|Former Bulls coach Phil Jackson ushers Class of 2011 inductee Dennis Rodman into the Hall of Fame. (AP)|
Recognized for his basketball talents, Dennis Rodman instead talked about his personal shortcomings.
He hasn't been a very good husband or father. His relationship with his mother has been strained.
But he had four men he could turn to no matter how hard times got.
Choking up often during an emotional speech, Rodman was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday night, giving a look at what's underneath all the tattoos and outrageous outfits that he became as famous for as anything he did on the court.
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"I didn't play the game for the money, I didn't play the game to be famous," he said. "What you see here is more just an illusion, that I love to just be an individual that's very colorful."
Arriving at Symphony Hall in a gray suit, feather-lined cowboy hat and giant white sunglasses, he changed into another outfit for his speech, a red scarf and black jacket commemorating the Pistons and Bulls, the teams he helped win five NBA championships.
He thanked Commissioner David Stern and the NBA community "to even just have me in the building" and saved his deepest appreciation for coaches Phil Jackson and Chuck Daly, Lakers owner Jerry Buss, and James Rich, whose family took Rodman in after his mother threw him out of the house.
Rodman described them as "a mentor, a father, somebody you can look up to and call any time of day" who ignored his antics and "looked at an individual that had a good heart." His own father left when he was young and they never reconciled.
Jackson stood nearby as Rodman's presenter, and Rodman approached his former coach a couple of times as he struggled to get his words out.
The enshrinement of the flamboyant rebounding and defensive specialist capped the enshrinement of the 10-member class of 2011. Chris Mullin, the two-time Olympic gold medalist, opened the night as the other headliner.
The class also included coaches Tara VanDerveer, who has led Stanford to two national championships and won more than 800 games, Tex Winter and Division II Philadelphia University coach Herb Magee, the career leader at the collegiate level with more than 900 wins.
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 were honored.
Much of the attention was on Rodman, who stole the show for what he said instead of what he wore.
He apologized to his mother, who was in the crowd that didn't know quite what to expect from the always-entertaining Rodman but probably wasn't expecting to see such a look inside of him. He said he was like so many players who fought to get out the projects and make something of himself.
"I did that, but it took a lot of hard work and a lot of bumps along the road," Rodman said.
Mullin's journey began in New York.
A five-time All-Star with one of the game's best jump shots, he earned individual enshrinement after he was inducted last year with the 1992 U.S. Olympic Dream Team and also won a gold medal at the 1984 Olympics.
The left-hander followed a decorated amateur career by scoring more than 17,000 points in the NBA. The New York city product recalled his hometown in his speech, saying "Looking out, I realize I'm a long way from Flatbush Ave., but Brooklyn's definitely in the house tonight."
He stayed home to play in college at St. John's and was presented for enshrinement by his coach, Lou Carnesecca.
"I chose the best coach in the best city, and I played in the world's most famous arena," Mullin said.
VanDerveer called her enshrinement an "exciting homecoming for my mother, Rita," because her parents met at Springfield College. She ignored her father's pleas to focus on her algebra homework instead of basketball, learning from whatever coaches she could and going on to win a gold medal coaching the 1996 U.S. women's Olympic team.
"Thank you, Hall of Fame, for honoring my life's work," she said. "I'm forever grateful."
The induction of Rodman and Winter, the architect of the triangle offense, brought back Scottie Pippen and other players and coaches from the Bulls' dynasty of the 1990s. Winter, an assistant to Jackson on nine NBA championship teams, has been slowed after a stroke and struggles with his speaking -- his son, Chris, gave a lengthy speech on his behalf -- but felt well enough to make the trip for the weekend and what many considered overdue enshrinement.
"We're really excited for him. I know he is to. He's very happy about it," Jackson said before the ceremony. "He's been jumping the gun all night and all day yesterday, so I think it's a good time for him to do it, even though I wish he could express himself and say what he really has on his mind."
Sabonis, a dominant player in Europe long before he finally came from his native Lithuania to the NBA at 31, was presented by Bill Walton, who had described the versatile center as a "7-foot-3 Larry Bird." Later came the enshrinement of Gilmore, an ABA champion who went on to make six All-Star teams in the NBA, where he is still the league's career leader with a .599 field-goal percentage.
"Millions of people have laced up their sneakers since Dr. Naismith invented the game several miles from here in 1891 and every one of them would love to be in my shoes today," Gilmore said.