If you read only one story on the Detroit Pistons today, it should be this post at the latimes.com SportsNow blog. It's one in a series of posts about sports urban legends, and it is one that I was never even aware of:
BASKETBALL URBAN LEGEND: Allergies allowed the Detroit Pistons to, in effect, steal Dennis Rodman in the 1986 NBA Draft.
If you're not hooked right there, I'm not sure you're a Pistons fan. Then again, maybe I'm not a real fan because this came as a total surprise to me and the author of the post, Brian Cronin, thanks the authors of the 2002 book "The Detroit Pistons: More Than Four Decades of Motor City Memories," Steve Addy and Jeffrey Karzen, so maybe the story was first told 10 years ago.
And oh, what a story it is.
Long story short, Rodman was an unheralded player that blows up in the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament and gets every NBA talent evaluator's tongue wagging. Two poor showings in successive tournaments cools everyone's interest.
So how did the best player in the 1986 draft last until pick No. 27? The Pistons were smart and lucky enough to have an "ace in the hole" and knew there was something more to the story.
Luckily for the Pistons, they had an ace in the hole. Rodman's agent Bill Pollack was good friends with the Pistons' trainer, Mike Abdenour, and during the Chicago workouts, Pollack invited Abdenour to Rodman's room. Abdenour later recalled, "Dennis had allergies to almost everything. Cat hair, you name it. In Chicago, it was so hot and humid, the kid could hardly breathe, let alone play basketball."
Can I just say again how much I love that we have trainer wunderkind Mike Abdenour on our staff? I knew he was great before but if we can pretty much peg him as the reason that the Pistons were able to land one of the greatest defenders of all time, I think they should retire his uniform or maybe his awesome mustache.
And believe it or not, the story gets even better.
You see, it wasn't just a story of the Pistons having information that made them comfortable enough to draft Rodman after he stunk up a couple showcase opportunities. They were ready to make a gamble that paid off big time:
All things being equal, he would have Rodman ranked #1 on his board and would take him with the #11 pick. However, he wondered if he was the only GM that knew Rodman's situation. McCloskey began working the phone lines and having his assistants do the same, trying to gauge what other teams thought of Rodman. You see, McCloskey also wanted John Salley, as he wished to concentrate on defense in the Draft and Salley was a powerful shot blocker out of Georgia Tech. McCloskey knew that Salley would be there at #11 but he also knew that Salley would definitely not be there when the Pistons next made a pick, which was the third pick of the second round (#27 overall). So McCloskey decided to take a risk. Every other team seemed to have written Rodman off after Hawaii and Chicago, so McCloskey had to cross his fingers and just hope that Rodman would be there at #27.
Pardon my French, but it takes some brass balls to see a player as the No. 1 pick on your board, better than everyone else in the draft, and having the opportunity to pick him when your turn comes around and not draft him. To take the highly regarded Salley and then sweat for 15 more picks until your turn came up again, hoping that nobody else was interested in the future Hall of Famer. It was a gutsy calculated risk by McCloskey, and it paid off big time -- netting them two integral pieces to back-to-back titles in 1989 and 1990.
Writer Brian Cronin wraps up the piece this way:
Rodman is the only player from the 1986 Draft so far to make it into the Basketball Hall of Fame for his NBA playing career (Arvydas Sabonis was inducted for his international play). And who knows how his career would have went if it were not for allergies!
Thankfully for Pistons fans, it is something we never have to think about.