In between stints winning titles with the Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls, Dennis Rodman was a San Antonio Spur. This was the pre-Tim Duncan Spurs, led by David Robinson, and is back when Gregg Popovich was a front office executive, not the coach.
It was also the time Rodman started to let his wild side show. It’s when he started dying his hair different colors throughout the season, the tattoos and piercings started to come out, and Rodman began to “be himself.” That led to clashes with Popovich, who was the GM Rodman’s second season with the Spurs.
Rodman does not have fond memories of Popovich, something he told Joe Buck on Buck’s interview show “Undeniable” (hat tip San Antonio Express News).
“The city kind of embraced me, but what’s his name, Popovich, he hated me,” Rodman said. “He hated my guts because I wasn’t a bible guy. They looked at me like I was the devil.”…
While on the show, Rodman complained that he felt like a victim during his latter stages in San Antonio. He remained on the team until he was traded to the Chicago Bulls for Will Perdue after the 1995 playoffs.
“I said my god,” Rodman said. “Am I the same guy that helped get David Robinson a scoring title and MVP? Am I the same guy that averaged 19.3 rebounds per game for you. And I the same guy we won 68 damn games? Am I that same guy, but you guys don’t like me?” Rodman said. “So I said, ‘OK, trade me,'” he said. “They traded me to the damn Bulls.”
For the record, it was 62 wins that season and Rodman averaged 16.8 rebounds a game his second season with the Spurs, he’d averaged 17.3 the season before, both times winning the NBA rebounding title.
Popovich has shown since he will tolerate a lot of different personalities, he can work with different religions and beliefs, so long as the player is committed to basketball. Rodman was coming out of his shell and discovering things off the court, and it was the sense of commitment — while Popovich was working to build the Spurs’ culture — that was the issue. Rodman clashed with Popovich — Rodman was suspended the first three games by the team, then took a leave of absence, and when he returned was suspended again. Later that season he missed some time due to a shoulder separation suffered in a motorcycle accident.
At that point, the Spurs didn’t have the kind of locker room leaders needed to keep Rodman in line. But the Bulls did. So that trade worked out for Chicago to the tune of three more titles.
The Spurs… they turned out okay, too.