So I’m here watching the increasingly frustrating, inconsistent 2016 Chicago Bulls take on a young and talented Milwaukee Bucks team who had high expectations at the start of the year, but have done everything but fulfill them. Chicago Bulls play-by-play man Neil Funk just mentioned that tonight at the United Center is 2000’s night.
I’ve never been more disappointed to not be at a random Chicago Bulls game than tonight. A night specifically dedicated to some of the worst basketball teams in NBA history? Sign me up. To me, they were just known as the good ‘ole days. Nearly a decade worth of iffy draft picks, poor coaching hires, and most of all, really, really bad basketball.
And my god do I absolutely love them for it.
In hindsight, it will be remembered as the era that bridged the dynasty Jordan and Pippen days to Derrick Rose being drafted in 2008.
That leaves us a solid nine seasons of glorious Chicago Bulls basketball. From 1999-2008, they had two winning seasons, made the playoffs three times, and registered a record of 276-462. For comparison purposes, the San Antonio Spurs went 522-216 in the same time span.
My point; the Bulls were trash outside of a few decent years such as the 04-05 and 06-07 teams. But that’s not the point of this night. The point of this night is to remember the cast of characters that came in-and-out of this organization like bad Chipotle.
The nostalgia is flowing right now.
Donyell Marshall, Small Forward, 2002-2004.
He only played 94 games altogether in a Bulls uniform but Donyell Marshall will forever hold a special place in my heart as a Chicago Bull. He averaged 12.6 PPG. and 8.5 RPG. with a steal and a block a game, but best of all, rocked this hair a few games throughout the season. An NBA journeyman, I’m forever grateful he made his way to Chicago for a few seasons of mediocre basketball.
Eddie Robinson, Small Forward, 2002-2004.
Stats don’t do E-Rob justice. The man only averaged seven points for his abruptly short five-year career but as the saying goes I’d rather have five highly entertaining years than 12 that are boring. Ever notice that the Bulls don’t allow players to wear headbands? It’s because of Eddie Robinson. The man loved them so much he feuded with John Paxson over the very fact that he couldn’t wear a headband. He became such a pain for Paxson that they bought him out of his 5-year $30 million deal.
Long live E-Rob.
Jamal Crawford, PG/SG, 2000-2004
Got to respect the man that he is still in the league and one of the best 6th man’s to ever do it. Almost 17 seasons in, Crawford didn’t really make an impact until the 2003-04 season where he averaged 17 PPG. and 5 APG. Better yet, he averaged nearly 17 shots a game that year. To this day, Crawford has never been afraid to let it fly.
The Starting Lineup
Kirk Hinrich, Point Guard, 2003-2010, 2012-2016
The Captain. The all-time leader in 3-point field goals. One of the most likeable players for the Chicago Bulls in the last 20 years. Hinrich was drafted 7th overall in the loaded 2003 Draft (the one with ‘Bron, Wade, and Melo) and thus it marked the resurgence of the Chicago Bulls, though it would take time.
There has, and never will be anything incredibly special about Hinrich’s game. An above-average 3-point shooter, a gritty defender and above all, a leader. What does define Hinrich, are the handful of moments that summarize perfectly why he will always be beloved in this town.
Toughness. Long live the Captain.
Ben Gordon, Shooting Guard, 2005-2009
The man was a living microwave during his five seasons in Chicago. Watching Ben Gordon get hot was the best Chicago Bulls television money could buy in the mid-2000’s, which really isn’t saying that much. Gifted on the offensive end his entire career, Gordon, unfortunately couldn’t guard a soul.
It doesn’t take away from the fact that if we don’t have Ben Gordon, we don’t have one of the best playoff series’ ever between the #7 seed Bulls and defending champions #2 seed Celtics that went seven games with multiple overtimes and a series in which Gordon averaged 24 points per game.
He played so well during that series that many Bulls fans (including myself) were convinced the Bulls had pay Gordon the $40 million extension he was asking for. Almost, thankfully.
Luol Deng, Small Forward, 2003-2014
A pro’s pro. Luol Deng is as old school of a player as you will still find in the league today. For a decade, Deng averaged 16 PPG. 6 RPG. and 36 minutes a game for the Bulls, all the while guarding the opponents best wing player night-in and night-out. Before Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler, Deng was heralded as the only guy that could keep pace with LeBron on the defensive end and still get his 16-20 points each time they went head-to-head.
He’s a shell of what he used to be in Miami, but Deng was the player that signaled the Bulls would finally get better when he was drafted in 2004. They could probably still use him now.
Power Forward and Center
Tyson Chandler, 2001-2006, Eddy Curry, 2001-2005
Forver etched together in basketball lore.
There was so much hope. The two teenagers were supposed to bring balance back to Chicago Bulls basketball. Both stars coming out of high school, the mid-2000’s were certainly a time where you could get away with starting two centers, one who was gifted offensively (Curry) and one that was gifted defensively (Chandler) and think they could coexist.
Classic Tim Floyd move.
It really was a disaster from the start. Curry never turned into Shaq like everyone predicted, and Chandler only got better once he left Chicago for greener pastures.
What could have been.