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How the Worm Turns: Dennis Rodman Went from Working In a Dallas Airport to NBA Royalty to Almost Losing It All

At one time, five-time NBA champion Dennis Rodman was one of the most successful basketball players in the world. But poor life decisions and lack of financial planning have reduced his multi-million portfolio to around $500,000.

ATLANTA, GA – SEPTEMBER 24: Dennis Rodman attends 2022 Revolt Summit at 787 Windsor on September 24, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia.(Photo by Prince Williams/Wireimage)

Humble Beginnings

The athlete’s life has been complicated and nontraditional. The child of Shirley and Philander Rodman, Jr., Rodman raised in Dallas, Texas, after his father left the family. There is some dispute over how many siblings Rodman has. Some sources say he has two, but according to his father, he has either 26 or 28 siblings on his father’s side and Rodman has stated that he has 47 siblings.

Rodman quit the basketball team as a 5-foot-6 freshman at South Oak Cliff High School and didn’t play organized basketball again for years. After high school he had to work as a janitor at the Dallas airport to help the family make ends meet.

By 1983 a 22-year-old Rodman had sprouted in height to nearly 6 feet 8 and was playing recreationally when he was spotted by an assistant coach at Southeastern Oklahoma State. The coach recruited his unknown prospect to the NAIA school, and Rodman went on to star there for three seasons before being drafted in the second round by the Detroit Pistons in 1986, when he earned just $160,000 his first year in the league.

Hoop Dreams Realized

By his 1991-92 season with the Pistons, his annual salary graduated to $1 million. As a baller, he proved himself to be extremely valuable as a defensive player and rebounder.

Eventually playing for four other teams, the San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers, and Dallas Mavericks, over his career he may have made $27 million ($43 million with an inflation consideration). However, his behavior on and off the court cost him the luxury his talent once afforded him.

In 1991, according to the Clutch Points, the Detroit Pistons paid him approximately $2 million to play. Two years later, he was traded to the San Antonio Spurs from the Pistons and earned $5 million while on the team.

By 1995, he became a member of the Chicago Bulls and in the 1996-1997 season made $9 million.

However, the fame became too much for the star, and he started to allow outside opportunities to distract him from the sport.

Hollywood Comes Calling

MTV saw the rock star persona of Rodman and in 1996, gave him his own show, “The Rodman World Tour.” Between that time and 2000, he starred in a few movies including “Double Team,” “Simon Sez,” and “Cutaway.”

People could not get enough of him, prompting publishers to give him two book deals. The first of the autobiographies was released in 1996 and is called “Bad As I Wanna Be.” Almost a decade later, he followed that up with the 2005 offering, “I Should Be Dead By Now.”

He received book royalties from both projects and even started in a competition reality show called ABC’s “Celebrity Mole,” where he came in the first place and won $200,000.

Tantrums, Addiction, & Bad Business Manager

Rodman, nicknamed the “NBA’s Bad Boy,” started getting into major trouble after he moved to Chicago and became a part of one of the greatest basketball teams in history.

An example of his outlandish behavior, one that cost him an exorbitant fine, was when he kicked a cameraman in the groin in 1997. For this offense, he was fined $200,000 by the league. That was not the greatest penalty. He was suspended for 11 games, an estimated loss of about $1 million.

Two years later, in 1999, he married Michelle Moyer. The two had a son and a daughter. However, that relationship dissolved in 2012, and Rodman was required to pay both child and spousal support.

After his divorce crumbled, according to Sports Illustrated, Rodman (under the advisement of his then-business manager Peggy Ann Fulford) started connecting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, becoming one of the first Americans to go into the communist country. He was paid to make appearances like this.

According to AJ Bright, Rodman’s former assistant, the baller made money deejaying and making overseas appearances, commanding up to $30,000 each visit and raking in about $1 million a year.

But sources say his life was getting out of hand and his addictions to alcohol and drug became an issue, causing him to go into rehab, with one of the last times being in 2014.

Now, as a result of not working and making poor investments, he owes upward of $800,000 in child and spousal support.

Bright said his boss started to miss payments on his $5 million life insurance policy. Small bills, like his electric utility, would go unpaid and so Fulford took control of his bank accounts and cut off his access to his debit card.

She said his spending was out of hand, but some of her former clients like Ricky Williams from the Miami Dolphins believe she was siphoning off money from her clients without them knowing. He said she took about $1 million from him without him knowing.

This was confirmed by police, who said she was managing up to 85 accounts and moving money from each and living lavishly off others.

She also set up 20 shell companies to support her nefarious enterprise and to launder money. Two of those companies were the Dennis Rodman Group LLC.

According to the New York Post, Fulford was arrested on fraud charges in 2016, after multiple athletes accused her of mishandling their accounts

Attorney Bradford Cohen says that the athlete fired Fulford in 2015 and was actually “a victim.”

“During a hearing on child support we started to go over a lot of his bills and expenses to try and reduce the payment because he wasn’t making as much as he used to be,” Cohen said.

“We started to see weird charges, withdrawals he didn’t authorize, weird things going on with his accounts,” the lawyer said. “We discovered Peggy was writing checks off his account for exotic cars, homes, [and] jewelry. We reached out to the FBI and followed through with the investigation along the way.”

In 2018 U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison sentenced Fulford to 10 years in prison for scamming Rodman, Williams, and others and has required her to pay $5.7 million to those clients she stole from.

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