Dennis Rodman's mid-season Las Vegas party - would it happen in football?

May 26, 2020

Dennis Rodman's mid-season party in Las Vegas raised a few eyebrows among Chicago Bulls team-mates in 1997, but could it ever be sanctioned in football?

The Last Dance, a 10-part series available to watch on Netflix via Sky Q, tells the story of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s, with episode three focusing on eccentric power forward Rodman.

After being Robin to Jordan's Batman for most of the 1997/98 season while fellow star Scottie Pippen was out injured, Rodman then asked to take a 48-hour break in Las Vegas, having done so the previous year in the 1997 NBA Finals.

Coach Phil Jackson granted Rodman his Sin City party, but it would end up lasting longer than two days, with Jordan eventually travelling to Vegas to rip Rodman out of his hotel room bed before returning to the team.

Bulls eventually won their sixth NBA crown that season, and Rodman himself returned to his best form soon after, but could a team-sanctioned trip to party for a few days ever work in football?

Speaking on The Football Show on Monday, Graeme Souness and Jamie Carragher agreed it would be nearly impossible...

Souness: Everyone treated the same

"In my experience, no. You couldn't say: 'Tell you what, we're in the middle of a hard group of games, I'd like to go off to London or Paris for a few nights with my girlfriend.' No, it just wouldn't be accepted, whoever you are. My experience of the dressing rooms I was brought up in is that everyone was treated the same. Everyone the same.

"Kenny Dalglish and I were big people in that dressing room, but if we didn't do the business we'd be talked to exactly the same as a young guy being brought into the team.

"And I don't believe it could exist today either. You can't be seen to be treating someone so differently, to say to someone like Dennis Rodman: 'Go and take yourself off to Vegas, son.' That would just not work in a football environment as I understand it.

"Then again, there have been football managers like Phil Jackson who have just given the dressing room back to the players. When you've got such talented players, they don't need coaching, be told what to do when they're out there, there's not a lot you can tell them. They may think: 'I'll make them feel like they're running the club, it's their club, I'll let them get on with it.'"

Carra: There's a risk and reward

"I'm with Graeme, but it is fascinating. The coach, Phil Jackson, is a world-renowned coach, and it's the way he manages these superstars, and it was obviously proving to be successful.

"I agree you all get treated the same, but sometimes there's a risk and reward type situation… 'Can I put up with that because I'm getting this much out on the pitch?'

"The coach got it right because they won so much."

Carra: Jordan criticism? I loved his intensity

The documentary has been criticised in the weeks since its release, with claims it centred too closely around Jordan and not his Bulls team-mates, while some have criticised Jordan himself for bullying tactics and for "going too far" in tussles with team-mates.

But Carra welcomed Jordan's attitude, and insists in top-level sport you need that ruthless attitude to succeed.

"Some people are attacking Michael Jordan for the way he was. I just absolutely loved how intense the guy was. He got into rucks at times with team-mates, because he went so close to the line. When you're so passionate about something, it will push you to the line, and it's difficult not to cross that line.

"I was on a football pitch once and nearly struck one of my team-mates, I nearly punched Alvaro Arbeloa [in 2009]. I don't look back on that proud, but that was always going to happen at some stage because you were so intense, wanted to win and everything mattered.

"He took his team to somewhere they'd never been before, and broke all sorts of records in the NBA. The drive and relentlessness I admired, there's no way I would criticise that. When you see someone, who is an absolute winner, I have no problem with that. Top-level sport is tough, it should be tough.

"I always said this about people coming into the Liverpool dressing room when I was playing - what I didn't like was that I felt some players we brought in felt getting to Liverpool was: 'I've done it… I've achieved…' - but when you play for Liverpool you have to win trophies, keep driving on, have to push.

"I may be biased, but I'd always want those types of personalities, who would drive on, in my squad.

"And people complaining that there is too much Michael Jordan in it, that's like me complaining about a documentary on Istanbul and saying there's too much Steven Gerrard in it! He was our best player by a mile, Michael Jordan is their best player by a mile. There's no documentary without Michael Jordan! Of course there is a team, but there is always a superstar."

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