Drop the name Dennis Rodman to any basketball fan who lived through the 80s and 90s. Immediately they will conjure up a mental image of a tattooed man with brightly-dyed hair that dominated the NBA defensive game amongst some of the greatest players of that time.
At the pinnacle of his career, Dennis Rodman ruled the court with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippin to lead the Chicago Bulls to repeated victories. But the Bulls were not the only team that benefited from the skill and passion Rodman brought to the game.
Rodman also wore jerseys for The Detroit Pistons, San Antonio Spurs, LA Lakers, and Dallas Mavericks. Hailed by Sports Illustrated as a basketball genius, he led the NBA in rebounding for seven consecutive years and helped lead his teams to five NBA championships.
Although basketball brought him to the forefront of media attention, he’s much more than just a retired basketball player. When the tenacious star sat down with Jay Shetty on an episode of his podcast, talk quickly turned from Rodman’s passionate love of the game to where he is in life these days, and how he defines himself.
Rodman is uniquely introspective and never shy to speak his mind, and his conversation with Jay Shetty is honest and vulnerable. Their refreshing exchange is indicative of Rodman’s essence. He’s always himself, never ashamed of his truth, and forever haunted by how he can improve.
Who is Dennis Rodman?
“I want to hear it in your own words,” said Jay Shetty, as he shifted focus from small talk to the real reason for their meeting, “because, I think, when anyone is as in the public eye as you are, everyone has their version of who they think that person is. But what I’m interested in is, who is Dennis Rodman in the current version of how you see yourself?”
“It’s very difficult to explain who I really am,” Rodman told Jay Shetty. “In the beginning, I was such a good and diverse individual, but now it’s more like people expect me to do something great, to do something really big.”
As evidenced by his unlikely friendship with Kim Jong-Un and his early and outspoken support for the LGBTQ community, Rodman steps into unlikely spaces. He considers himself a “bridge man”. He takes pride in the fact that his pushing the envelope connects people, but also takes them by surprise.
What Drives Him?
“When you’ve done so much in your life, it’s hard to really wake up in the morning and wonder what can you do that’s different, that’s gonna excite your life every day,” Rodman told Jay Shetty. “You know, a lot of people say I’ve done everything in the world.”
He admits that it is sometimes hard to drown out the noise of the outside world and come to terms with his inner demons. Rodman told Jay Shetty that he has been on this journey of peace and self discovery much of his life.
This same pursuit of greatness and love of the game motivated Rodman to give his all on the court. For Dennis Rodman, it was never about money or praise. It was about how much he loved to play and what he had to offer.
What Haunts Him?
The siren song of greatness has had a strong pull on Dennis Rodman, but his single-minded focus has left him self-admittedly lacking in other areas. When Jay Shetty asks him about fatherhood, it strikes a chord.
Dennis admits that the subject is a sore one for him. He readily admits that his quest for greatness and impact, he focused on himself to the exclusion of his children. He’s haunted by his shortcomings as a father.
“The only thing that I can’t seem to figure out is that question, ‘Why? Why am I a bad Dad?’” Rodman admitted to Jay Shetty with regret. While he acknowledges that he has tried to work on the problem, he knows it’s not something he can do alone.
“I think I need someone, maybe my kids, to sit me down and say ‘Hey, pay attention. It’s not all about you every day.’”
“Sometimes until we experience deep pain, we don’t feel forced to change,” said Jay Shetty, encouraging Rodman to dig deeper, “and I’m sure you’ve experienced that in your life where deep pain brought about big changes in your life.”
Life has not been easy for Rodman. Despite his massive success, he’s also experienced suffering. Clearly, though, he is moving in the direction of learning and growth. What more could be asked of him?
What Thrills Him?
Finding joy and fulfillment in unlikely places seems par for the course for the colorful baller. His voice fills with excitement and he thrills at the memory of Tiger Woods coming back to win the Masters.
As for his own personal victories, they are stored on the court or with people; not in the bank. For Rodman, the game of basketball was a labor of love. Money and fame were a cherry on top, but the drive to serve surpassed that.
“I didn’t play the game for the money,” he told Jay Shetty. “I didn’t play the game for accolades. I didn’t play the game to be famous. I just love the game. I love making people happy. That’s all. So that right there is the happiest time of my life.”
It is safe to say that the rest of Rodman’s life follows suit. He lives out the belief that there is more to life than money and fame, and his relationships bear witness to that belief.
Befriending North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Un took the world by surprise. A regime surrounded by fear and mystery seemed a little more down-to-earth when Rodman was there spending time with the leader’s family. He likes to believe that he has played a part in how the leader has warmed to America a little.
What Moves Him Forward?
Like many, Rodman looks to the future and expects great things from the year 2020. He believes the focus on this year started long ago and is significant. He’s even planned a special project, which he shared with Jay Shetty. He calls it Project 20–20–20.
Project 20–20–20, Rodman tells Jay Shetty, is a way to reflect and learn from the past while focusing on how to move into the future with intention. The idea is simple. Find 20 people and ask them 20 questions about the last 20 years of their life.
“I think that’s a brilliant idea!” said Jay Shetty. “People are so fascinated by you, Dennis. Who would be your 20 people that you’re fascinated by?” Rodman also believes that getting the perspective of at least 10 kids would really be enlightening for learning and shaping a new generation of greatness.
As the pair begin to wrap up their time together, Rodman told Jay Shetty that his goal is to keep on living and finding ways to spread greatness every day. His work, he believes, is not yet done.
Whether that is continuing to open the doors for connection in unlikely places, learning more about being a better father, or admonishing today’s pro-athletes to keep their priorities straight, Rodman, won’t stop looking for meaning.
More From Jay Shetty & Dennis Rodman
Listen to the entire On Purpose with Jay Shetty podcast episode on, “Dealing With Negativity and Using Pain to Find Your Potential” now in the iTunes store or on Spotify. For more inspirational stories and messages like this, check out Jay’s website at jayshetty.me.