Dennis Rodman

Dennis Rodman reveals how Pearl Jam saved him from suicide

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However you view Dennis Rodman, you're probably doing it wrong. He was and continues to be an enigma in every sense of the word.

Misunderstood at the height of his fame, "The Worm" has spent much of his retirement attempting to peel back the layers of his own persona. And while we may never grasp the workings of his unconventional psyche, it's clear that he wants us to try.

In a recent sit-down interview with Joe Buck, the NBA legend painted a picture of how his life spiraled after Detroit Pistons head coach Chuck Daly, who he viewed as a father-figure, resigned in 1992.

He shared a particular anecdote — one he had written about in his 1996 autobiography, "Bad as I Wanna Be" — about the time he sat alone in his truck in The Palace of Auburn Hills parking lot with a loaded gun.

Reeling over a tumultuous split from his first wife, Annie Bakes, whose marriage to the NBA star was mired in allegations of infidelity and abuse, Rodman drove to the Pistons' arena and contemplated suicide.

"Everything was really just unraveling," Rodman said on "Undeniable with Joe Buck." I just locked myself in my house for, like, 45 days.

"I really don't even think about that too much, but that was a life-changing experience for me. I think what saved me was Pearl Jam."

Rodman got hooked on Pearl Jam in 1991 and deeply connected to the hit song "Black," he told GQ in 2021. On the night he nearly killed himself, police found Rodman in his car with a rifle in his lap after he had fallen asleep listening to Pearl Jam.

"I think I was listening to a song called 'Black,'" Rodman told Buck. "I didn't want to kill Dennis, I just wanted to kill who he is today. I just wanted to change my life a little bit."

The traumatic impact of Daly's departure from the Pistons can be put into context with how Rodman had described his "tough" upbringing earlier in the interview.

"I never had anybody in my life that was positive," he said

It was difficult for Rodman's mother to connect with her children as a single parent working three jobs. Though, Rodman doesn't blame her for the lack of attention, as she did her best to support four kids on her own.

A few months after contemplating suicide, Rodman was dealt to the San Antonio Spurs, where he forged a new identity in an effort to erase the version of himself he once nearly killed. He began painting his nails, dying his hair and cross-dressing. This new persona, along with his high-profile relationship with Madonna, transcended Rodman from an athlete to a cultural figure.

"The city kind of embraced me," Rodman said. "But [Gregg] Popovich hated me. He hated me. He hated my guts."

Friction between Rodman and Popovich, who was general manager at the time, led to a trade that landed Rodman in Chicago with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.

The rest, of course, is earth-shattering NBA history. Rodman had a team that valued his skillset above all else, a coach who stood behind his free spirit, and a fanbase that cherished his blue-collar grit.

"I was a perfect fit for that team," Rodman said. "We got along really well. There was no bad time in Chicago. None."

Rodman was emotional throughout the nearly hour-long interview with Buck, bursting into tears the moment he stepped onstage.

"It's been a great ride for me, man," he said when asked about his emotional state. "A lot of people counting me out and saying, 'He's gonna die at 40, he's gonna die at 45.' When you go to Vegas and see people are betting on you to die, it's like, 'wow.'

"But I just prove people wrong. Because people say, 'He's a loose cannon, he's wild, he's this, he's that.' People don't give me a chance sometimes. And people always want me to act [like] this wild, crazy individual — this out of control person. I'm like, man, do you realize I've done a lot of good things on this planet? Do you realize that? But I can't say that because people want me to do the bad things so they can talk about it."

There are certainly aspects of his perplexing persona that can be traced back to childhood and early-adult life experiences. But trying to solve the puzzle of such a fantastical human is a fruitless endeavor. Perhaps the best way to understand Dennis Rodman is to accept, without judgement, that you never will.

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