CHICAGO -- To many on the outside, Dennis Rodman's tattoos, body piercings, multicolored hairstyles, sightings with Cindy Crawford and all the rest are distractions that can get in the way of a team goal.
Rodman's spunk, spirit and determination were on display in the Bulls' 87-75 win in Game 6 of the NBA Finals over the Seattle SuperSonics last night to clinch the franchise's fourth title in six years.
"I'm just happy to be here in a city that likes to see somebody work their [butt] off. I like to do whatever it takes to do to win," Rodman said.
What it took last night was the kind of relentless effort on the defensive and rebounding fronts that Rodman is known for.
The 6-foot-8 forward had a game-high 19 rebounds, 11 offensive -- matching his Game 2 effort. As a result, the Bulls got more chances to convert and limited the Sonics' opportunities.
"Dennis Rodman won them two basketball games [in the series]," said Seattle coach George Karl. "We controlled him for four games, but in Game 2 and [last night] he got them the game. Dennis Rodman was the reason they were successful. We controlled Michael Jordan for the most part in the series. They got the extra possessions and the extra opportunities with 11 offensive rebounds."
Rodman was particularly effective in the decisive third quarter, when the Bulls took control on the defensive end, leading by as many as 17.
In a critical two-minute swing in the quarter, Rodman had six points, made two steals and dished off to Jordan in a sequence that effectively put the game out of reach.
"In the third quarter, I did what I do best. I go to the glass, I work hard, I bring a spark to the team," said Rodman.
With Jordan returning from a baseball sabbatical for a full season, the Bulls became an early favorite to recapture the league title they had won three times in five previous years.
But many wondered how the Bulls, and particularly Jordan, would respond to Rodman and his antics, which many say contributed to the San Antonio Spurs' exit from the playoffs last season.
From the beginning, save for a March suspension for head-butting a referee, Rodman, who was traded here in the off-season, used hard work and intensity to win the respect of teammates and coaches.
"He dedicated himself into coming into this city and helping us win the championship," said Jordan. 'And to his credit, he's done a good job, mentally focusing himself, not to be too much of a diversion. Not that he wasn't at times, but we've been able to maintain a certain focus that we have accomplished history."
Rodman has become the second-most popular Bull after Jordan.
During the weekend, as the Bulls watched a 3-0 series beachhead evaporate into a 3-2 lead, and serious doubts going into last night, and the city's radio talk shows became a nest of criticism for virtually every important team member, even Jordan, Rodman was the one player to escape the fire.
Five years ago, Rodman was Public Enemy No. 1 here after he slammed Scottie Pippen into a basket support as the Bulls were sweeping the Detroit Pistons, one of Rodman's former teams, from the Eastern Conference finals en route to a championship.
Next to screams for Jordan, the loudest post-game cheers came for Rodman, who is now a free agent. Coach Phil Jackson wants him, assuming, of course, Jackson returns. The city wants Rodman, and perhaps, most importantly, Jordan wants Rodman back.
Pub Date: 6/17/96