ESPN will debut the next documentary in the Emmy award-winning 30 for 30 series with “Rodman: For Better or Worse” (tonight, 9 ET, ESPN), the unfettered and definitive look at the life and career of Dennis Rodman.
On the basketball court and beyond, the story of Rodman is a study of the power and perils of fame, and how complicated identity can be. The film takes viewers on a journey from Detroit to San Antonio to Chicago, from his appearance and his antics to his brilliance and his exuberance, as Rodman crafts a Hall of Fame career on his way to winning five NBA titles in all.
Various media figures, friends, family, coaches and former teammates are interviewed for the film directed by Todd Kapostasy including: Michael Jordan, Isiah Thomas, David Robinson, Bill Laimbeer, Phil Jackson, John Salley and ESPN senior writer and essayist Chris Connelly, who covered Rodman over the years for media outlets such as Rolling Stone and MTV.
Front Row asked Connelly, who was interviewed for the film last fall in Los Angeles, about “The Worm.”
You were at MTV around the time of Rodman’s rise in late ’80s. What did his cross over into pop culture signify to you and your colleagues at the time?
As he flourished inside what appeared to be the regimented world of sports, Rodman was this maverick advocating personal freedom, one who didn’t appear to be tethered to any single identity. He was a professional basketball player who off the court seemed to have the personality of a pop star. So by the mid-90s, Rodman was on everybody’s radar, including MTV’s.
In that regard, was he ahead of his time? How?
As the film suggests, whatever his motivations for doing so, Rodman talked about a lot of things that some people in the sports world were afraid of back then.
You once wrote a Rolling Stone cover story on Madonna. How would you describe Rodman and Madonna’s dalliance?
Well, they were both rebels, and both expert provocateurs. In her career, Madonna’s shown the focus and determination that great athletes like Rodman have. She was once quoted as calling Rodman “The Madonna of the NBA!” They certainly got a lot of attention during their time together, but they only dated for a couple of months.
Is there a modern day athlete who compares to Rodman – in terms of his crossover appeal and outlandishness? Why?
On the court, Draymond Green gets mentioned for his relentlessness and intensity. But has there been anyone quite like Dennis Rodman? I don’t think so, no.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Basketball Hall of Famers, NBA Champions and Chicago Bulls teammates Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman will appear on The Jump today beginning at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN. ESPN senior writer Jackie MacMullan interviewed Rodman.