*Dennis Rodman gets candid with Complex in a new interview about his curious relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jung-Un, and how there was once a time when the eccentric NBA icon was more famous than Michael Jordan.
“In Chicago, Michael is a God and Scottie Pippen’s Jesus. I should’ve been Moses,” Rodman jokes.
Rodman is the focus of the latest ESPN 30 For 30 documentary, “Rodman: For Better or Worse” — which is narrated by Jamie Foxx and takes fans deep into the life and career of the iconic 90’s athlete.
“I was the opposite of Michael Jordan off the court and people loved seeing me doing these other antics and like, ‘Wow, I mean this guy’s interesting,’” says Rodman. “Because back then in 1996, 7, and 8, I was pretty much like on top of the world.”
Check out more excerpts from his Complex interview below.
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Did you talk about stuff personally and professionally in this doc that you kind of thought that you never would get a chance to again in your life?
Well, I see it like this: sooner or later before I die I have to say something like that. To completely understand some of stuff, the things I’ve done, some of the things I’ve changed from and I try to, when I do my interviews around the world and stuff like that. A lot of people connect to me as far as being honest when I do my interviews because I’m directly forward like being emotional when I talk about myself because I’m so real like that. I can’t hide anything about my life because people connect to me like that and I just felt like the fact that people want me to continue to be the individual I’ve been for the last 25-30 years and I’ve got to show them that image of me and not to portray something that I’m not.
In the doc, Isiah Thomas called you a genius on the basketball court. Why were you a genius on the basketball court?
I don’t know, man. I know a lot of people have said that about me, that I knew the game so well. You know it took for me to really develop a skill to play basketball because I didn’t know anything about the game. I just played the game. You know, I didn’t know about the fundamentals. I didn’t know anything about that, I just knew you had to chuck, run, play defense, shoot. That was it. I didn’t understand how to be a professional athlete when I came into the league in ’86. Isiah pretty much ingrained that in me. We was playing the Lakers, I think in ’87, and Isiah came to me—someone was shooting a free throw, talking about shooting a free throw. I was at half court just standing there and he came to me and just lunged at me and hit me in my chest so hard. I said, “What the hell was that for?” He said, “This is no bullshit, Dennis, this is for real. Get your mind right. We trying to be champs.” And I didn’t know what to say to him. I wasn’t going to fight him on the court. He just looked at me. I think that point on I got the message of it. Okay, this shit is real. This ain’t no fun and games. This is about winning a championship. I think Isiah was up there with a passion for me because he knew if he did something like that to me, I would follow instructions. I did it and I think that’s why I appreciate him.
A lot of notable people participated in this doc—including Phil Jackson and Michael Jordan. Who’s participation meant the most to you?
They interviewed a whole lot of people for this doc. They couldn’t get Chuck [Daly], he died. They couldn’t get Penny Marshall, she died. But I purposely didn’t want to see it [until the premiere]. You know, those people are going to talk about the realness of Dennis Rodman and what he brings to the table. It wasn’t the antics I did outside of basketball, it was the stuff on the court. And that means more to me than anything because once I’m on the court, I’m on the court. That’s why that’s my job, no matter what. I don’t give a damn. I don’t talk to nobody, I don’t speak to nobody, I go do me and just go make sure that we win. That’s my whole focus, winning, and Michael, Scottie, all those guys who participated in the doc know that was my whole mentality right there.
A bunch of people in the doc said that you idolized Michael Jordan and then when you were asked about it in the doc you laughed. So why do you laugh when people say you idolized Michael Jordan?
[Laughs] When people ask me questions about Michael Jordan, I say “Michael Jordan, come on man. This guy’s the greatest basketball player on the planet.” I looked at him and Scottie Pippen and once I got on the team and watched them, their dedication, their hard work, everyday. These guys were on, on, on because they want to win. They guarded each other every day at the practice. I think the fact that I loved that mentality because that was Joe Dumars, Isiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer, Rick Mahorn, all those guys in Detroit that remind me of those guys. But it was two guys on Chicago that like always said, “Yep, we going to do this. We are going to do this.” We didn’t know we were going to be 72-10 that year, but I think that confidence that Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen put in me, I used to look at those guys every day, man I was like, “Wow, those guys play fair. I can trust these guys. I can trust Michael Jordan, he’s going to do his job. Scottie’s going to do his job. I can trust you guys, I’ve played with you guys.”
People also said that during your time with the Bulls, you were actually more famous than Michael Jordan. Could you tangibly feel that?
[Laughs] I think that right there is a statement like that where I was saying that, too, like for a minute, I was more famous than Michael Jordan in Chicago. I was different, I was doing all kinds of unique things like going on shows dressed in drag. I wore women’s clothes, I was going out to clubs, I was doing this, I was doing that. I was the opposite of Michael Jordan off the court and people loved seeing me doing these other antics and like, “Wow, I mean this guy’s interesting.” Because back then in 1996, 7, and 8, I was pretty much like on top of the world. In Chicago, Michael is a God and Scottie Pippen’s Jesus. I should’ve been Moses. Like okay, great and I was Rod-Man. I was Rod-Man and like, you know, so I think that the fact that people embraced me more because I was so real and so hard working as far as like doing the most. I think they love the fact that my attitude and the way I present myself in the game. I appreciated what I was doing. I think that people really related to that, related to me like that. That’s a cool statement to say, but Michael Jordan’s Michael Jordan.
Read the full interview here.
Directed by Emmy-winning director Todd Kapostasy, “Rodman: For Better or Worse” premiered September 10 on ESPN.