Well, this is interesting.
Dennis Rodman is one of the greatest rebounders in NBA history, averaging 13.1 rebounds per game as a 6’7 power forward. At his peak with Detroit, The Worm was averaging over 18 rebounds a game, easily leading the league. Although his offensive side of the ball left much to be desired, his defense is what really brought home the money, as Rodman won two Defensive Player of the Year awards and made an NBA All-Defensive team eight times in his career.
One period that is often forgotten however is Rodman’s small stint with the San Antonio Spurs. Dennis played for the Spurs between 1993 and 1995, before winning three championships in Chicago. Rodman’s rebounding and defense were stellar as usual — leading the league in rebounding both seasons — but he was reportedly a hindrance in the locker room.
“Where was David Robinson in the Houston series (1995 Western Conference Finals)? He got eaten alive by Hakeem Olajuwon that whole series. They asked me to guard Olajuwon, and I refused. Bob Hill came up to me and asked if I would take Hakeem in the first half, and I said no. I would have taken him in the second half, but not the first. Any coach will tell you you don’t put your best defensive player on the other team’s best offensive player in the first half. You put it all on the line in the second half. That’s how it worked with Chuck Daly in Detroit, and I know that’s how Phil Jackson feels in Chicago.
What you try to do is contain the guy in the first half and make sure your best defensive player doesn’t get into foul trouble early. You’ve got be physical with Hakeem, and I’m no good if I’ve got three or four fouls in the first half. Then every time I touch somebody, it’s a foul. Against Los Angeles in the semifinals I couldn’t touch Elden Campbell without being called for a foul, and Elden Campbell doesn’t get the breaks from the refs like Hakeem does. So if you want me to guard him in the second, half, fine
David got into foul trouble against Hakeem just by falling down. David asked me for help, and I told him right to his fucking face, “I am not going down there.” I was not going to help him. He didn’t say anything to me, because there was nothing he could say. Before those games, he looked so f**king scared in the locker room, he couldn’t stop shaking.
They asked me to double-team Olajuwon, and I refused. The way the defense was drawn up, there was no way I was going to be able to get back down inside when my man was at the top of the key or way out on the baseline. The defense didn’t make sense, and I told Bob Hill this. He just looked at me and said, “This is the defense we’re going to run.”
In practice every day Coach Hill would say “David, you think you can play Olajuwon straight up?” David would just shrug and say, “You all can come down and help if you want.” Never once did he say he could take him by himself. This guy was the MVP of the league, and they were paying him $8 million a year. He needed to step up and at least say he could do it by himself. He was supposed to be the one leading this team.”
Now, the legitimacy of this story is up in the air, as is any story that comes from Rodman. I mean, c’mon, the man is friends with Kim Jong Un for crying out loud. Despite that, Dennis’ recollection of events isn’t that far out of the realm of possibility, as the footage of Hakeem Olajuwon absolutely schooling Robinson in the post during the 1995 Western Conference Finals is stuff of legend.