Rodman takes game to streets

by Jason Coskrey

Time waits for no man, and Dennis Rodman is no exception.

Once always the center of attention wherever he went, The Worm, now 49 years old, took a back seat — on the court at least — to a cast of characters such as the aptly nicknamed The Air up There (Taurian Fontenette), Mr. Africa (Anthony Pimble) and Escalade (Troy Jackson) for two nights last week in Osaka and Tokyo while promoting streetball with the Ballup team at the And1 Street2Elite events.

“These guys, And1, they’ve done such a great job of developing this type of basketball,” Rodman said at the end of the tour on Thursday at Ariake Colosseum. “It’s not like the Harlem Globetrotters, that’s way different.

“These guys here have this ability to communicate with each other through body language on the floor, in the air, shooting the basketball and knowing what is going on. Having guys going into the stands and communicating with the fans and still keeping the game flowing.”

That’s not to say there weren’t flashes of the flamboyant Rodman fans remember. He showed up heavily tattooed with hoop-style piercings protruding from his lips, nose and ears. He emerged after the game in a pair of sunglasses and a red and yellow hat adorned with rhinestones.

The crowd ate it up, feting Rodman with cheers even though his most memorable contributions to the game were an exchange of elbows and shoves with a Japanese player and the near-chaos caused when he began signing autographs courtside as the contest went on.

“The game was cool,” Rodman said. “One thing about entertaining is you can come over here and they love to be entertained. They love all the excitement, the charisma and all the glamour.

“I haven’t played ball in like a year. For me it was good to come over here and entertain.”

Of course Rodman is used to a more structured game, having spent 14 years in the NBA where he was a five-time champion, including three with the Chicago Bulls, won seven rebounding titles and was the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year twice.

“It reminded me of back in 1981, when I used to play just like this,” Rodman said. “This type of game has been going on for years and years. It’s become so complex, where you have to understand and read other players. You’ve got guys who are jumping over the railing here. You’ve got guys doing a lot of crazy stuff that we never did.

“It’s amazing that some of these guys who have played in this league are in the NBA. That’s phenomenal. That’s incredible. To come from this league out of all leagues. This is like a playground league and you’ve got guys going from this league to the NBA. That’s amazing.”

Rodman’s team of U.S. streetballers faced a team of Japanese players and The Worm said the Japanese should use these types of forums as stepping stones to bigger and better things.

“The kids over here, even though they’re small, we had small guys like Muggsy Bogues come to the NBA and they make it for 10 or 12 years,” Rodman said. “It doesn’t matter how small you are if you’ve got the heart and desire to go out there and compete with anybody.

“It’s just like me. I’m 6-foot-6 (198 cm), I guard guys 7-foot (213), 7-2 (218). It don’t matter, brother. Long as you have the heart and desire to understand the game of basketball and have a passion and a love for it, you can do anything on the court.”