The PLDT All-Star Basketball Challenge wasn’t just a dream come true for some of the Philippines’ biggest basketball fans.
It was also a dream come true for one Philander Rodman, Jr., the estranged father of NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman.
After over 40 long years, the US Air Force veteran finally had the opportunity to shake the hand of his son, whom he left when the boy was just five years old. Philander has had previous attempts to meet his son, including during Dennis’ first visit to Manila in 2006.
“I’ve been trying to meet him,” he said. “But I’m not getting any younger.”
Dennis had always shown animosity toward his father, most recently in his Hall of Fame induction speech. “I never had a father. My father left me when I was 5 years old. He has 47 kids in the Philippines,” said the younger Rodman.
But with the flamboyant basketball star softening his stance in the press conference of the All-Star Basketball Challenge last Tuesday, saying he would shake his father’s hand if he showed up at the game, the time was right for a reunion that was more than forty years in the making.
“I’m very, very excited. I can’t believe it,” Philander told InterAKTV moments before he met his son. “I’ve been trying for years and years and years (to meet with Dennis).”
“Finally, a dream come true.”
During a timeout in the fourth quarter, with 16 seconds left on the clock, Dennis Rodman took the microphone and acknowledged the presence of his father, sitting behind one of the baskets at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
“I haven’t seen my father in 42 years,” Dennis said. “But that’s him sitting right there.”
The elder Rodman was surprised by the acknowledgement. “I wanted to cry. It’s like he accepted me,” he said.
“First time he called me his father.”
After the game, Philander made his way to the hallway that connected the players’ locker rooms to the parking lot, and waited patiently for his son along with a throng of fans waiting to see what would happen.
One by one, the players filed away into the parking area. Jason Williams passed by. Mitch Richmond passed by. Scottie Pippen.
Finally, Dennis Rodman emerged from the door. He signed a few autographs for fans before making his way toward his father, and shook his hand.
“Who you with?” Dennis asked.
“With you, right now,” a teary-eyed Philander answered.
Philander Rodman finally got his handshake. He also left his contact information to Dennis, who was soon whisked away by bodyguards after a brief conversation.
The split and the ensuing animosity by his son toward him was painful, but Philander believes that things had worked out for the best for his son, whose illustrious basketball career includes five NBA championships and two Defensive Player of the Year awards.
“If people stop and think, probably the best thing I did for Dennis was not being with him,” he said. “’Cause maybe if I had been with him, I would’ve wanted him to play football. ‘Cause I love football.”
“And if I had made him play football, you wouldn’t be sitting here talking to me.”
But he stressed that he isn’t happy about how the split happened.
“I’m glad the situation left him the way he is today. But I’m not happy the way it went down. It went down bad. A lot of stories were told that were not true,” said Philander.
“I love my son. I want to hug him and explain to him, it’s wrong what they say about me.”
But at the end of the day, after years of trying, Philander Rodman’s dream of meeting his son finally came true.
“I can’t explain how it feels. It’s great.”