Inside Dennis Rodman's Estranged Relationship With His Father

Dennis Rodman was certainly one of the more, shall we say, colorful athletes of recent generations. While more than one professional athlete has developed a sort of persona — a schtick, if you will — off the field, Rodman took the idea to its comical extremes. Vulture even compiled a list, and it contains some doozies, beyond just his multiple hair-color changes and piercings and tattoos. There was the time he head-butted the opponents' mascot; the time he ditched practice to go to a wrestling match; and the time he jumped onto the stage during a Pearl Jam concert and wouldn't leave — for 45 minutes.

Rodman's character, if it can be called that, was a deliberate creation. As Vulture reports, it was born from a time in his life when he was suffering. Back in 1993, following compounding personal disappointments, he came close to taking his life before reinventing himself.

Rodman had an unhappy childhood, as Sports Illustrated reports, raised in poverty by a disinterested mother, his father having abandoned the family. The elder Rodman did try to insert himself into his son's life once the younger man got big, but their reconciliation was one of fits and starts, and the two men may not have fully buried the hatchet.

Philander Rodman

Dennis Rodman was born May 13, 1961, in Trenton, New Jersey, according to Britannica. As Jet reports, Dennis' father, Philander Rodman Jr., left the family when Dennis was 3 years old. The Air Force veteran, who had served in the Vietnam War, ran off with another woman. When Dennis started getting big, the press took an interest in his (Dennis') father, and suddenly Philander, who by this time was running a bar in the Philippines, was something of a celebrity. "I hope he'll understand one day [why I abandoned the family] ... I hope he'll come around," he said of Dennis.

Dennis, for his part, wasn't feeling it. "I haven't seen my father in more than 30 years, so what's there to miss?" he asked rhetorically. "Some man brought me into this world. That doesn't mean I have a father," he said.

Philander Rodman was, like his son, quite the character in his own way. He had 27 children by four different wives and some women to whom he wasn't married; Dennis, perhaps hyperbolically, would claim that he was one of 47 children sired by his father, as NBC Sports reported. As The Daily Caller reported, at one time Philander owned a restaurant in Manila called "Rodman's Rainbow Obamaburger."

A Brief Reconciliation

Dennis Rodman and his father reconciled — inasmuch as it can be said that they "reconciled" — in 2012, according to ESPN. As part of an NBA "Alumni" team composed of Rodman and other retired players, such as Rodman's Chicago Bulls teammate Scottie Pippen, traveled to Manila for an exhibition match. Before the game, while the players signed autographs and hobnobbed with fans, the two men spoke for a few minutes and exchanged phone numbers, with Dennis reportedly promising to call. Then, during a break in the game, Dennis took the mic and told the crowd that his father was in the crowd; the older man then stood up and said, "Yes, Dennis Rodman is my son."

That appears to have been the beginning and the end of their reconciliation, however. Philander died in July 2020, according to a companion ESPN report, at the age of 79. Whether or not he'd spent the final eight years of his life enjoying a relationship with his son Dennis is not clear; however, as Sportscasting reports, Dennis did not make any public statements about his father's passing, and it's unknown if he traveled to the Philippines for Philander's funeral.