The Tragic Childhood Of Dennis Rodman

Dennis Rodman, NBA Hall of Famer and rebound king, graced the basketball world with a quirky sense of self that few others could ever be brave enough to show to their fans. He's been spotted numerous times wearing clothing — dresses and whatnot — that shook the media. His hair color seemed to change with every game. He was pierced and tattooed. And, despite not being a massive point scorer, he was a phenomenal player.

You'd expect a professional basketball player to have a decent life and, to be fair, he probably does now. But that's not how it started. Rodman had hard times. If you were to spot him as a kid, you'd never know that he'd someday be shooting hoops for the NBA. His childhood goes far beyond everyday hardships, which makes his story of success all the more fantastic. Let's face it: Few people could come from Rodman's background and make such a name for themselves.

An absentee father

Dennis Rodman's father, Philander Rodman, is what we in the biz call a "real piece of work." According to his obituary on ESPN, Philander fathered 29 children with 16 women and wasn't there for most of them, including Dennis. Philander did show enough interest to cash out on Dennis's fame by writing a book, despite never being around as a father. In fact, in another ESPN report, Dennis said his father didn't reach out to him at all after the basketball star found success. That probably doesn't get Philander into the running for "father of the year" or anything. Dennis told Sports Illustrated that Philander up and left one day, never to return. Philander, as it turns out, ran away with another woman, eventually finding himself in the Philippines, where he had two wives and lived with 15 of his children. Instead of taking responsibility, reports the Washington Post, Philander blamed his behavior on his military time in Vietnam.

Cut from the team and arrested

After his dad was out of the picture, Dennis Rodman was raised by his mother and his two older sisters. His sisters were pretty good at basketball too, with both of them going All-American. At the time, it added insult to injury, since Rodman didn't have his major growth spurt until he was around 20 years old. In high school, at 5'9", he was comparatively short. His size wouldn't cut it, so, as the NBA relates, he got cut instead, from both his high school football and basketball teams. Without hoops, what was Rodman to do?

After high school, Rodman worked for Dallas-Ft. Worth airport, doing maintenance — a long shot from his future. One night on the job, he had a slip in judgment and illegally "borrowed" a case of watches from a display, which he gave to his friends. (He wasn't out for profit or anything.) A dab of legal trouble resulted, but the charges were dropped because his friends were kind enough to return the watches. Rodman only spent 18 hours in jail, but things weren't exactly looking up.

Living on the street

Dennis Rodman's growth spurt was an awkward one. Topping out at 6'7", he felt odd in his new body, to the point that he refused to leave the house for a long time, and when he did go out, he wore his work coveralls from his low-paying ($3.50/hour) job cleaning cars. It wasn't long before his body began to work for him and his basketball talent exploded. He played for Cooke County Junior College on a sports scholarship but, as Sports Illustrated reported, dropped out after only 14 games.

He was convinced he was going nowhere in life. His mother would spot him cash so he could find a job, and he'd blow it. Eventually, his mother kicked him out of the house. He never gave up playing basketball, though. By playing in pick-up games on the street, word of his talent spread to scouts. Being homeless made it particularly difficult for those scouts to track Rodman down, but in the end he was offered a basketball scholarship to Southeastern Oklahoma. From there on, it was pro ball and crazy news headlines.