By: Zachariah Blott
Dennis Rodman has resurfaced again, this time playing in some sort of European streetball tour with other retired NBA players who need whatever money they can get, including Dee Brown, Tim Hardaway, and Oliver Miller. Rodman is looking … tired; is that a nice way of saying older? Either way, it got me thinking about how dominant of a rebounder he was back in the 90’s.
As a wispy 6-7, 210 pound power forward, this slippery son of a gun led the league in rebounding 7 straight years from 1991-92 through 1997-98. No one else has ever lead the league more than 5 consecutive seasons, and Rodman’s feat is even more impressive when you realize how dominant he was in this category during his stretch.
His averages ran as follows: 18.7, 18.3, 17.3, 16.8, 14.9, 16.1, 15.0. Last year’s league leader, Dwight Howard, is a powerful force of nature, with muscles bulging out of everywhere, who can dunk on a 12-foot rim. His 13.8 couldn’t touch any number from Rodman’s run. In fact, it barely tops Rodman’s career average of 13.1, which includes 4 complete seasons playing less than 30 minutes per game.
The Worm was routinely crushing the likes of Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson and Dikembe Mutombo in their primes. And he was giving up 5 or more inches and 40-100 pounds to each of these Hall-of-Fame centers. These 5 household names combined to top 13 rpg only 5 times during Rodman’s 7-year reign, and their collective best was Shaq’s 13.9 as a rookie in 1992-93. Rodman was that singularly good at the mental skills that go into rebounding: perfect positioning, Mensa-level ball tipping and carom reading, and a fiery passion to risk his body in order to grab every ricocheted shot.
Dennis Rodman photo credit: Icon SMI
His off years weren’t too bad either. In 1990-91, he was second to David Robinson by 0.5 rpg while playing 4 less minutes each night. In 1998-99 at the age of 37 and with only 28.6 minutes of playing time per contest, he still grabbed 11.2 to Chris Webber’s 13.0, tops in the NBA. The next year was his finale and he only suited up for 12 games, but he still averaged 14.3 boards as he was on the way out as a Dallas publicity stunt (back when we didn’t yet know the name Mark Cuban).
The last players to have runs like this were Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell, who played when shooting percentages were crap and each team basically had one designated rebounder: the center. Since then, Moses Malone is the only player close to what Rodman accomplished, and even he only topped 15 rpg three times in his lengthy career. Rodman ranks 10th all-time with his career 13.1 rpg, and he’s first among players who didn’t play in the 60’s or early 70’s.
It makes no sense that a guy built like a skinny Paul Pierce, who first played for an NAIA college at the age of 22, and who is certifiably insane got these types of numbers in five different teams’ systems. Then again, what about the guy does make sense?
Zachariah Blott cannot recommend Rick Telander’s “Heaven Is A Playground” enough.