Most who followed last weekend’s Hall of Fame festivities probably heard or read that Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder was Dennis Rodman’s guest that weekend. I assumed that Vedder, a Chicago native and huge Chicago sports fan, and Rodman had met while Rodman was playing for the Bulls, but Rodman’s connection to the band dates back even further.
Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament actually spent time with Rodman when he was a member of the Spurs and wrote a story about it for SLAM Magazine in 1994, an article that SLAM recently re-published on its website. This passage, comparing Rodman to then-teammate David Robinson, was my favorite:
“If you are portrayed as the good guy,” says Rodman, “someone is always trying to knock you down and make you look like a bad guy. That’s where the League office comes into play. When you fall from your pedestal, they’re there to clean up the mess. They want us all to be role models, the cupids. The hell with that. I’m not going to be a role model for anybody.”
As if on cue, David Robinson ducks under the doorway, introducing himself and the red bass guitar he travels with. “I came down to talk bass,” he says with a wide smile.
Mr. Robinson likes being a role model. “It’s an amazing thing to talk to a group of kids and have them respond to what you’re saying,” he says. “You really make a difference.”
“Naw, I dunno,” says Rodman. “I’ve talked to kids, about drugs or whatever. Why are those kids there? To. See. Me. Do they care about what I’m really talking about? Maybe ten out of a thousand.”
These two guys are like North and South. A priest and a pagan. Siskel and Ebert. You couldn’t pick two more different players, but the Spus did, and it seems to be working. On the court, they play like lifelong teammates. Rodman to Robinson for an alley-oop dunk. High fiving. Smiling at each other. Hugging!
“Dennis brings an element to the team we’ve need,” says Robinson. “As different as we may seem, we both want to win. I respect him a lot for his desire to win.”
Of course, things did not end so well in San Antonio. I have no idea how Rodman feels about Robinson now, or vice versa, but there was no discussion of Rodman as a Spur during HOF weekend and Rodman did not pull any punches on Robinson in his first book, Bad As I Wanna Be, criticizing Robinson for being the league MVP yet still getting destroyed by Hakeem Olajuwon in the 1995 Western Conference Finals.