Chicago Sports Franchises: Chicago Bulls
March 2, 2011 Leave a comment
NBA Championships: (6) 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 1998
Retired Numbers: #4 Jerry Sloan, #10 Bob Love, #23 Michael Jordan, #33 Scottie Pippen
Rivals: Detroit Pistons, Utah Jazz, Indiana Pacers, New York Knicks
When we say Bulls, you say Jordan. However hard it is to believe, as there seems to be life after Jordan in the current state of affairs in Chicago, there was also life before Jordan. The Bulls began play in the 1966-67 season, and immediately posted the best record by an expansion team in NBA history, qualifying for the playoffs. Over the next few years, the Bulls assembled a powerhouse roster, built by Jerry Sloan, Bob Love, and company, but only won one division title in the 70’s, never making it to the Finals.
The 1980’s were a rough time, as the fate of the Bulls organization were decided by a coin toss with the Lakers as to who would get to select the first round pick in the NBA draft. The Lakers won the toss, and with that, Magic Johnson. Chicago basketball would be a small step above dismal for the next few years.
Here is when you say Jordan. Michael Jordan was selected as third overall pick out of North Carolina in the 1984 Draft. He immediately became the piece around which the new franchise would be built, setting numbers of records in his rookie campaign, and leading the Bulls back to the playoffs.
In the next few seasons, Jordan, point guard John Paxson, and center Dave Corzine led the Bulls back to the level of being legitimate contenders. Jordan continued to set record after record, becoming the first Bull to be named to the all-NBA first team in 1987. The Bulls continued to be swept by the Larry Bird-led Celtics in the ’86 and ’87 playoffs.
The roster was bolstered by the addition of small forward Scottie Pippen and power forward Horace Grant in the 1987 off-season, and the Bulls made noise immediately, winning 50 games and advancing to the Eastern Conference semi-finals before losing to the Pistons. Despite a lack of championship, Jordan was named NBA MVP after the 1987-88 season, an award he would win four more times over his career. This also began the Bulls-Pistons rivalry so characteristic of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.
The new starting lineup in 1988 of Paxson, Jordan, Pippen, Grant, and new center Bill Cartwright began to make some noise as they began to mesh, but fell yet again to the Pistons in the Eastern Conference finals. The 1989 season ended quite similarly, as they finally pushed the Pistons to seven games before falling yet again in the conference finals.
By the time 1990 rolled around, the Bulls had been playing together (and losing to the Pistons) long enough. They recorded a then franchise record of 61 wins in the 1990-91 season, sweeping the Pistons in the conference finals, and besting Magic Johnson and his Lakers in five, enroute to a first franchise NBA title. They did it yet again in the 1991-92 season, prevailing over the Trail Blazers in the title series. The three-peat was signed, sealed, and delivered in 1993, as the Bulls won a third consecutive title, ousting Charles Barkley and the Suns in six. In all three of the Bulls’ title campaigns, Jordan was named Finals MVP, and was also named regular-season MVP in the ’91 and ’92 seasons.
After a 1993-94 and 1994-95 season that saw the quick retirement of Michael Jordan just months after learning of his father’s murder, the Pippen-led squad was struggling until they got the great news that Jordan would be coming out of retirement in March of 1995. Originally coming out strong, Jordan was proving to be a bit rusty, as the Bulls were unable to hold off the Magic in the playoffs, as the team was led by superstars Shaquille O’Neal, Anfernee Hardaway, and former Bull Horace Grant.
The 1995-96 season was characterized by a powerful Chicago lineup that featured Jordan, Pippen, and Dennis Rodman. They posted one of the best single-season improvements in league history on the way to another NBA Championship in which Jordan racked up the triple crown, winning the regular season MVP All-star Game MVP, and Finals MVP titles. The 1995-96 Chicago Bulls are widely regarded as one of the greatest teams in the history of basketball. The next two seasons saw similar successes, as the Bulls won their fifth and sixth titles in eight years, three-peating yet again with Finals wins over the Jazz both times.
The years after the second three-peat were hard times for the Bulls, including Jordan’s 1999 second retirement, and GM Jerry Krause’s decision to revamp the Bulls’ roster, in fear of the superstars growing too old to be able to compete anymore. Pippen was traded, Rodman’s contract was not extended, and head coach Phil Jackson departed. 1999-2004 were difficult years for the Chicago Bulls, as highly anticipated free agents chose to stay with their teams, and injuries and front office changes detracted from the Bulls’ attempts to return to greatness.
The Bulls finally returned to the playoffs in 2005, given the additions of Ben Gordon, Chris Duhon, and Luol Deng through the draft, as well as the presence of Eddy Curry in the starting lineup. The squad, Curry-less after 2005 due to medical concerns and an eventual trade, returned to the playoffs in 2006 and 2007, but were unable to make it past the second round due to a significant lack of post presence. In the 2007-2008 season, despite the excitement due to the acquisition of Joakim Noah, Joe Smith, and more, the Bulls reversed their record from the prior season, missing the playoffs yet again.
A new era began in Chicago, as they drew the rights to the first round NBA Draft pick in 2008, selecting Derrick Rose, who, along with Noah and Carlos Boozer (acquired by trade from the Jazz in 2010) have since become the cornerstones of turnaround successes in Chicago. Since making trades and drastic front office transitions, the Bulls have reached the playoffs in five of the last six season. After being just one team to lose out in the LeBron sweepstakes this summer, and given the recent return of Noah, who was out on injury since December, the Bulls are on a tear to prove themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the East. Stay tuned tomorrow as we review what’s happening today in Bulls world!