The Chicago Bulls are a National Basketball Association team based in Chicago, Illinois.
- Founded: 1966
- Formerly known as:
- Home Arena: United Center
- Uniform colors: Red, Black, and White
- Logo design: A red bull's head
- NBA Championships: 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 1998
- Owner: Jerry Reinsdorf
- General Manager: John Paxson
- Current Head Coach: Scott Skiles
- 2004-05 Record: 47-35
The Early Years
The Chicago Bulls are actually the third NBA team in Chicago, after the Packers/Zephyrs (now the Washington Wizards) and the Stags (1946-1950). The team began play for 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 the pieces to be competitive, though they never quite reached the top. During the 1970s, the Bulls were known as a tough, defensive-minded team, built around hard-nosed defender Jerry Sloan, forwards Bob Love and Chet Walker, point guard Norm Van Lier , and center Tom Boerwinkle . Nevertheless, the team only won one division title, and never made it to the Finals.
By the late 1970s and early 80s, the team had hit the cellar of the league. Artis Gilmore, acquired in the ABA dispersal-draft in 1976, led a Bulls squad which included guard Reggie Theus, forward David Greenwood, and forward Orlando Woolridge . After Gilmore was traded to the San Antonio Spurs for center Dave Corzine, the Bulls employed a high-powered offense centered around Theus, and which soon included guards Quentin Daly and Ennis Whatley. However, with continued dismal results, the Bulls decided to change directions, trading Theus during the 1983-84 season.
In the summer of 1984 the team's fortunes changed for good when it received the third pick of the NBA draft, after Houston and Portland. After the Rockets selected Hakeem Olajuwon and the Blazers jumped on Sam Bowie, the Bulls grabbed shooting guard Michael Jordan. Jordan would go on to redefine the game and rewrite its record books, establishing himself as arguably the greatest player ever.
The team, with new management in owner Jerry Reinsdorf and General Manager Jerry Krause, decided to rebuild around Jordan. Jordan set franchise records during his rookie campaign for scoring (3rd in the league) and steals (4th in the league), and led the Bulls back to the playoffs, for which he was rewarded with a berth on the All-NBA second team and Rookie of the Year.
In the offseason, the team acquired point guard John Paxson and drafted power forward Charles Oakley. Along with Jordan and center Dave Corzine, they provided much of the Bulls' offense for the next two years. After Jordan suffered a broken foot early in the season, the team also acquired NBA legend George Gervin to help with scoring, which he did, finishing second on the team to Woolridge in scoring. Jordan returned for the playoffs, and took the 8th-place Bulls up against the 67-15 Boston Celtics, led by Larry Bird. Though the Bulls were swept, Jordan recorded a playoff single-game record 63 points in Game 2, prompting Bird to call him 'God disguised as Michael Jordan.'
In 1986-87 Jordan continued his assault on the record books, leading the league in scoring with 37.1 points per game and being the first Bull named to the all-NBA first team. However, the Bulls were again swept by the Celtics in the playoffs. In 1987-88 Krause selected center Olden Polynice 8th overall and power forward Horace Grant 10th overall in the NBA draft, then sent Polynice to Seattle in a draft-day trade for the 5th selection, small forward Scottie Pippen. With Paxson and Jordan in the backcourt, Brad Sellers and Oakley at the forward spots, Corzine anchoring center, and rookies Pippen and Grant coming off the bench, the Bulls made major noise, winning 50 games and advancing to the Eastern Conference semi-finals, where they were beaten by the eventual Eastern Conference Champion Detroit Pistons in five games. However, for his efforts Jordan was named NBA Most Valuable Player, the first of five such awards.
The 1988-89 season marked a second straight year of major off-season moves. Popular power forward Charles Oakley, who had led the league in total rebounds in both '87 and '88, was traded to the New York Knicks for center Bill Cartwright and a draft pick which they used on center Will Perdue. The new starting lineup of Paxson, Jordan, Pippen, Grant, and Cartwright took some time to mesh, winning fewer games than the previous season, but making it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they were subdued in six games by the eventual NBA champion Pistons.
In 1989-90, Jordan led the league in scoring for the fourth straight season, and was joined on the all-star squad for the first time by Scottie Pippen. There was also a major change on the sidelines, where Doug Collins was replaced by assistant Phil Jackson, a specialist in the triangle offense. The Bulls also picked up rookie center Stacey King and rookie point guard B.J. Armstrong in the 1989 draft. With these additional pieces and the previous year's starting five, the Bulls again made it to the Conference Finals, and pushed the Pistons to seven games before being edged out for the third straight year by Detroit.
By the 1990-91 season, the Bulls had run out of excuses, and charged through the year with a mission. They won a franchise record 61 wins, and romped through the playoffs, where they swept the Pistons in the conference finals and won the Finals in five over the Magic Johnson-led Lakers on June 12, 1991. Michael Jordan won regular season MVP and Finals MVP to go with his fifth straight scoring title.
The Bulls won their second straight title in 1991-92 after racking up another franchise record for wins with 67. They prevailed over the Portland Trail Blazers and Clyde Drexler in six games. Jordan won regular season MVP and Finals MVP once again, to go with his sixth straight scoring title.
In 1992-93 the Bulls did what no team had done since the legendary Celtics of the 60's by chalking up the three-peat over MVP Charles Barkley and the Phoenix Suns, with John Paxson's historic shot heard around the world
that gave them a 99-98 victory in Game six at Phoenix. Jordan was once again the Finals MVP after setting a Finals record for points per game. He also tied Wilt Chamberlain by winning his seventh straight scoring title.
During the summer, Jordan shocked the basketball community by announcing his retirement, only months after learning of his father's murder. The Bulls were led by Scottie Pippen, who had established himself as one of the top players in the league. He received help from Horace Grant and B.J. Armstrong, who were named to their first all-star games, where Pippen won the MVP award. The three were assisted by Cartwright, Perdue, shooting guard Pete Myers, and Croatian rookie forward Toni Kukoc. Despite the Bulls' amazing run during the regular season, where they won 55 games, they were beaten in seven games by the Knicks in the second round, after a controversial foul call by referee Hue Hollins in game 5 of that series.
Return of Jordan and Another Three-peat
In 1995, the Bulls lost Horace Grant and Bill Cartwright to free agency, but picked up all-star shooting guard Ron Harper . The Bulls sported the look of Armstrong and Harper in the backcourt, Pippen and Kukoc at the forward spots, and Perdue at center. They also had sharpshooter Steve Kerr, Myers, and centers Luc Longley and Bill Wennington. However, they were slumping during the season, when on March 17, 1995, they received the best possible news: Michael Jordan was coming out of retirement. He was soon among the best in the league again, scoring 55 points against the Knicks in only his fifth game back, and led the Bulls to the fifth seed in the playoffs, where they upset the Charlotte Hornets. However, Jordan was too rusty, and the Bulls still not strong enough to overcome the eventual Eastern Conference champion Orlando Magic, which included Horace Grant.
In the offseason, the Bulls lost B.J. Armstrong in the expansion draft, but Krause pulled off a masterful deal by trading Will Perdue to the San Antonio Spurs for ballistic rebounder Dennis Rodman, who had won the past four rebounding titles. With a lineup of Harper, Jordan, Pippen, Rodman and Longley, and perhaps the league's best bench in Kerr, Myers, Kukoc, Wennington and guard Randy Brown, the Bulls posted one of the best single-season improvements in league history and the best single-season record, moving from 47-35 to 72-10. Jordan won his eighth scoring title, and Rodman his fifth straight rebounding title, while Kerr led the league in three-point shooting. Jordan garnered the elusive triple-crown with the regular season MVP, all-star game MVP, and Finals MVP. Krause won executive of the year, Jackson coach of the year, and Kukoc was the sixth man of the year. Both Pippen and Jordan made the all-NBA first team, and Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman made the all-defensive first team. The team triumped over Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp and the Seattle SuperSonics for their fourth title.
The Bulls repeated their excellence in 1996-97 by tying the second best record in league history at 69-13 and winning their fifth world championship over John Stockton, Karl Malone and the Utah Jazz. Jordan earned his second straight scoring title and ninth overall, while Rodman earned his sixth straight rebounding title.
They achieved the repeat three-peat by winning 62 regular season games and the 1998 NBA Finals. Jordan bagged his third straight scoring title and tenth overall, and his second triple crown with his fifth MVP award, third all-star game MVP, and sixth Finals MVP award. Rodman earned his record seventh straight rebounding title, as the Bulls upended the Jazz for the second straight year.
A Dramatic Dismantling
The summer of 1998 marked the most dramatic dismantling of a world championship team ever, as Jerry Krause completely revamped the roster for the worst. Krause had realized during previous years that the Bulls were on the decline and it would only be a matter of time before they were old and unable to compete. He decided that it was time to rebuild rather than endure a slow decline. The plan was to sink the team and acquire high draft picks while clearing salary cap space to make a run at several promising free agents. Krause traded Scottie Pippen after having failed trading him the previous offseason when his trade was vetoed by owner Jerry Reinsdorf and did not re-sign Phil Jackson, prompting Michael Jordan to retire for the second time. Krause also declined to resign Dennis Rodman and Steve Kerr, and traded Luc Longley. He hired a new collegiate coach Tim Floyd who ran a successful program at Iowa State University and promptly gave him a starting lineup of point guard Randy Brown, shooting guard Ron Harper, newcomer Brent Barry at small forward, power forward Toni Kukoc, and center Bill Wennington. Kukoc led the team in scoring, rebounding, and assists, but with little help the team crashed and burned, winning 13 of 50 games in the lockout-shortened season.
The Low Point: 132 Losses in Two Seasons
The previous year's dismal finish came with one highlight: the team won the draft lottery and the rights to power forward Elton Brand. Since the team lost Harper, Brown, Wennington and Barry in the offseason, Brand and fellow rookie Ron Artest led the team througout the year, especially after Kukoc was traded early in the season. Brand recorded the first 20-10 average for the Bulls since the days of Artis Gilmore. He led all rookies in scoring, rebounds, blocks, field goal percentage and minutes, while Artest led all rookies in steals and finished second on the team in scoring. For his efforts Brand was named 1999-2000 co-rookie of the year with Houston's Steve Francis, and to the all-rookie first team, while Artest was named to the all-rookie second team. However, the team was still just led by rookies, and finished with the worst Bulls record at that time, at 17-65, worst in the league.
After a summer in which the Bulls witnessed major free agents Tim Duncan, Grant Hill, Eddie Jones, Tracy McGrady, and even Tim Thomas spur them, Krause tried to build around Brand with youth, acquiring several draft picks. He signed free agent center Brad Miller and shooting guard Ron Mercer, and picked up power forward Marcus Fizer and center Chris Mihm with the fourth and seventh picks in the draft, then traded Mihm for eighth pick guard Jamal Crawford. Brand again led the team in scoring and rebounds with another 20-10 season, while Mercer and Artest finished second and third in scoring, respectively. Brad Miller started at center, while point guard duties were split between Bryce Drew and rookies Crawford and Khalid El-Amin. Marcus Fizer was named to the all-rookie second team. However, the team was still very weak, finishing at the worst record in team history at 15-67.
Krause and Floyd soon realized that building around Brand and free agency would not work so they took a gamble and shocked Bulls fans on draft day when he traded franchise player Brand to the Los Angeles Clippers for second pick in the draft, Tyson Chandler. He also selected Eddie Curry with the fourth pick. Since both Chandler and Curry came straight out of high school, neither were expected to make much of a contribution for several years but they were seen as potential franchise players in the future with Curry in the mold of a young Shaquille O'Neal and Chandler providing a big athletic wing player like Kevin Garnett. Having been burned by major stars during the previous offseason, the Bulls decided to grow their own stars. At mid-season, the Bulls traded their top three scorers - Mercer, Artest, and Miller - to the Indiana Pacers for guard Jalen Rose. Rose was the most versatile and best player the Bulls had had since Jordan and Pippen. This trade essentially created more playing time for the two teenagers while Rose would provide a go to scorer whom the Bulls desperately needed. There was also a change in coaching, with Floyd being dismissed in favor of assistant coach and former Bulls co-captain Bill Cartwright following a series of arguments with players and management. Led by Cartwright and Rose, and Bulls improved from 15 to 21 wins, though they still tied for last in the league.
Optimism and Disappointment
For the 2002-2003 season, the Bulls came to play with much optimism. Still led by Rose, they had picked up college phenom Jay Williams with the second pick in the draft. Rose and Williams teamed with Crawford, Fizer, newcomer Donyell Marshall, Curry, Chandler, and guard Trenton Hassell to form a young and exciting nucleus which improved to 30-52 in Bill Cartwright's first full season as head coach. Curry led the league in field goal percentage becoming the first Bull since Jordan to lead the league in a major statistical category while Rose finished in the top 10 in scoring.
During the summer of 2003, the Bulls were faced with many changes, both positive and negative. Long-time GM Jerry Krause retired, and former player and announcer John Paxson was tabbed as his successor. Jay Williams, coming off a promising rookie campaign, was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident; Williams was eventually released by the Bulls in February 2004 and has yet to return to the game. Paxson selected point guard Kirk Hinrich with the seventh pick in the draft, and signed veteran free agent and former franchise player Scottie Pippen. With Pippen playing, Cartwright at the sidelines, and Paxson in the front office, the Bulls hoped that some of the championship magic from before would return.
However, the 2003-2004 season proved disappointing. Eddy Curry showed limited development, leading to questions about his conditioning and commitment. Tyson Chandler was plagued by a chronic back injury, missing more than thirty games. Scottie Pippen's ability to influence games was impaired by knee problems, and he openly contemplated retirement. Jamal Crawford had shown increased confidence, but remained inconsistent. Bill Cartwright was fired as head coach in December 2003, and replaced with former Phoenix coach Scott Skiles. A multiplayer trade with the Toronto Raptors brought Antonio Davis and Jerome Williams to the Bulls in exchange for top-scorer Jalen Rose and Donyell Marshall in what was seen as a major shift in team strategy from winning with athleticism to winning with hard work. After struggling throughout the season, the Bulls finished with 23 wins and 59 losses, the second-worst record in the league.
Paxson's strategy was very different from that of Krause's. Paxson wanted players who overachieved rather than those who relied on talent. This led to the contractual buy-out of swingman Eddie Robinson, the purge of Marcus Fizer, letting Crawford leave via free agency, and acquiring rugged players like Othella Harrington, Eric Piatkowski, and Jared Reiner.
During the 2004 off-season, Paxson traded a future draft pick to the Phoenix Suns in return for an additional pick in the 2004 draft. The picks were used to select University of Connecticut guard Ben Gordon and Duke small forward Luol Deng in the first round, and Duke point guard Chris Duhon in the second. Paxson also signed free agent small forward Andres Nocioni, who had recently won an Olympic gold medal as a member of the Argentinian national team. After a discouraging 0-9 start to the 2004-05 season, by December the Bulls began to show the signs of improved play, relying on solid performances by their four rookies and by Hinrich, Chandler, and Curry. The Bulls made it over .500 on January 25, 2005, going 20-19 with a win over the Atlanta Hawks. It was the first time the Bulls were over .500 since November 2002, and the latest into the season they were over .500 since 1998. As of February 27th, they are ranked as one of the top 10 teams in the league, based on overall record. With the prospect of free agency looming for Curry and Chandler, the Bulls must chose whether they will be re-signed in the offseason or let go to clear salary space for a potential run at a star player in 2007.
The Bulls ended the post-Jordan era playoff drought on April 9, 2005, clinching their first playoff berth since 1998 with a 110-97 win over the Toronto Raptors, which were elimanted from playoff contention.
Players of Note
Not to be forgotten: