Dennis Rodman once admitted that Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, and James Worthy were the toughest people to guard for him.
Dennis Rodman, Michael Jordan, and Scottie Pippen made 27 All-Defensive teams as a whole during their careers. So, when they teamed up on the Chicago Bulls in summer of ‘95, it’s safe to say that the realm of NBA basketball was sent for a tailspin upon the formation of this new ‘Big 3’.
Rodman of course, was one of the most versatile defenders in NBA history. Despite being no taller than 6’8, ‘The Worm’ made his impact felt on the floor through his grit, hustle, defensive prowess, and animalistic rebounding.
He had the ability to switch onto players from 2 to 5 and hold his own, often being tasked with guarding guys like Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, or even guards of the caliber of Clyde Drexler on a switch.
Dennis Rodman was the complete package on that end of the floor but everyone has their kryptonite or some version of that. For Rodman, there were 3 guys in the league who served as this for him.
Dennis Rodman on Charles Barkley and Karl Malone.
Dennis Rodman was asked in an interview with HoopsHype about who he would anoint as the players who gave him the most trouble on the defensive end of the floor. With no explanation from his side, he would say that they were Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, and James Worthy.
Chuck played a similar style to his on the boards so the two matched up frequently when playing against each other’s teams. ‘The Round Mound of Rebound’ was also uncharacteristically fast for his size when in the open court.
Karl Malone was extremely savvy in the post. Get too close to him and he’d spin right away from you and to the basket. Take a few steps back and he’d hit you with a consistent barrage of 13-footers. Not to mention the fact that Rodman was quite undersized against ‘The Mailman’ who had size and strength over him.
James Worthy was the Swiss-army knife of the Los Angeles Lakers during their title runs in the mid to late 80s. He had the mid-range game, had the quick burst off the first step, and had incredible touch around the rim. ‘Big Game James’ was truly an underrated and often forgotten cornerstone of those Magic-Kareem squads.