'The Last Dance': How Dennis Rodman and Karl Malone's rivalry crossed the basketball court and entered WCW
'The Last Dance' may have ended its five-week epic run, but the ESPN docuseries is still being discussed widely.
One of the players who received ample screentime was Dennis Rodman, the quintessential bad boy of the Chicago Bulls. Rodman had an intense rivalry with Utah Jazz star Karl Malone and this wasn't limited to just basketball.
Both stars had a stint in the wrestling world. Rodman and Malone faced off in a WCW’s Nitro scrimmage partnering with Hollywood Hogan and Diamond Dallas Page in 1998. Rodman and Hogan may have won that fight, but the ring bout had other repercussions. For instance, according to former WCW President Eric Bischoff, an incident during Game 6 of the NBA finals against Jazz was done so as to promote their WCW bout. In an interview with TMZ, Bischoff spoke about the matter.
"Now, what I said to Dennis, not to Karl was, ‘Hey Dennis, if anything were to happen off-court while there’s a timeout, while there’s no gameplay... so that the feud between Karl Malone and Dennis Rodman is real, on a kind of a 360-degree basis, not just what happens on our TV show,’ that wouldn’t piss me off at all."
"I chuckled like a little kid because it accomplished so much. As a wrestling producer, to be able to create a moment... that played out on a platform so huge as the NBA playoffs was really satisfying,” he added.
According to basketball network, Malone was a major fan of pro-wrestling, Page and Malone struck a friendship during the 1997-98 Houston season and eventually made plans where they pitched the idea of a tag team match against Hogan and Rodman. The event was slated to take place on July 12, 1998, and the news of Rodman and Malone squaring up at the Cox Arena was slowly building steam.
But what exactly happened? You can watch the clip here:
Game 6 against the Jazz wasn't famous for just Michael Jordan's shot over Bryon Russell, it also made headlines for a Rodman-Malone stand-off on the court with the former being slapped with a technical foul for tripping Malone. Soon after the game, Malone headed back to Atlanta to prepare for the bout with Page. The tag team tussle lasted 23 minutes with Rodman and Hogan eventually winning the event. The site also added that Rodman and Malone raked in $1.5 million and $900,000 respectively for the match.
Bischoff said he didn't expect Rodman to skip practice between Games 3 and 4 to jet down for the WCW Nitro. "That decision was all Dennis," he said.
Despite this stunt, there wasn't much of a setback for the Bulls as they went to clinch what was a nail-biting series. Rodman too was having a great finals. According to Fansided, he registered one block per game and more than one steal per game. He also had two games with double-digit rebounds and sizzled in a reduced role as Toni Kukoc was getting more time on the floor.
But when he was back on the court, Rodman played as a man possessed. Much of the credit for this must be attributed to coach Phil Jackson, who defended Rodman in front of the media and also had an innate knowledge about his team and their mindsets. While much of the opposition had looked at this as a way to gloat at Rodman, the Bulls were actually planning to make their dream of a second three-peat a reality.