In the late 1990s, the Chicago Bulls and the Utah Jazz became one of the game's biggest rivalries. This is because of the two teams meeting in the NBA Finals in back-to-back years.
As you may already know, the Bulls, led by the G.O.A.T., Michael Jordan, won each time they faced. The games in those series were physical, like most games were during the 1990s.
This was especially true between Utah Jazz legend, Karl Malone, and Chicago Bulls “badboy”, Dennis Rodman.
On the court, the two seemed to be going at it with hard hits and unnecessary plays.
The two basketball players would play up this rivalry between the two, and they ultimately started to promote a different matchup they planned to have after the NBA season.
As the famous The Last Dance showcased in Episode 10, during the 1998 NBA Finals, before Game 4 of the series, Rodman missed practice to participate in WCW's “Monday Nitro”.
Rodman came out as a member of the NWO, alongside Hollywood Hulk Hogan. Rodman showed his showmanship in the ring, he appeared to be a natural.
The media caught wind of this story, and it became top news.
Luckily for Chicago Bulls fans, this incident by Rodman didn't cause the Bulls to lose focus as they went on to win the title 4-2 on Michael Jordan's famous last shot.
After the NBA Finals were over, while fans were wondering if Jordan would retire, and if the Bulls would break up the team, Rodman, alongside Karl Malone, decided to give their fans one last head-to-head.
It was July 12th, 1998, WCW had their huge pay-per-view special, called Bash at the Beach, ready to go.
The main event that evening featured Hollywood Hulk Hogan teaming up with Rodman, also known as “Rodzilla” to face WCW star Diamond Dallas Page and, yes, Karl Malone.
Many NBA sportscasters couldn't believe Malone would participate in this type of event. Malone would actually say later that before basketball, as a kid, he had dreams of becoming a professional wrestler.
So, Malone and the fans of both basketball and wrestling would get what they want on that July 12th night in 1998… right?
Well, not really. The match, which was the main event of the evening, lasted for 23 minutes and 47 seconds. This, at first glance, might appear like the match was an exciting long fight.
This was far from the truth, unfortunately. To many fans, the match wasn't good. Rodman played his role great, but his wrestling skills weren't so great.
Malone actually wrestled pretty well, this is especially true since he wasn't a professional. But it didn't seem to help change the minds of fans who felt the match was boring.
Many hardcore wrestling fans point to this match as the downfall of the WCW.
After this match, the WCW went the route of gimmicky stunts, rather than the good quality wrestling that helped it beat the WWF in the rating department for 83 consecutive weeks.
The hype was there, led by WCW Senior Vice President, Eric Bischoff, who told Rodman during the finals to go after Malone, to hype up their upcoming match.
“I got a hold of Dennis through his manager at the time, Dwight Manley. I said ‘Look, nothing during the game. I don’t want to be accused of screwing up a game, be it playoffs. But if there’s any chance when you guys are kind of in-between, or if you’re off the court you know near the court there’s cameras running, if you guys could like push and shove each other a little bit, you know kind of raise the heat, raise the temperature just a bit. I wouldn’t be disappointed if something like that were to happen. I’m not telling you to do it!’ I’m just telling you if something were to happen like that, I’d be pretty happy about it,” Bischoff explained.
Like I mentioned earlier, even with the hype, the match underperformed and started the downfall of the WCW. On March 26th, 2001, the WWF bought out the WCW.
As for the two NBA players, Rodman would attempt to play in 1999 with the Los Angeles Lakers and in 2000 with the Dallas Mavericks.
Rodman would sparingly play 35 games between the two years before officially retiring as a 5-time NBA champion.
Malone would go on to win the 1998-99 NBA MVP, and he'd make it back to the NBA Finals one more time in the 2003-04 season as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers would lose in the Finals, and Malone would officially retire as the second all-time points scorer in league history.
Will the NBA ever see two of their players go off and participate in a wrestling match while promoting it during the NBA Finals?
I think not, then yet again, this isn't the 90s NBA anymore.