HOUSTON — Dennis Rodman earned plenty of labels during his sometimes turbulent NBA career.
Here’s one the player who created chaos on — and sometimes off — the court never expected: Hall of Famer. Rodman headlined the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s 2011 class announced on Monday at the Final Four, a group that includes former Dream Team member Chris Mullin and Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer.
“It’s just unreal,” Rodman said.
And somewhat unexpected, at least to the two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year and five-time NBA champion who believed his extracurricular activities — including donning a wedding dress to marry himself and kicking a photographer in the groin — would overshadow his on-the-court accomplishments.
“I looked at the way I am, and I thought I wouldn’t get in,” Rodman said.
Also part of the class were: coaches Tex Winter, innovator of the triangle offense, and Philadelphia University’s Herb Magee; longtime NBA and ABA star Artis Gilmore; former Portland TrailBlazers center Arvydas Sabonis; Olympic gold medalist Teresa Edwards; Harlem Globetrotter Reece “Goose” Tatum; and Boston Celtic Tom “Satch” Sanders.
When informed of the honor last week, Rodman thought it was a prank. He figured there was no way the voters could get past his outlandish antics and focus on a career in which he became one of the best rebounders in league history.
“They looked past all the negativity and thought ‘wow, he actually did change the game a little bit,”’ said Rodman, who averaged 13.1 rebounds a game while playing for five teams. “I wasn’t a good scorer. I wasn’t the best athlete. But I was part of the machine.”
Even if he sometimes drew more headlines for his wardrobe than his ability to chase down missed shots at a remarkable rate. Rodman didn’t disappoint on Monday. While the rest of the inductees for the announcement donned suits for the occasion, he wore sneakers, jeans, a black ballcap, shades, tan vest with leopard and tan scarves, and his white shirt with gold sequined cuffs was unbuttoned and knotted at the waist, a la Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman.”
Expect something off the wall when the class is formally inducted in Springfield, Mass., in August. Rodman said his personal designer is going to “make a lot of crazy stuff.”
Mullin, a five-time All-Star and St. John’s all-time leading scorer, will be making his second trip to the induction ceremonies in as many years. He was enshrined last summer as part of the 1992 U.S. Olympic basketball team.
Standing a few feet from Rodman, the straight-laced Mullin, complete with crewcut, pointed to the dynamic personalities in the group as proof of basketball’s global reach.
“That’s what this game is about, anyone can contribute,” he said.
For VanDerveer, Monday’s announcement was bittersweet, coming just hours after her Stanford team lost 63-62 to Texas A&M in a national semifinal in Indianapolis.
“This is kind of a tough morning to be a basketball coach for me waking up after our loss last night,” she said on a conference call. “This opportunity to be enshrined in Naismith is an incredible honor, and I’m overwhelmed by it.”
In December, VanDerveer became the sixth woman to get 800 coaching victories.
“It’s the ultimate compliment to a coach or basketball player,” she said. “I’m humbled and honored. You should be really excited about it, but I wish it hadn’t come on this day. I’m not feeling great about myself or how we played. You go back and think about all the things I could have done or should have done. The sun didn’t come up this morning here.”
For longtime Philadelphia University coach Magee, the all-time, all-division NCAA wins leader with 922 career victories, this is heady territory. He only got into coaching only after turning down an offer to work for a chemical company.
“I coached the JV team when I first got started and we had some success and I knew ‘this is what I should be doing,”’ Magee said.
Winter refined the triangle offense and helped the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers win nine NBA championships as an assistant to Phil Jackson. He retired following the 2006 season, capping a career that included a successful stint at Kansas State, where he led the Wildcats to two Final Fours.
Edwards won four gold medals while playing on five U.S. Olympic teams and starred collegiately at Georgia, taking the Bulldogs to two Final Fours. She enjoyed a lengthy professional career both in the U.S. and overseas and is now the director of player personnel for the WNBA’s Tulsa Shock.
“I feel like the little girl gets to play with all the big boys again,” Edwards said. “It’s like how I started, going from begging to play with them to being the first one chosen. I feel like this time I get to share the spotlight with the biggest boys in the world.”
Gilmore was elected by the Hall’s ABA committee. Gilmore is a member of the all-time ABA team and was a six-time NBA All-Star who scored more than 24,000 career points.
The class also includes Sabonis, one of the greatest passing centers in basketball history. The Lithuanian-born Sabonis was among the first European players to successfully transition to the NBA, spending nearly a decade with the Portland Trailblazers.