Dating Madonna, defying Bob Hill and Gregg Popovich: A look back at Dennis Rodman’s wild stint with Spurs

‘Last Dance’ documentary on ESPN highlights Rodman’s time in San Antonio

(Photo credit should read Vince Bucci/AFP via Getty Images)

SAN ANTONIO – Sandwiched between championship runs with the Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls were two tumultuous seasons Dennis Rodman spent with the San Antonio Spurs.

Rodman’s trek to the Alamo City was highlighted Sunday evening during the third episode of the Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls 10-episode documentary titled “Last Dance,” which is airing on ESPN.

Rodman was infamously traded to San Antonio from Detroit before the 1993-94 season in a deal that included Spurs icon and now broadcaster Sean Elliott.

As highlighted in the documentary, Rodman had been known as a unique and controversial player but once he arrived in San Antonio, he started to display what many people called erratic off-court behavior.

Rodman started to dye his hair and his on-court antics led to numerous suspensions and fines by the organization.

During his stint with San Antonio, Rodman also began a highly publicized relationship with singer Madonna, who reportedly was allowed to visit the team hotel and go into the locker room.

Despite Rodman’s unpredictability off the court, the Spurs had two successful seasons with Rodman.

San Antonio won 55 games in Rodman’s first season and 62 games in his second season on the roster. Rodman also led the league in rebounding both years.

However, Rodman’s antics became too much for the organization during his second year in San Antonio.

Bob Hill took over as head coach and Gregg Popovich was the team’s general manager. They were not as tolerant as previous head coach John Lucas had been with Rodman the year before.

Before the 1994-95 season started, Rodman missed the team bus and the first meeting of training camp in Kerrville.

He then arrived late for a preseason game against Milwaukee and reportedly threw a bag of ice in the direction of Hill and an official after he was thrown out of another preseason game against Charlotte.

The team suspended Rodman without pay for the first three games of the season.

“Dennis has to realize he’s not going to win the battle - fighting the NBA, fighting the officials, fighting (Spurs general manager Gregg Popovich), fighting me,” then Spurs coach Bob Hill said via the Associated Press.

“If his conduct continues the way it has been, unfortunately we would probably have to look at a more serious suspension to get our message across,” Popovich said at the time. “I hope he gets the message. I hope he returns to the squad wanting to be a full participant because we do respect what he can do."

Rodman did not get the message and was suspended a second time in December of 1994 when he failed to return from a three-and-a-half-week paid leave of absence.

Rodman claimed he was in Dallas and the keys to a friend’s truck were stolen from his pocket and some of his possessions were taken.

“We have no choice but to change his status to suspended without pay,” said Popovich at the time via The Associated Press. "The excuse was not acceptable.”

Rodman played in only 49 games for the Spurs that season. He was benched during the playoffs and routinely did not join player huddles during timeouts or game stoppages. Rodman would also take his shoes and socks off and sit on the baseline as the game continued.

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

In an interview with ESPN, Rodman was asked about those sideline distractions during the 1995 NBA Playoffs.

“Basically I just know what the hell he’s (Hill) going to say or what the situation is going to be, so basically I’m right there” Rodman said.

When asked if he liked playing for Hill, Rodman said, “I’ll play for anybody as long as they respect me. I have no problem with Bob Hill. I will play for him.”

San Antonio ultimately lost to the Houston Rockets in the 1995 Western Conference Finals and Rodman was traded that offseason to Chicago.

Rodman went on to win three more championships in Chicago after winning two in Detroit.

Two years later, the Spurs drafted Tim Duncan and won five NBA titles over a 16-year span.


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