As we slowly begin to reopen the state amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the list of things we haven’t had access to will start to lessen. One aspect of our everyday lives that has gone missing is sports. While not the most important in the grand scheme of things, sports provide a much-needed escape that we all are missing in our lives.
In Chicago, sports are serious business, and the lack of our favorite teams being able to play has left an enormous hole in our everyday activities. Sports bring people together and give a reason for us to rejoice when our favorite teams win and a reason for us to mourn when they lose. Sure, it’s only a game, but the fact that our favorite sports are responsible for so much more than merely wins and losses illustrates just how important they are when it comes to bringing people from all walks of life together. So let’s take some time to focus on the greatest athletes to don a Chicago uniform and help make the Windy City the great sports town that it is. Today we start with the Chicago Bulls.
Michael Jordan: A bit of a no-brainer, right? The greatest basketball player of all time (go ahead and debate it all you want, Chicagoans know the truth), Jordan elevated the game in the 90s, and his influence is seen in the superstars who have come after him. His Airness brought six championships to Chicago in the 90s and dropped jaws on a nightly basis with his amazing athleticism on both sides of the floor. Jordan possessed that unique ability to will greatness to happen time and time again, and his 90s Bulls teams are something that Chicago, and the rest of the world, will forever celebrate.
Scottie Pippen: To say Pippen was the Robin to Michael Jordan’s Batman is selling the two-time Basketball Hall of Fame inductee short. Sure, Pippen was in the shadow of Jordan, but MJ could not have won those six championships without Scottie’s lockdown defense and ability to do everything needed on the offensive side of the ball. The seven-time NBA All-Star displayed throughout his twelve season career that winning was in his blood, and his stats easily make him a top 20 player of all time.
Derrick Rose: After Jordan left the Bulls after the 1998 season, things were grim around the United Center for the better part of the following decade. Then the organization landed the #1 pick in the 2008 draft and selected hometown hero Derrick Rose. Immediately the team got better with the presence of Rose and his kamikaze offensive style that was fearless and lethal. Rose was named Rookie of the Year in 2008 and became the youngest player ever to win the NBA Most Valuable Player Award in 2011 at the age of only 22. Despite being poised to help the Bulls reach the Finals for the first since the Jordan years, Rose injured his knee, and a revolving door of injuries sidelined the superstar for many years. While no longer a Bull, Rose had scrapped his way back to being a threat in the league long after many had written him off. Not bad for a Chicago kid who refused to give up.
Bob Love: Going back in time a bit, but there’s no denying that Bob Love is one the greatest players to don a Chicago Bulls uniform. From 1968 to 1977, Love earned three All-Star appearances, made the All-NBA Defensive Second Team on three occasions as well as making the All-NBA Second Team two times. During his best years as a Bull, Love averaged 25 points a game, 8 rebounds, and 2 assists.
Jerry Sloan and Norm Van Lier: We had to include these two players to round out the top 5 because together, they formed one of the most dominant defensive duos of all time. Sloan spent 10 seasons with Bulls from 1966 to 1976, and while a decent scorer and strong rebounder, it was his defense that opposing teams feared.
Likewise, Stormin’ Norman Van Lier wasn’t an offensive juggernaut but excelled on the other end of the court throughout his tenure with the Bulls during the 70s. During their time together, these two backcourt beasts ranked in the top 10 for steals per game and made the NBA All-Defensive Team numerous times. Grit, intensity, and aggression made the combo of Sloan and Van Lier an unstop-a-bull force.
Notable mentions to Horace Grant, Dennis Rodman, Luol Deng, Artis Gilmore, and Toni Kukoc.
While we patiently wait for our beloved sports to return, it’s always a thrill to rewatch these players’ highlights on YouTube. Hopefully, with new management in place, the Bulls can soon bring back some championships to our city.
ERIC KAPLAN AND DEAN’S TEAM CHICAGO