmatic characters.
The five-time NBA champion first captured the hearts of basketball fans as a member of the Bad Boys — the Detroit Pistons of the late 80’s and early 90’s. It was in Detroit, under the late Chuck Daly, that Rodman established himself as one of the league's top rebounders and defenders, winning defensive player of the year in 1990 and 1991, and being named an NBA All-Defensive Team selection eight times (a period during which he averaged over 16 rebounds per game).
His play helped his Detroit team capture back-to-back championships in ’89 and ’90, and then helped the Chicago Bulls, alongside Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, win three championship rings in as many years.
For all his accomplishments, Rodman hardly mentioned the game of basketball in his enshrinement speech Friday.
Welcomed into the Hall by his former coach and Hall of Famer from the class of 2007 Phil Jackson, Rodman stood at the Symphony Hall’s podium fighting tears, appreciative of the support he received over the years despite his behavior, and distraught over his regrets.
“I didn’t play the game for the money. I didn’t play the game to be famous,” Rodman said before explaining the man standing before a full Symphony Hall theater is just a guy that “likes to be colorful.”
Rodman’s “colorful” nature landed him in some precarious situations at times during his NBA career, which spanned three decades. His behavior, at times, was not understood by the public, but Rodman received support from the male figures he did not have growing up, he said.
“I never had a father. My father left me when I was five years old. He has 47 kids in the Philippines… That didn’t stop me from persevering,” he said. The support he needed, Rodman said, came from four individuals: Phil Jackson, owner of the Los Angeles Lakers Jerry Buss, James Rich, who helped raise Rodman, and Chuck Daly.
“Those four guys… When you talk about having mentor or father, someone you can look up to, you can call at any time of the day, need a shoulder to cry on, a hand to shake, or just speak your mind… if you made all these guys into one, they’re pretty much the perfect individual,” he said.
He also touched on his own shortcomings as a family man.
“I haven’t been a great a great father. I haven’t been a great husband. I can’t lie about that,” Rodman said, expressing his gratitude to his wife, Michelle Moyer Rodman, for “putting up with a lot of my crap” for the past 11 years.
“I have one regret,” he continued. “I wish I was a better father.”
Rodman’s candor Friday was only outshone, if at all, by the enshrinement of the most decorated athlete in the history of USA Basketball, Teresa Edwards.
Edwards, currently the Head Coach of the WNBA’s Tulsa Shock, is best known for her days representing the United States in international play.
She is the only player, male or female, to compete in five Olympics. She won gold in four straight Olympic games, beginning in 1984 when she became the youngest women’s basketball player to win Olympic gold while still a student-athlete at the University of Georgia.
“I never knew I could be here, let along dreamt that I could be in the Hall,” said Edwards Friday.
“You will never know the depths of where I’m coming from, and the dirt clays of Cairo, Georgia and how we paved some roads to get here,” she said.
“Tonight is about the women who played before I came,” continued Edwards, naming those who inspired her along her way to the Hall of Fame, a number of whom were in attendance Friday to show their support.
“We’re friends with and love Tara [VanDerveer] and Teresa Edwards,” said Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman, who truly paved the way for the likes of Edwards, playing in the WBL, alongside men with the Washington Generals, and finally as a member of the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA’s inaugural year.
“The first thing you do when you love someone is you show up. That’s why I’m here,” said Lieberman in regards to the importance of Edwards and VanDerveer’s contributions to the game of basketball.
VanDerveer, the only other female member of the Hall of Fame’s class of 2011, was enshrined for her coaching achievements, and can be credited with transforming Stanford University into a perennial power in women’s hoops. VanDerveer has won two national titles in Palo Alto and has led the Cardinal to four final four appearances over the last four years.
The ten individuals welcomed into basketball immortality Friday join an illustrious group, a club that is honored to be in the presence of one another, Lieberman said.
“Sometimes it’s hard to believe [we’re members],” she said. “We’re like a bunch of kids, it’s such an honor to be in everyone’s presence.
“The one thing that we all have in common — the thing that defies black and white, male and female, it doesn’t matter if you’re Jewish or Catholic — is that we all love this game.”
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s 2011 includes the following enshrinees:
Teresa Edwards: Five time Olympic participant for USA Basketball; four-time gold medal winner; two-time Kodak All-America selection in college at the University of Georgia.
Tara VanDerveer: Winner of two NCAA championships at Stanford University; the fifth Division I head coach to surpass 800 wins; winner of Olympic gold in 1996, and gold medals in the Goodwill Games and the World University Games.
Arvydas Sabonis: Won Olympic gold and bronze and the European championship with the Soviet Union and Lithuania; known as one of the greatest passer of all time. Played with the Portland Trailblazers.
Reece “Goose” Tatum: Inducted posthumously, Tatum was the original clown prince of the Harlem Globetrotters. Tatum played for the Globetrotters in addition to a successful career in baseball as a player in the Negro National League.
Artis Gilmore: Member of the ABA 30-Man All-Time Team. Gilmore earned All-ABA First Team honors five times, and an NBA All-Star six times. He also scored more than 24,000 points and averaged a double-double in the ABA and NBA.
Tom “Satch” Sanders: An unsung hero of one of the NBA’s greatest teams, the Boston Celtics of the 1960’s. Sanders then went on to coach at Harvard University and with the Celtics and created the NBA’s Rookie Transition Program.
Herb Magee: Magee has won more than 900 games as the head coach of his alma mater, Philadelphia University.
Chris Mullin: Known to be one of the most prolific shooters in NBA history. Mullin played for the Indian Pacers and Golden State Warriors alongside Mitch Richmond and Tim Hardaway. Mullin won Olympic gold twice, once as a member of the Dream Team in 1992. Over his 16-year career, Mullin scored more than 17,00 points, and recorded over 3,000 rebounds and 3,000 assists.
Dennis Rodman: Rodman is a five-time NBA champion, and is best known for his defensive play, earning Defensive Player of the Year twice, playing in two All-Star games and being named to the All-Defensive First Team seven times.
Tex Winter: Winter is known as the mastermind behind the success of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls and Kobe Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers. He is an expert of the famed “triangle-offense.” Winter began his coaching career in 1947 with Kansas State, which he guided to six NCAA tournament appearances and two Final Fours.