For the past several years, the best basketball team of all-time has dominated the Hall of Fame ceremony. Following head coach Phil Jackson in 2007, star Michael Jordan was inducted in 2009, second banana Scottie Pippen last year, and rebounding specialist Dennis Rodman and offensive architect Tex Winter this year (’97 Championship team member Robert Parish was inducted in 2003, but his backup role on the Bulls obviously had nothing to do with it).
Since there’s no real chance of anybody else from the team making the least important Hall of Fame in professional sports, it’s a good time to look at what their induction speeches say about the team that ruled basketball in the ’90s. And, if their performances are any indication, this was one fucked-up group of guys.
This speech reinforced what any Bulls watcher already knew… whatever part of his public persona was manufactured for marketing purposes, Dennis Rodman is a genuinely fucked-up guy. And not “he said what?” entertainingly quirky, but “let’s fly a team of shrinks in from Vienna” emotionally damaged.
There may be no longer-odds Hall of Famer in history. Born to a single mother (his father claims to have had 27 children with 4 women… insert Shawn Kemp joke here), he was a short, shy kid, overshadowed by two athletic sisters. While homeless and working as a janitor after high school, he got a growth spurt and ended up at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, an NAIA (whatever that is) school. He was enough of a stud there that he was drafted early in the second round by the Pistons.
So, if it wasn’t for some late hormones, he could have easily been Dennis the Weird Cross-Dressing Janitor.
Some Notable Moments
0:28When passing by David Stern during his weird wrestlingesque entrance, Stern looks genuinely thrilled. Whatever his faults, there is no more human/likeable management figure in sports than Stern… I mean, Rodman did nothing but make his life miserable for years.
0:38He chose Phil Jackson to induct him, and wore a pin for Chuck Daly. That a guy as “iconoclastic” as Rodman felt so attached to certain authority figures was always pretty interesting. Plus, I’m pretty sure Jackson is stoned.
3:20After a somewhat odd list of personal thank-yous (Penny Marshall is doing a Rodman documentary?), he says something about getting into his playing days, and starts sobbing and grunting for a solid minute.
4:20He thanks Stern and the NBA community for “even having me in the building”. This from the greatest rebounder of all time who made the NBA a shitload of money.
5:30“I never had a father… He wrote a book about me in Chicago, and he made a lot of money but he never came and said hello to me.” Look, I’m no shrink, but…
7:15“I might be downplaying Isiah and Joe Dumars, but Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan… probably the best two players to ever play the game.” We love you, Dennis!
10:20 Introduces mother, cut to smiling old woman, then “I’ve gotta set the record straight… me and my mother never got along… She kicked me out of the house… I resented her for a long time… my mother rarely ever hugged me or my siblings, she didn’t know how…” I definitely want a Thanksgiving invitation.
Say what you will about the Basketball Hall of Fame (I’ve been to the Big Three Halls and it’s by far the worst… and not just because Springfield, MA is one of the true cesspools of America), but it’s cool that they decided to honor a great assistant coach (where’s Buddy Ryan’s bust, Canton). Although, of course, we all know the real reason is because of his five-year tenure as Northwestern hoops coach, where he finished tied for seventh twice in a row, making him the greatest basketball coach in Wildcats history.
Now, you can’t really blame Tex too much for this debacle. He had a stroke two years ago and the speech was given by his son Chris. But maybe somebody in the Winter family should have helped/stepped in… but before, not during, which is what they did. This is a great clip to have if you’re trying to shut down a party and get your guests the fuck out of your house.
Another unlikely Bulls Hall of Famer… walk-on at an NAIA school, having to act as team manager to help pay his bills. It’s probably no accident that the players that fit best with hypercompetitive MJ were those that didn’t grow up as the center of attention.
There’s no debating Pippen’s defensive prowess or overall talent, but he definitely wasn’t a player with whom I, and I think most Bulls fans, ever truly fell in love. The Migraine Game, The I’m-Not-Going-Back-In-If-You-Call-The-Final-Play-For-Kukoc Game, the well-earned No Tippin’ Pippen nickname, etc. That he was called out by Houston teammate and MJ mouthpiece Charles Barkley and blew that up-by-15-in-the-4th-Quarter Game 7 to Phil’s Lakers definitely reinforced the general perception.
That Pippen’s stilted reading of his unremarkable speech ranks as the most normal/classy of the group is pretty amazing.
Only Notable Moment
0:25 On presenter MJ: “It was so valuable to me as a player to see someone who had the same desire, determination, passion and love for the game.” Cut to Michael smirking, thinking of all the times he had to kick Scottie’s ass in practice.
I can only assume that a team of graduate-level Psychology students have been working on an analysis of this speech for the past two years. That the most and best marketed athlete of all-time didn’t realize that spending his speech detailing petty, ancient slights might come off as churlish is shocking. At the same time, it offers a pretty clear glimpse into the maniacal competitiveness that helps to make one the best athlete of all time.
Some Notable Moments
1:45 Tears, emotions, “You never just saw me, you saw Scottie Pippen, every championship I won.” This is going to be classy.
6:15 Jordan invited the guy who made the varsity over him sophomore year (probably the most overrated hard-luck story in sports history) to rub it in. Umm, OK.
7:00 MJ’s still pissed that his college roommate got more buzz going into freshman year.
8:05 And that Dean Smith wouldn’t let him be on the cover of Sports Illustrated his freshman year.
8:50 And that his first NBA coach switched him from the winning to the losing team during practice.
9:30 And that Jerry Reinsdorf limited his minutes with a broken foot his second year.
1:34-Part 2 And that Doug Collins tried to get him to not play summer pick-up games.
1:52-Part 2 And that Jerry Krause said that it was organizations that win championships… OK, that one is understandable.
3:15-Part 2 And that the Hall of Fame made him buy expensive tickets for his family.
4:50-Part 2 And that some veterans froze him out in his first All-Star game.
5:55-Part 2 And that Pat Riley tried to steal his suite in Hawaii.
7:15-Part 2 And that “the little guy” (Jeff Van Gundy) said he tried to con fellow players.
8:30-Part 2 And that Tex Winter busted his balls about being a ball hog.
9:00-Part 2 And that sportswriters said a scoring champ couldn’t win a championship.
0:10-Part 3 And that Byron Russell talked trash to him once.
Somehow, Phil Jackson’s acceptance speech isn’t on YouTube. C’mon Internet!
But if you just smoke a fat bowl and watch Oliver Stone’s The Doors, I’m sure you’ll get the gist.