Once again the long and the luminous will gather for an All-Star basketball game without the company of Dennis Rodman, the NBA’s leading rebounder, all-around object d’art and, by any definition, a star.
This is as it should be, for to invoke the grouchiest of the Marx Brothers, Rodman should not be included in any assembly that would have him.
Finding Rodman at an All-Star Game would be as jarring as discovering an anchovy in the nougat.
Four Lakers? Four All-Star Lakers?
Maybe this was done just to make sure that at least one of them shows up, still a possibility.
But short of outright apathy toward the Bulls, there is no way to explain how the greatest basketball team on Earth has only one All-Star and the Lakers have four, even when that one All-Star is the star of all stars.
Or that Indiana and Atlanta have two. Each, not between them.
The last time a team trying to win its third title in a row had only one All-Star was … well, it was never.
The last time a team still trying to get out of its own conference’s semifinals had four All-Stars was … well, you’re looking at it.
And the last time an All-Star starter could not start for his own team was … well, history happens and his name is Kobe Bryant.
I think I’ve made my point. One Rodman is more tolerable than four Lakers.
If Rodman were the only other choice to give Michael Jordan company, then Rodman it should have been.
The usual inclusion of Scottie Pippen was forgone for understandable reasons, some of them Pippen’s pettiness but mostly Pippen’s long absence, not that it seemed to hurt Anfernee Hardaway.
Pippen would have had to be voted in, and Shawn Kemp took care of that.
Oh, Dennis …
When Houston’s Charles Barkley came through town a while back he was touting Rodman as the Bulls’ second best player, this after Pippen had returned to the team.
“Dennis should be on the All-Star team,” Barkley said. “He’s been a good boy, a really good boy.”
Coming from Barkley this was as valuable an endorsement as Rodman can have, since Barkley knows a bit about conduct - and rebounding - himself.
“He plays you guys like a fiddle,” Barkley told the press.
This is Barkley’s theory and not necessarily gospel, but he believes the Madonna act is over with Rodman, that Rodman has grown tired of feeding it and is lapsing into actual, noticeable human beingness.
“He’s a nice man,” Barkley said, “and a great guy.”
This was the same day that Barkley gave Jerry Springer a huge hug and said the same thing about him; still, I was willing to give the theory a test, and until the recent lapse in New York/Jersey (even Rodman isn’t sure where he was), I had to agree that Rodman had been no better or worse a citizen than the rest of the NBA.
Good conduct because of his contract? Maybe so. But maybe Barkley is right and Rodman now wants to rejoin the world of the real instead of the surreal.
And if putting him on the All-Star team would have helped, why not? Who’s going to miss Antoine Walker or Rik Smits anyhow?
Rodman has led the league in rebounding for the last seven years. He has been an All-Star twice, only once when he was the leading rebounder, and no time since his metamorphosis from athlete into burnished freakazoid.
Only three other times has the league’s leading rebounder not been chosen for the All-Star Game, putting Rodman in the company of Swen Nater, Michael Cage and Bill Laimbeer.
Not even Rodman deserves that. Laimbeer, I mean.