SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — The acknowledgement list could only belong to Dennis Rodman.
There were coaches Phil Jackson and fellow inductee Tex Winter. He mentioned teammate Michael Jordan, along with rockers Eddie Vedder and Motley Crue. And he thanked that guy Stern who’s coming to see him Friday night.
That’s Howard Stern, not the NBA commissioner.
Rodman’s uncommon blend of basketball and entertainment has arrived at the sport’s birthplace, where he will be enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame on Friday as part of the 10-person class of 2011.
“I really didn’t play the game to be in the Hall of Fame. That wasn’t my job,” Rodman said. “My job was to go out there and win ballgames, have a good time and take care of my family. As long as the people had a good time, that was my main objective.”
Dressed in all black, wearing sunglasses, an Ed Hardy tattooing hat and a scarf that read “The Worm, HOF ‘11” on the inside, the five-time NBA champion was the center of attention during Thursday’s news conferences.
Exactly the way he likes it.
“I just love living life free. And for me to shine, I shine every damn day,” Rodman said. “This is for other people here that don’t get to see these famous people that’s going to come in this building tomorrow.”
Dream Teamer and two-time Olympic gold medalist Chris Mullin is the other headline name in the class, though much of the focus was on Rodman. Looking toward him, Stanford women’s coach Tara VanDerveer joked she was so excited she was “gonna go out and get a tattoo.”
VanDerveer, who has led Stanford to two national championships and won more than 800 games, joins Winter and Division II Philadelphia University coach Herb Magee, the career leader at the collegiate level with more than 900 wins, as the coaches being enshrined. Jackson will present both Rodman and Winter, whose triangle offense was used by Jackson to build dynasties in Chicago and Los Angeles.
“I don’t know what’s more shocking, that they didn’t put Tex in 30 years ago, or they didn’t make Dennis wait another 30 years,” said Winter’s son, Chris.
Eight-time NBA champion Tom “Satch” Sanders, big men Artis Gilmore and Arvydas Sabonis; the late Reece “Goose” Tatum of the Harlem Globetrotters, and women’s star Teresa Edwards, who won five Olympic medals — four golds — and is entering her fifth Hall of Fame, also will be honored at Symphony Hall.
None of their speeches figures to be like Rodman’s, whose seven straight rebounding titles set an NBA record and who won 70 percent of the games he played in. He wouldn’t reveal what he planned to say, though did allow that he’s listened to Pearl Jam as motivation for 20 years and that Vedder was an inspiration.
“It’s hard to be an entertainer and an athlete and try to be a smart basketball player all at the same time. As you can see, some guys try to do it but they don’t know how to actually put the game of basketball first,” Rodman said, mentioning Ron Artest as an example. “And that’s one thing I did, I put the game of basketball first. Entertainment could come any time of the ballgame.”
Mullin is being enshrined for the second straight year, joining his 1992 U.S. Olympic teammates last year. He becomes the 11th member of that famed squad, but never dwelled on why individual induction took so long after scoring more than 17,000 points and making five NBA All-Star teams following his decorated college career at St. John’s.
“To me, the Hall wasn’t anything I expected or really consumed myself with, you know what I mean?” he said. “When your career is over, you can’t change anything and to me I felt like I received so much over the years playing basketball that to get even more was not even on my mind.”
Any musicians on your list, Chris?
“I’d like a few, but I don’t know many,” he said. “Satellite radio, ‘70s and ‘80s.”
Like Rodman, nightlife went along with basketball for Mullin before a stint in rehab to face his alcohol addiction early in his pro career. He said he took his last drinks on Dec. 13, 1987.
“I don’t know that it makes it any more sweeter,” he said of overcoming that to reach the Hall. “It’s part of the journey. Every player here has their journey and at some point in everyone’s life someone’s going to deal with something.”
“To me, the way I live my life on a daily basis is as gratifying to me as being here in the Hall of Fame,” he added. “If I never did, never mind being in the Hall of Fame, I wouldn’t be here, period.”
Sabonis, one of the world’s best big men long before finally coming to the NBA to play for Portland, carried a small flag of his native Lithuania that looked even tinier in his giant hands.
Edwards was previously enshrined in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, the National High School Sports Hall of Fame, Georgia Sports Hall of Fame and US Olympic Hall of Fame. She’s now coaching the WNBA’s Tulsa Shock, who played at Seattle later Thursday.
“If Dennis wears a dress better than me, I’m going to have to beat him before we leave here,” she joked.
Rodman, who once wore a wedding dress to a book signing, said he won’t wear a dress Friday. But it’ll be better than Thursday’s getup.
“This is nothing. Tomorrow’s going to be way different. It’s going to be totally out there. You’ll think Elton John’s on the stage. That’s what it’s going to be like .But it’s going to be in all good taste fun.”