AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- The tears fell, as we knew they would. For all the culture shock imagery of Dennis Rodman's post-Pistons life, he remains that child of wonderment still disbelieving that an early life of hardship didn't stop him from reaching this point of grand achievement.
Isiah Thomas reminded him at the beginning of his jersey retirement ceremony Friday that Detroit always will be his family.
"Dennis, you've been to a lot of places, but there's no place like home," the captain told him. "You will always be a Piston."
When it became Rodman's turn to address the screaming Palace crowd, he waved everybody off. He needed time to regain his composure. But when he did, he expressed his appreciation for an honor he still believes he didn't deserve.
He was wrong.
Without him, the Bad Boys don't win back-to-back championships.
He stood beside his wife and two of his three children who were at the ceremony as a banner bearing his No. 10 was raised to the rafters in a moving ceremony.
"Thank you, Isiah, for making me cry," Rodman said in closing his speech, "you damn bastard."
Rodman wore a custom-made black jacket with a studded D.R. on the lapel and a No. 10 on the back. He thanked his teammates, whom he said were "like my big brothers."
He held up a shirt that had a picture of the late Chuck Daly and the late Bill Davidson on the front and a "Thank You, Detroit" message on the back and presented it to owner Karen Davidson, who was greeted with boos from the crowd when she was introduced.
It was a banner day for Rodman in more than one regard. He'll be announced as a new member of the Basketball Hall of Fame on Monday.
"He changed the way people thought of defensive players," said Jack McCloskey, the general manager who took a second-round gamble 25 years ago on a lanky jumping-jack from college basketball's dustbowl. McCloskey and his wife, Leslie, came up from Georgia for the ceremony because "there was no way he was missing this."
Nine-year-old Trinity Rodman appeared confused when looking at photographs of her father during his early Piston days, before the body painting and facial piercings. She looked up at her mother.
"That's your daddy," Michelle assured her daughter.
"It doesn't look like him," the little girl said.
Ten-year-old Dennis Rodman Jr. seemed star-struck at the attention lavished on his father Thursday night at Ginopolis. I asked him if he was excited about the honor that awaited his father Friday night.
"I guess so," he answered, still attempting to process why all these strangers wanted a minute of his father's time.
It had been more than 10 years since John Ginopolis, the patriarch of the restaurant family, last saw Rodman. Rodman and Ginopolis' son, Pete, were best friends. Rodman would often spend Christmas holidays at their home. The restaurant became his sanctuary during his Piston days.
And like many others fond of Rodman, Ginopolis worried about the path Rodman's life took after he left Detroit. He morphed from rebounder to rock star to rebel without a cause once Madonna taught him about marketing a contrarian, insubordinate image. Out came the wedding dress, the fake eyelashes, the boas and the sense that Rodman was a loose cannon and that final eruption could come at any minute -- so you had better watch. Rodman admitted before the ceremony that he's stunned he's just four weeks away from his 50th birthday.
"Y'all weren't alone thinking that I might not make it that long," he said after leaving the podium during his news conference. "I wasn't sure that I was going to make it myself. But everything's cool."
Rodman finally appears at peace with the decisions made and the occasionally twisted road travelled. He offered no apologies, no regrets. He shouldn't have, either. He deserved this night for everyone to tell him, "Thank you."