The Last Dance had the eyes of the world, much like WCW Nitro and Dennis Rodman did in 1998.
The ESPN documentary highlighted the unpredictable behavior of Hall of Fame Power Forward Dennis Rodman towards the end of the series. Specifically, the subject of Rodman choosing to visit WCW Nitro instead of attending an NBA Finals practice was broached. TNT maintains a relationship with the NBA to this day, and when speaking with Fightful, Bischoff revealed the feedback he got based on that.
"Ironically I didn’t (get much feedback)," Bischoff said. "I say ironically because my boss at the time was a guy by the name of Harvey Schiller. Harvey Schiller was the President of Turner Sports. One of Harvey Schiller’s most important jobs as Head of Turner Sports was to manage and maintain the working relationship between Turner Broadcasting and the NBA because Turner Broadcasting held the NBA rights on TNT and I think they still do. So, the fact this was all occurring during the NBA playoffs with a company, WCW, that was a part of Turner Broadcasting that held those rights, which is unique enough in and of itself, becomes even more hard to believe when my boss was the guy whose job was on the line for maintaining that relationship. To answer your question, no. I never got any real pushback. I got a couple questions. Harvey was curious, but not in an over handed way."
At the time, Rodman was one of the world's most famous athletes. He was the most colorful and eccentric basketball players on the world, on the Chicago Bulls team that was in the middle of winning three straight titles. In addition, he'd been the subject of Rodman World Tour, as well as the feature film Double Team. Not exactly common in sports.
"Let’s be honest about it, first and foremost, Dennis Rodman is a guy that comes along once every hundred years," said Bischoff. "He was an incredibly talented, just top in his game as a rebounder, athlete, who was kinda peculiar. He did his own thing. Guy showed up in a wedding dress to sign books. He was a whacked dude, and I think in a great way. So, that’s part of it. You’re not gonna find a lot of athletes that would be willing to do some of the crazy stuff that Dennis did. Maybe close."
The plethora of athletes who have made the jump over to pro wrestling contributed to the changing of most sports contracts to prohibit such activity. Bischoff looks at Rodman and this instance as a reason that ended up happening, but not the primary reason since "The Worm" didn't end up getting hurt.
"I think even more reason why you won’t see it again today and it becomes harder to imagine, is because I think—not because of what Dennis did—but, if you look back to the mid-90s, even before WWE, Lawrence Taylor and other people, NFL players, I think once the NFL and the NBA and other leagues started seeing talent from other leagues and other sports, as well as their own, getting into the ring and doing these physical things, knowing they’re doing them during their off season—which according to their contracts at the time was legal, nothing that prohibited them from doing it at that time—and they all went, “Nuh-uh. We got $80,000,000 wrapped up in this dude over the next five years and he’s out there getting bounced around like a ping-pong ball. No, we’re not gonna let that happen any more. I think a lot of contracts now make it so difficult—look at Ben Roethlisberger several years ago riding a motorcycle off season, almost killed him, but certainly had an impact on his season. I think those types of things have now gotten owners and leagues to go, “Alright, from now on, no hang gliding, no shooting yourself over the Snake River Canyon in a rocket ship, no wrestling," said Bischoff.
You can see Fightful's full interview with Eric Bischoff at the top of the page, but you can also check him out with Conrad Thompson on his 83 Weeks podcast each Monday on Westwood One. For bonus and ad-free episodes, you can also subscribe to Ad Free Shows.