Former professional basketball star Dennis Rodman has said visiting gay and drag clubs inspired him during his 14-year-long NBA career.
Rodman, who won two titles with the Detroit Pistons early in his career, told GQ in a recently published interview that he hit a low and even considered taking his own life in 1993 after his coach, Chuck Daly, whom he viewed as a father figure, left the team.
He moved to Texas to play for the San Antonio Spurs, and began going to gay and drag clubs, inspired by the people he met, who he said lived life on their own terms.
“When you talk to people in the gay community, someone who does drag, something like that, they’re so fucking happy,” Rodman recounted. “They hold their head up so high every fucking day, man. They’re not ashamed of shit. They’re not trying to prove anything, they’re just out there living their lives.”
Rodman would often attend events in drag himself, telling the magazine that his experiences in San Antonio helped him remember a time, when he was younger, when his sisters would dress him in their clothes.
“I guess it kind of made me have a sense of awareness of, like, man, I used to dress like this as a kid,” he said. “Wearing a dress made me feel good. You know?”
Throughout his NBA career and in his public life, Rodman, who later won three more NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls, was known for his controversial antics, larger-than-life profile, and gender-bending style of dress off the court. He repeatedly dyed his hair different colors, sported multiple piercings and tattoos, and developed a reputation as a “bad boy” due to his combative nature when interacting with other players and referees on the court. He famously wore a wedding dress to promote his 1996 autobiography Bad As I Wanna Be.
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Rodman told GQ that he sometimes fantasized about having sex with men, though he says he never acted on those fantasies.
“I was wondering to myself, I said, ‘What if I was gay back then, in ’93, ’94? Would I be in the NBA?'” He thinks he would ultimately would have been accepted by teammates and the larger public due to his skills and work ethic, but the decade was much more socially conservative, and Rodman sometimes attracted criticism from detractors for his flamboyant personality and gender-fluid style of dress and expression.
Rodman has recently been thrust into the public spotlight due to the Netflix series The Last Dance, which premiered in 2020 and profiles Michael Jordan’s final season with the Bulls. Rodman told GQ he always felt he was a sharp contrast to the clean-cut, strait-laced Jordan in both personality and public persona.
“You got the greatest basketball player on the planet [Jordan], the second greatest in Scottie Pippen, and then you got [me] the devil,” he said.
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