The grind of an 82-game NBA season can be a grueling, marathon of a slog. In today's NBA, some players cope with the physical toll of playing so often by taking advantage of load management, a relatively new tactic that's rankled some of the game's old guard.
For the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls, one player in particular needed to take some time to recharge: enigmatic forward Dennis Rodman.
In the third episode of ESPN's 10-part documentary The Last Dance, Michael Jordan recounts a story of a time when Rodman, who'd seen his role and responsibility expand during the absence of All-Star Scottie Pippen, wanted to take some time to re-group after Pippen returned from injury. That led to a meeting between Rodman, Jordan and coach Phil Jackson.
"When Scottie was out, Dennis was a model citizen, to the point where it was driving him f***ing insane," Jordan said. "So, when Scottie came back, Dennis wanted to take a vacation."
Pippen did not play that season until Jan. 10 while dealing with a leg injury. While he was out, Rodman enjoyed a productive stretch, averaging 5.2 points, 15.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game.
"Dennis says, 'I need a vacation.' And I look at Phil and say 'Phil, what do you mean? A vacation?' He says, 'He needs a vacation, he needs some time off to let loose,'" Jordan said. "I said, 'Look, Phil, let me tell you something, man. If anybody needs a f***ing vacation, I need a vacation.'"
"We look at Dennis and say, 'Dennis, what are you gonna do?' He says, 'Well, I need to go to Vegas.' (I said) 'Phil, you let this dude go to vacation, we're not gonna see him. You let him go to Vegas, we're definitely not gonna see him.' He looks at Dennis and says, 'Dennis, well, can your vacation be, like, 48 hours?' And Dennis is like, 'I got no other choice, I'll take whatever you can give me, I'll take the 48 hours.'"
Rodman played in all but two games that season—a home game against the Hornets on Jan. 21, and an away game at New Jersey on Jan. 23. The Bulls won both, beating Charlotte by 31 and the Nets by two.