Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Top Ten All Time Favorite Chicago Bulls

After Joakim Noah's awesome rant about how shitty a place Cleveland is and his subsequent 25 point and 13 rebound performance, I got to thinking about how much I enjoy having him on the Bulls. Then I got to thinking about where he would rank among my all time favorite Chicago Bulls. After that I got to thinking that this would be a great place to rank my top ten players on my favorite sports team ever. The only rules are that they had to have played when I could have seen them (so no Bulls legends like Jerry Sloan), they had to be players and not a coach (no Phil Jackson), and I am only counting their time in Chicago (so no Ron Artest or Scottie Pippen's time in Portland).

Before I get to the top ten, here are some honorable mentions:

Horace Grant: In the early 1990s, Horace was one of the most underrated players in that lineup. He blocks Kevin Johnson's potential game winner in the 1993 Finals and was always good for 14 and 8 every game. In 1994, he left and joined the Orlando Magic. He then talked a ton of shit about the Bulls and received way too much credit in some circles for Orlando's 1995 defeat of Chicago in MJ's comeback. He wasn't that important, as they won three more without him. I loved him when he played for the Bulls, and I know I said I was only counting their time in Chicago, but Horace broke my heart by leaving and helping beat Chicago. Fuck Horace Grant.

Jack Haley: The quintessential 13th man, Jack Haley was the dude who sat in the business suit for the Bulls title runs and I'm pretty sure he did that for every franchise he was a part of. I looked up some pictures to see if there was anything of him playing, but this was the best I could do (he is number 54). As a matter of fact, the most action he ever received was appearing in the "Love in an Elevator" video for Aerosmith. It was even on his 1990 Topps basketball card in lieu of stats. He never played so I can't really say he is one of my favorite players, as he never played.

Now, onto the top ten...

10.) Joakim Noah: Noah is the current Bulls leader in rebounding, intensity, and defense. He is the Henry Rollins of the team. Without him, they struggled this yaer and I enjoy watching him play. He takes the game seriously, but he also likes to have a good time. As long as he and Rose are on the Bulls, I have a reason to seriously follow them.

9.) Steve Kerr: Kerr is one of my favorite role players ever. Also, he was born in Lebanon, sharing something in common with my family. He was there to be a spot up shooter from long range and he was great at it. He hit game winners in the 1996 and 1997 finals and won a couple of three point contests. Unlike now when I cry whenever Kirk Hinrich shoots, I always felt safe whenever Kerr put up a shot. He also got into a fistfight when Michael Jordan disrespected him and earned Michael's respect. Without that, who knows if he gets to take those two aforementioned game winners.

8.) BJ Armstrong: BJ was a backup point guard in 1991 and 1992 for John Paxson and was the starter from 1993-1995. He was athletic with a decent jump shot and was a decent facilitator in the triangle offense. He also had such a babyface that he still looks like a middle schooler. He was never my favorite Bull, but he was always a good player to have on your team. I was very sad when he was taken by the Craptors in the 1995 expansion draft and was replaced with Ron Harper. I definitely thought that would be a step back, but the Bulls ended up winning 72 games. Shows how much I knew at the age of ten. He is also the agent of my number seven, who is

7.) Derrick Rose: When the Bulls drafted Rose first, I have to admit I was disappointed. I wanted them to draft Michael Beasley to fulfill the role of low post scorer. I am not ashamed to admit I was wrong, as Rose is my favorite Bull since Michael. In only his second year, if Rose continues to improve and continues to do things like school Andre Miller, he will probably become my second favorite Bull of all time. I look forward to watching a Bulls team captained by Derrick Rose and if the Bulls manage to sign a marquee big man and hire a coach that can create some offensive sets, D Rose will become the best point guard in the NBA.

6.) Toni Kukoc: When I was a kid, I always thought that Toni looked a lot like Cody from Step by Step, but upon further review they do not look alike at all. Toni, the Croatian Sensation, was always frustrating to watch. When he was on, he was a truly transcendent player. He could shoot from anywhere on the floor, and pass and handle the ball like a point guard that just happened to be 6'11. However, if he didn't get involved in the offense within the first minute or two on the floor, he would sulk and zone out of the game. When the team split up after the 1998 title, Kukoc was the top dog and I was sad to see him leave a year or two after that. He was the prototype for Dirk Nowitzki since he was a big man with a soft touch and handling skills. I wanted to rank Toni higher, but he was a little weak mentally and there are five Bulls I like more.

5.) Dennis Rodman: Dennis will end up being known for his colorful personality and woeful personal life, but he was the greatest rebounder in NBA history. His defense and athleticism were so important to the Bulls and they would not have won three more titles without him. The best way I can sum up my feelings towards Rodzilla is with an anecdote. I remember when the Bulls were playing the Orlando Magic and he got to guard young Shaq. he kept bumping Shaq and throwing him off his game. Eventually, Shaq took the ball and launched it at Rodman's face. Shaq was tossed out and Rodman celebrated. The Bulls won the game. I loved it. These were the things that Dennis could do when he wasn't acting stupid. Dennis was also very frustrating because he was getting ejected and suspended all the time. It was things like that that keep him from being any higher than five. I love him for what he was good for, but couldn't stand the negative he brought. I still wouldn't have traded him for anyone else though.

4.) Bill Wennington: Bill was Luc Longley's backup at center from 1994-1998. He also had the best hair on the team. He was a mediocre defender and not actually that great, but he had the sickest ten foot jump shot ever. I remember in 1995 when MJ came back, he torched the Knicks for 55 points. With little time left and the game tied, the Bulls needed one basket to win. Everyone and their mother thought Michael was going to take it, but he dumped it to Wennington for the jumper. He hit it and the Knicks were again vanquished. After that, he was untouchable. I remember many a time when I was watching Bulls games with my dad and Luc Longley would suck. This happened a lot, and every time this happened my dad would yell "Put in Big Bill! Play Wennington!" I love that dude (my dad, and Bill Wennington as well).

3.) John Paxson: Pax was the starting PG for the late 80s Bulls and their first two title runs and the backup point guard for the 1993 championship. He was a relentless competitor and a great outside shooter, kind of like a demented Steve Kerr. This has poured over into his professional life as GM of the Bulls, as he has been known to leave games in a fit of rage and recently tried to get into a fistfight with coach Vinny Del Negro. Paxson will forever be a legend to me for his role in two championship clinching games. In game 5 of the 1991 NBA Finals, he hit five straight jumpers in the closing minutes to put the Bulls over the Lakers. In 1993, he hit the game winning three that gave the Bulls their third straight title. "Paxson, for three...Yes!" is probably the greatest thing I have ever heard in a sporting event. I was eight years old when this happened and it was fucking amazing. The Bulls became the first team since the Celtics in the 1960s to win three straight titles. When Jordan left, I would watch my VHS copy of this game and feel better about being a Bulls fan. To this day, it still ranks as my favorite game winner ever. To me, Paxson can do no wrong, unless he joins the Tea Party or something.

2.) Scottie Pippen: The greatest second fiddle of all time, my brother's favorite player of all time, and probably the greatest individual defender since Bill Russell. Recently, there has been this movement to give Scottie more credit in order to knock MJ down a peg and raise up Kobe and LeBron, but that's just crazy and I appreciate Scottie for what he was and not what people want him to be now. He was the leader of the team, the guy who made sure everyone was involved and on the same page. Michael was on a whole different level; he couldn't relate to the Jud Buechlers and Randy Browns of the team. Scottie kept the offense running and pretty much always guarded the other team's best player. His dunk on Patrick Ewing almost made me poop my pants when I was a kid. I used to love it when he and Michael would clown people with their defense. When MJ retired, Scottie was the man and won the MVP of the 1994 All-Star game. He was so close to getting them to the title without him, but he couldn't do it. This is my problem with Scottie: He didn't always show up when you needed him. There was game 7 in 1990 against Detroit where he came up with the migraine. There was 1994 when he refused to go in with 1.8 seconds left against the Knicks because the last shot wasn't called for him. In 1998, he missed time and threatened not to go all out because he was in a contract dispute and his injury in game 6 almost cost the Bulls the game. As great as Scottie was, he wasn't the one who scored 38 with the flu or hit the game winner in Utah. I don't mean to rip on Scottie. He was always one of my favorite players to watch and you could never ask for a better second option on your team.

1.) Michael Jordan: Like there was any doubt. Michael is my favorite athlete of all time in any sport, despite his douchebag tendencies. When I was a kid, Michael was one of my idols, which is something I'll delve into at a later time. In my eyes, he was superhuman and could beat teams singlehandedly (which he could). When he retired in 1993, eight year old Jimmy Shahen cried like someone in his family just died. When he returned in 1995, it was like someone had just given me a golden ticket. In his first game back, he only went 7-19 (a stat I remember by heart and didn't have to look up) and the Bulls lost to the Pacers. I was devastated and remember crying to me parents, "He's terrible now!" Hope was restored four games later when he dropped 55 on the Knicks. When he switched from the number 45 back to his original 23, I knew it meant certain doom for the Orlando Magic in the playoffs. Then they lost the series, the first time since 1990 MJ had lost in a playoff series. I remember my friends and kids from school saying he was done and no good anymore, but that couldn't be any further from the truth as Jordan and the Bulls steamrolled people in 1996 and 1997, winning over 140 of 164 games and two titles. Then they won again in 1998 when Michael hit the game winner over Utah (and fuck you, he never pushed off). I have so many fond memories of watching Bulls games with my parents and seeing Michael play. He was an artist on the court in a way no one, not even Kobe or LeBron, could ever be. No matter how many times my mom would say that the Knicks were going to win, Jordan pretty much always put a hurting on them. I distinctly remember watching that game where he hits the winning shot against the Jazz. The Bulls were struggling with Pippen out and the rest of the team sucking ass. Michael's jumper had no legs on it and he was bricking a lot. I remember my dad yelling, "Take it to the fucking hoop!" That is exactly what he did, hitting layups and getting to the foul line at will. He then hit a layup, stole the ball from Karl Malone and hit the jumper I linked to a few sentences before. It was the most amazing thing I had ever seen. We all knew that that was going to be his last shot in the NBA and it was perfect. Of course he kind of ruined that with his comeback in Washington, but I'll never forget the excitement of seeing that moment live with my dad or the excitement I felt any time I saw Michael Jordan play.

Well, that is the end of this post. Feel free to leave me comments on this page or on facebook if there are any Bulls that you really liked that I missed out on or would like to share your favorite players from your favorite team.

1 comment:

  1. My comments on each player:

    Horace Grant - No mention of the goggles? Even Kurt Rambis made fun of this guy.

    Jack Haley - Not to mention he had those awesome "Deep Thoughts" on SNL.

    Joakim Noah - I'm with anyone who is so apparently against completely natural breasts.

    Steve Kerr - The comparison to Kirk Heinrich is not even fair, but I will give it to you.

    BJ Armstrong - You weren't the only one upset about the Raptors stealing him. BJ Armstrong for one cried for a month.

    Derrick Rose - Love him, but the irony of you saying that he "schooled" anyone is the funniest thing in this post.

    Toni Kukoc - At least he has one fan.

    Dennis Rodman - I'd argue that the only time Rodman wasn't acting stupid, is when Rodman was trying to act stupid.

    Bill Wenninngton - I don't think your father remembers who I am, but on the off chance, I will not say anything against Billy Wenns. Your dad scares the shit out of me.

    John Paxson - I can't wait to hear about Jordan hiring some dudes to beat the crap out of Larry Brown. He's got the same drive as Paxson, but also has way more style.

    Scottie Pippen - For some reason, the moment that sticks out in my mind is the one time he was arrested on gun possession. Is that weird?

    Michael Jordan - It's hard to say anything here. I may be the only person alive that does not have a strong feeling about Michael either way. He's polarizing, and somehow, I float between the gravitational poles. He was great and I respect him as a deity of basketball, but I didn't specifically like him. I respected his game, but was bored by his perfectness on the court. Watching him play (while on the Bulls) was almost too predictable. To be fair, I never saw Jordan in his younger years. I know him only as the Championship Machine. If I did not care as much about the sport of basketball as I do, I might assume that Jordan won six titles in eight years. I have no conscious memory of him before 1990 (I have no conscious memory of much before 1990). However, I was annoyed by his poor decisions off the court (gambling, baseball, adultery, 45, the Wizards), but completely understand his thought process on all of them. I don't like him, I don't hate him, and he offers me every reason to do either. I think the issue is completely mine. It makes me feel like I'm missing something. If you lack an opinion in sports (or in virtually anything), there really is no point. I completely recognize the pros of cons of Michael Jordan, so much so that the scale fails to tip to either side, which likely means that my perspective is not equal at all.

    Good read, James,
    Tim Baron