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“He’s Breathing Funny”: Using Dennis Rodman’s Disease to Advantage, 4x NBA Champion Once Infuriated Alonzo Mourning

Published 08/14/2023, 10:50 AM EDT

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The Chicago Bulls dynasty set the precedent for all great teams following their 6 NBA championships in the 90s. While the success continued on the court, teammates were pulling each other’s legs and dealing with off-court shenanigans. Among them, Dennis Rodman and a 4x NBA champion knew how well either of them operated, as they had been teammates so often. So fans were once provided with some inside gossip on one of The Worm‘s infamous videos by the 4x champ.

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Dennis Rodman has a lot of antics that have gone down in infamy. It would be safe to claim that he was the most flamboyant player in NBA history. But someone who’s spent more than half his career next to Rodman revealed that the 5x champion was sharper than his off-court shenanigans made it seem.

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If you’ve been teammates as long as Dennis Rodman and John Salley have, you’re bound to know about each other’s lesser-known tendencies. Salley and Rodman began their NBA careers together and were on three teams together. During that time with the Bulls, Rodman had a way of getting into his opponents’ heads.

Jordan’s Bulls found a formidable opponent later in Miami Heat led by 7x All-Star Alonzo Mourning. They’d infamously get into scuffles on the court, instigated by Rodman and Salley. Salley appeared on Showtime’s All The Smoke last year and revealed how he and his friend provoked Mourning. As serious as their clashes were, the inside story was hilarious.


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He went back to one instance where Mourning was irritated by their antics. “No one ever threw a punch at me,” Salley told the hosts. “I remember I told one guy, I told Alonzo [Mourning], I said, ‘Swing at me.’

Rodman would join in to mess with him more. “We just started messing with him. I said, ‘Dennis [Rodman] thinks you’re cute.’ Dennis had asthma, so he’s breathing funny. And he [Mourning] said, ‘What’s wrong with y’all?!’ ‘He thinks you’re cute.”

This reminded host Stephen Jackson of what followed. According to the 45-year-old, Mourning shouted, “You a sick mf. Man you sick.” Salley recalled Rodman often went to great lengths to get under Alonzo’s skin and goad him into technical fouls. He wasn’t just using his asthma to an advantage, he also resorted to hilarious trash talk.


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Dennis is like any way to get in his head, like ‘His calves. I don’t know. Look at his calves. Got great calves.’ Looks at his calves. ‘Calves are great. How’d you get calves like that?’ Alonzo was like, ‘Y’all are sick.” There is video evidence of Mourning calling Rodman “sick” at the game. So you could say Rodman’s tactics worked.

The Bulls dominated the Heat, perhaps thanks to ‘The Worm’ and ‘Spider’s’ messing with their strongest foe, Alonzo Mourning. Rodman has never made a secret of his troubles and antics. He penned an entire book on his personal ups and downs. His romantic drama and his partying ways used to raise concerns about him. In recent history, fans questioned if he’s alright for tattooing his girlfriend, Yella Yella’s likeness on his face.


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Nothing took away from his skills as an athlete. But a little mind game didn’t hurt. Rodman’s talent there was as out there as his personality. What are your thoughts on this story? Let us know in the comments.

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Written by:

Caroline John


One take at a time

Caroline John is an NBA writer at EssentiallySports. She has been covering athletes outside the sports arena since the start of her reporting career. A writer at heart, she graduated with a degree in journalism from a reputed university.
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Edited by:

Pragya Vashisth