Dennis Rodman could have been better

Rodman It’s kind of ironic to note that Dennis Rodman was a second-round pick of the 1986 NBA Draft. The fascinating part about this that in the most doomed draft in history, some unknown dude from some college called Southeastern Oklahoma State University would go on to have the best NBA career.

To look at the 1986 NBA Draft in the moment was to see the deepest and most talented collection of players assembled at one specific time and place. And yet between the death, personal destruction, addiction and the misplaced expectation, the entire group seems linked as if some sort of perverse Shakespearean tragedy.

How could so much go so wrong for so many people?

Just look at the list of names of young men who were headed for the NBA during June of 1986. At the top of the list were Brad Daugherty and Len Bias. Daugherty, of course, was supposed to be drafted by the 76ers, but, as the legend goes, former team owner Harold Katz had the No. 1 pick over to house to play some hoops on his indoor court and thought he was, “soft.” Because of that, Katz traded the rights to Daugherty, Moses Malone and Terry Catledge, the draft picks that turned out to be Georgetown/UNLV product Anthony Jones and Harvey Grant, only to get back Roy Hinson, Jeff Ruland and Cliff Robinson.

It very easily was the worst day of trading by the Sixers, ever, and that’s before we figure in the fact that Daugherty averaged 19 points and 10 rebounds a game for his entire career.

The story of Bias, of course, we all know all too well. Of course the one part of Bias’ death that is often overlooked in the long form pieces and documentaries is that without him, the Celtics were in disarray for a solid decade. Moreover, his death also sacrificed significant chunks of the careers of Larry Bird and Kevin McHale, whose declines came much quicker than if they had Bias to lean on.  

There were others, too. The No. 3 pick, Chris Washburn, lasted just 72 NBA games over three seasons and struggled with addiction for more than a decade. Big East superstars Pearl Washington and Walter Berry turned out to be casualties of the east-coast hype machine, while top 10 selections Kenny Walker, Roy Tarpley, Brad Sellers and Johnny Dawkins, had middling careers in the league, at best.

Even some of the players drafted behind Rodman were met with tragedy. Drazen Petrovic was killed in a car accident on the Autobahn nearly a decade before his posthumous induction into the Hall of Fame. Three years ago, Portland’s big man Kevin Duckworth died of congestive heart failure at age 44.

The 1986 Draft was so bizarre that one of its best standouts, Arvydas Sabonis, had to wait for Glasnost in order to make his way to America almost 10 years after he was taken as the last pick of the first round. By the time he got to the league he was already at the end of his prime and had many wondering what might have been.

But then that’s the overreaching theme of the entire mix from ’86.

So this was the backdrop from which Dennis Rodman entered the league. Moreover, given the demons he battled off the court it’s amazing that the one player from that draft to play a complete career and then gain induction to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is The Worm, Dennis Rodman.

According to reports as well as Rodman himself, the 6-foot-7 defensive and rebounding specialist got the votes needed amongst the 12 finalists to gain enshrinement. Word is Tex Winter also will be a Hall of Famer, along with Chris Mullin and former Sixers player and coach, Maurice Cheeks. Philadelphia University head coach and shooting guru, Herb Magee, was one of the 12 finalists. Considering Magee has more wins in NCAA basketball than any coach in history, he has a pretty strong shot to get in, too.

The official announcement is scheduled for noon on Monday.

Continue reading

The song and the dance

Brian_dawkins Just like in the movies, sports require the participants to be good actors. We like the drama, thrills and the comedy—both unintentional and intended. Otherwise, what’s the point? We watch and engage it to be entertained.

Brian Dawkins gets that. Why else would he exert so much energy to come up with such an elaborate routine before every game? Sure, it looks like he’s doing it for his teammates to help get them fired up before the game, but really why does a pro athlete need someone else to motivate them? With all the money and competition riding on every play, the last thing a football player (or any other athlete for that matter) needs is some guy dancing the hootchie-coo in order to make other play harder.

I mean really.

Nope, Dawkins does all that stuff for you. He wants you to react and to be entertained. His pro wrestling-like entrance is just his way, not unlike Peyton Manning acting all goofy in a TV commercial, Derek Jeter serial dating, or Tiger Woods doing whatever it is he does.

It’s all part of the show.

But don’t write it off as insignificant. Oh no sir! Ballplayers hate the notion that they might be asked to “dance,” but when the music starts up and the lights start flashing, it takes Barry Sanders-like focus to maintain that austere façade.

Everyone has an act in sports. In fact, even Barry Sanders had an act. As they say, sometimes no style is considered to be a style. Hell, even they digitalized pixels on video games come with personalities programmed into the code. Better yet, the computer geeks set it up so even the folks playing the game at home can design any type of player they wish.

That’s kind of the way it works in pro sports, too. Do you think Terrell Owens was an obnoxious, delusional malcontent from day one? Or was Dennis Rodman such a quirky dude when he joined the Pistons with Isiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer, and Rick Mahorn in the mid-1980s?

Answer: No. Those guys would have gotten their rears kicked if they tried it.

Just like any of their other skills, the persona is something that needs to be honed. However, it has to come in conjunction with some bona fide playing skills. For instance, no one has a problem when Brian Dawkins does a somersault into a handstand during the pregame introductions in his first game back in Philadelphia as a member of the Denver Broncos. After all, Dawkins didn’t just show up doing that whole X-Men bit. It took a lot of work both on and off the field.

Meanwhile, Freddie Mitchell was a player whose skills skewed the wrong way. The former wide receiver and first-round bust had the song and dance down, but had no idea of which key it was supposed to be sung.

In other words, Mitchell wasn’t good enough to strut the way he did.

Of course there is a slippery slope one treads, too, and Dawkins very well might be in that territory at this point of his career. Before Sunday’s home finale the talk was more about the way Dawkins might enter the ball field as opposed to how well he would perform on it. Sure, everyone wanted to see Dawkins dance, but no one really paid much attention to the way he covered receivers or made tackles.

All anyone wanted to see was the show and to hear about how Dawkins was up in the tunnel in his old ballpark screaming "Hallelujah!" and various other sweet nothings meant to get everyone all ornery and loud.

And you can’t have one without the other.