Dennis Rodman Tried to Transcend Sports With Action Movie Stardom

For a time in the 1990s, Dennis Rodman might have been a bigger celebrity than Michael Jordan. While Jordan had all of the acclaim on the basketball court, Rodman was becoming a tabloid golden child whose exploits made headlines beyond the sports rags. One of Rodman’s more fascinating career moves, however, was a brief spell in the late 1990s when he tried to become the next big action movie star. 

Dennis Rodman holding out his hands, smiling slightly in front of a repeating background
Dennis Rodman | Rich Fury/Getty Images

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Rodman’s image in the 1990s

Nothing about Rodman’s career was normal. According to ESPN, He never played basketball before college because he wasn’t tall enough. After a nine-inch growth spurt when he was 19 years old, however, everything changed. He took his talents to a Division II school in Oklahoma where his hard work and intensity made him an intriguing prospect for NBA scouts. That got him to the Detroit Pistons.

Over the next few years, Rodman was an emotional centerpiece to the Bad Boy era of Detroit basketball. When that legendary team broke up, however, he was traded to the San Antonio Spurs. It was here that his first inklings of being an action star took form. Rodman, who had always used his natural hair color, showed up to a Spurs event wearing bleach-blonde hair in honor of Wesley Snipes’ character in Demolition Man. He was never the same. 

By the time that Rodman got to the Bulls in 1996, he was joining the most legendary team that was ever assembled. His antics got more attention, and as the attention grew, so did his strange behavior. Sudden marriages to supermodels, memorable book signings, and appearances at WCW events made him a magnet for attention. He used that status as a household name to break into Hollywood and try his hand at acting. 

Double Team

Before 1997, Rodman had cameo roles in several television shows and movies. His larger than life personality made him a natural for such endeavors. It was the 1997 film Double Team that turned him into a leading man in a Hollywood blockbuster. The film paired Rodman with action superstar Jean-Claude Van Damme as they took on a villain played by Mickey Rourke, according to IMDb.

Playing Yaz, an arms dealer who teams up with Van Damme as they fight Rourke’s terrorist plot, Rodman had the time of his life. He spat one-liners, fought hand to hand, and even got a few self-referential jokes into the mix. The film was a commercial and a critical flop, although it has its fans between Rodman and Van Damme. The failure of Double Team did not stop Rodman from trying again, however. 

Simon Sez

Rodman tried his hand as a leading man once again in 1999. In Simon Sez, he plays a spy who is hellbent on defeating an arms dealer who is trying to wreak havoc on the world. Rodman was joined by a then-unknown Dane Cook, according to IMDb. Unfortunately for him, audiences once again showed that Rodman’s star power was not enough to bleed over into Hollywood. 

While NBA stars such as Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal had proven that they could headline movies, Rodman was a more notorious figure. He was more of a curiosity than the other names, and seeing him act on the big screen was different than seeing his real-life antics. The film made only $292,000 at the box office against a $10 million budget, as reported by Box Office Mojo.

Rodman took on several smaller movies and television shows, but he never was a draw that other athletes-turned-actors proved to be. As a time capsule for Rodman’s life, however, the movies serve as a fascinating reminder that he was once big enough to headline large-scale movies. The movies may not have hit, but they are just as much a part of his legacy as all the other crazy shenanigans Rodman found himself inside.