Dick Klein knew there would be blood.
Before the Chicago Bulls played a single game, the team’s founder seemed acutely aware that if there was to be any glory in the organization’s future, there would also be heartache, clashing egos, bad behavior, run-ins with the law, sweat, tears, and, yes, actual blood. Father Bull, as Klein became affectionately known, didn’t want to see the struggle sanitized. His team would embrace the savage competition of pro sports, and make it part of the brand.
It began with the logo. Way back in 1966, the year the Bulls became the NBA’s latest expansion franchise, Klein, a Kenilworth businessman, was working with designers on the nascent team’s insignia. “I wanted the bull to be a true bull, in a bullfight. You know, he’s a big and black thing with long horns and red eyes and mean,” Klein told author Roland Lazenby, who has written several books about Bulls history. “Most of the early submissions were full of bodies. The bull with his head down, that sorta thing. I said, ‘I want a face. Gimme a face.’ Then they gave me a face that looked real good.” The design was nearly perfect—the only thing missing, Klein said, was the blood on the horns.
Fifty years later, the logo is virtually unaltered. But as the Bulls reached the half-century mark this month, having been incorporated into the league on January 16, 1966, the celebrations have been, well, rather anemic. In October, the team declared “Chicago Basketball Is Golden” the theme of the 2015-2016 season, which kicked off with a heavy-handed multimedia show featuring mascot Benny the Bull in a golden suit jacket playing a slide trombone along to Kool & the Gang’s “Celebrate.” The team’s PR operation has gone into a conspicuous full-court press with themed “Decade Nights” at the United Center and an attendant semicentennial television commercial campaign skillfully edited to link the team’s different eras under one clean familial lineage—as if Jerry Sloan begat Bob Love who begat Michael Jordan who begat Derrick Rose. To be sure, there are enough highlights in the franchise’s 50-year history for a very, very long reel, from Artis Gilmore posterizing fellow future Hall of Famers to M.J. sobbing joyfully into the Larry O’Brien Trophy to a sprightlier D-Rose dunking in his MVP season.
Missing from the stream of golden oldies is the drama, the game’s physical and mental stresses, the corporate front-office machinations, the agony of defeat—the blood that Klein demanded be added to those horns. Being mindful of darker days, of course, helps one appreciate happier times. When it comes to the Bulls, taking stock of the bitter moments in the team’s history would seem to make the celebratory shower of championship champagne taste all the more sweet.
Herein are the worst of the worst moments in Bulls history in roughly chronological order. Some took place on the court, many happened off of it. What emerges is a fuller portrait of a team that, at 50, is bloodied but certainly unbowed.
Nascent Bulls haunted by past failed Chicago NBA teams
“Chicago was considered a graveyard for pro basketball,” says Bulls historian Roland Lazenby of Dick Klein’s struggle in the mid-60s to start a new professional franchise in town. Before the Bulls, the Stags of the Basketball Association of America, an NBA predecessor, folded and the Packers (yup) eventually became the Zephyrs before the team moved to Baltimore. It took a three-game win streak out of the gate in October 1966 to exorcise the ghosts of basketball past. The Bulls finished 33-48—the best-ever record by an expansion team in its first year of play—which surprisingly was good enough to secure a playoff berth.
The Bulls’ sad inaugural parade
A far cry from the team’s grand championship rallies of the 1990s, the Bulls’ introductory procession in 1966 consisted of a flatbed truck occupied by a real-life bull. Accompanying the animal were Klein, publicity director Ben Bentley (Benny the Bull’s namesake), and coach Johnny “Red” Kerr. As far as first impressions go, the feeble stunt inspired little more than doubt in the downtown pedestrians who happened upon it.
Home court disadvantage
The Bulls played their first season in the International Amphitheater, a dusty arena on South Halsted Street down by the old stockyards that was built in 1934 primarily to host livestock conventions. When McCormick Place was damaged in a January 1967 fire, the amphitheater gave the boot to the surprise playoff-bound Bulls in order to take on more bankable trade shows. The team was swept by the Saint Louis Hawks in the first round, which included one game at the even older, even dustier Chicago Coliseum.
Benny the Bull’s pathetic origins
Benny, he of the T-shirt cannon and the gratuitous pelvic thrusts, has probably been more popular than most Bulls players throughout the years. But the beloved mascot got a rather inauspicious start with the team when new hype man/general manager Pat Williams invented the character as part of his push to fill seats at Chicago Stadium. In his early days Benny donned a loose, ill-fitting fabric suit topped with an awkwardly large, inexpressive papier-mache head. It must’ve been hard to rouse an audience while wearing a child’s homemade Halloween costume.
Bulls turn to bear wrestling to draw fans
February 5, 1970
Mentored by Bill Veeck, the P.T. Barnum of baseball, Williams joined the Bulls as GM in August 1969 ready and willing to put butts in the chairs of Chicago Stadium at any cost, despite the previous two losing seasons. While the team worked on improving its record, the 29-year-old concocted an outlandish halftime show that included having fans wrestle a declawed, defanged, muzzled, sedated bear named Victor. But when city officials objected, Williams and Bentley themselves took on the 450-pound animal during halftime of a game with the San Francisco Warriors. “It was sort of a sad bear,” Lazenby told me recently. “The stunt wasn’t a little desperate—it was a lot desperate.”
Bulls almost moved to San Diego
Basketball was finally catching on in Chicago as coach Dick Motta’s Bulls strung together five consecutive winning seasons between 1970 and ’75. “Even still,” Williams later recalled to sportswriter Sam Smith, “the founding group in 1972 still was looking to sell the team to San Diego interests and move.” What kept the Bulls in Chicago? Money. “[Arthur] Wirtz lowered the rent [at Chicago Stadium] so they would stay,” Smith recently told me. “He was afraid of losing the tenant. He didn’t care about basketball.”
Fourth-quarter collapse in game seven of the Western Conference semifinals
Four times in five years the Bulls were beat by the powerhouse Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the playoffs. Having forced a game seven in 1973, Norm Van Lier and Jerry Sloan played aggressively as the team scored 18 unanswered points in the second quarter. The Bulls had a 90-84 lead with three minutes remaining when the wheels came off. With the Lakers down by one point with 33 seconds left, Wilt Chamberlain blocked a shot by Van Lier and made a transition pass to Gail Goodrich for the game winner. It was a traumatic loss old-school Bulls fans still howl about.
Coach Dick Motta attacks a referee
January 4, 1974
Dennis Rodman isn’t the only member of the Bulls who had a contentious relationship with referees. Head coach Dick Motta was suspended for physical contact with a referee following a suspenseful 103-101 overtime loss against the Seattle SuperSonics. Believing Ed Batagowski had made an error in the final seconds with regard to a foul call, the fiery coach followed the ref into the tunnel. “I poked him with my finger like I do with my kid when he’s done something wrong,” Matta told the Chicago Tribune after the league handed down a three-game suspension and a $2,000 fine.
Dick Motta, Jerry Sloan, and Benny the Bull are ejected from a playoff game
April 20, 1974
Game three of the ’74 Western Conference finals against the Milwaukee Bucks became a circus after Bulls forward Chet Walker was called for a foul on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Motta believed Abdul-Jabbar had tripped Walker and made his opinion known to referees Don Murphy and Earl Strom. Injured player Jerry Sloan got in the mix, as did Benny the Bull. Strom later wrote in a memoir that the mascot made obscene gestures at the officials. All three were ejected as the Bulls were routed by the Bucks, who would sweep the series.
The Mother’s Day massacre
For fans of the 1970s Bulls, there was perhaps no more heartbreaking game than what became known as the “Mother’s Day massacre.” Bob Love and the Bulls suffered an agonizing nail-biter loss at home to Rick Barry and the Golden State Warriors after blowing a lead down the stretch in game six of the Western Conference finals. “We had them down three games to two,” Love told the Tribune nearly two decades later. “That was our year to do it. It hurt.” Back in Oakland for game seven, the Bulls watched another early lead disappear as the Warriors advanced to the finals.
The drafting of Scott May
June 8, 1976
With the number two pick in the ’76 draft, the Bulls could’ve had future Hall of Famers Adrian Dantley, Robert Parish, Alex English, or Dennis Johnson. The team instead took a gamble with Scott May out of Indiana, a workmanlike player who had a generally disappointing career.
Losing Magic Johnson on a coin flip
June 25, 1979
Back before the NBA adopted a draft lottery, the first pick was determined by a coin flip between the worst two teams in the Eastern and Western Conferences. In ’79 that meant the Bulls and the Lakers. The Bulls chose heads. The coin showed tails. The Lakers picked Magic Johnson. With the number two pick, the Bulls went with David Greenwood. (David who? Exactly.) Bulls fans and officials have said it was a blessing in disguise: If the Bulls had Johnson, the logic goes, there’s no way they would’ve been bad enough to have gotten Jordan in the ’84 draft.
Women’s rights organizations picket the Bulls home opener
October 30, 1982
Quintin Dailey, an All-American guard out of the University of San Francisco, was sentenced to three years’ probation on June 25, 1982, for the aggravated assault of a USF nursing student who had accused him of rape in December ’81. Just four days later the Bulls would select Dailey as their first-round draft pick. Women’s rights organizations, particularly, were furious with the team. The National Organization of Women picketed Bulls training camp in Peoria, holding signs that read NEUTER THE BULL and RAPE IS NOT A SPORTING PROPOSITION. When Dailey debuted at Chicago Stadium against the Washington Bullets, a Take Back the Night coalition demonstrator’s sign said it all: QUINTIN DAILEY MUST GO. The Bulls lost the home opener—and, with Dailey, lost face with fans.
The “Looney Tunes” squad
Michael Jordan had a nickname for the Bulls of his 1984-’85 rookie season: the Looney Tunes. While physically talented, the team consisted of “an array of cynical castoffs and casualties, some of them deeply troubled by alcohol and cocaine abuse,” Lazenby wrote in the thorough 2014 biography Michael Jordan: The Life. Beset by drug issues in the late 70s and early 80s, the NBA finally instituted a drug policy in 1984. By the time Jordan arrived on the Bulls, talented guard Quintin Dailey had already left the team once to go to a drug rehabilitation facility. He’d return to rehab before the start of the 1985-’86 season. The promising but drug-dependent forward Orlando Woolridge left the Bulls to sign with the New Jersey Nets in 1986—but during his second season with that team, he was suspended for substance abuse. “In Chicago,” Lazenby told me recently speaking of the ’84-’85 Bulls squad, “there was a strong feeling that things went better with coke.”
The Brad Sellers draft pick fans the flames of the Jordan-Krause war
June 17, 1986
In the 1986 draft, Bulls GM Jerry Krause had his eye on Brad Sellers, a forward out of Ohio State. Michael Jordan urged Krause to use the ninth overall pick to select Duke guard Johnny Dawkins. When Krause ignored Jordan, the team’s star got his revenge by making Sellers a target of ridicule. “Sellers would eventually break under the strain of Jordan’s attacks,” wrote the Tribune‘s Sam Smith in The Jordan Rules, “and Sellers’s game would plummet to such depths that he was out of the NBA by the 1990-91 season.” Jordan would needle Krause about the pick for years. According to Lazenby’s The Life, Jordan would yell from the back of the team bus to Krause: “Brad Sellers, now he was a good draft pick.”
Bulls acquire Bill Cartwright, subject fans to one of the most sinfully ugly free-throw shots in NBA history
June 27, 1988
Picked up in a trade with the Knicks, Bill Cartwright ended up playing a utility role as “the man in the middle” during the Bulls’ first championship run. Unfortunately Chicago fans will never be able to unsee the center’s unnatural, protracted, and just plain ugly-as-hell free-throw shot. “At the free-throw line, he crossed over from acceptably ungainly to aggressively grotesque,” wrote Deadspin’s Sean Newell, who further described Cartwright’s foul-line stroke as “the most unnatural of all athletic motions.” The seven-footer’s ghastly follow-through is enough to make Joakim Noah’s unsightly two-handed release seem graceful in comparison. Perhaps the craziest part: Cartwright somehow managed a respectable .771 career average from the stripe.
Michael Jordan punches teammate Will Perdue
Upon publication in January 1992, Trib sportswriter Sam Smith’s The Jordan Rules aired the Bulls’ dirty laundry, causing fans and sports pundits to speculate anxiously that the book could fracture the championship team. Among the more salacious morsels: during a practice Michael Jordan had punched Will Perdue in the head in response to the seven-foot center’s setting a hard screen that flattened M.J. “Why the hell don’t you ever set a pick like that in a game?” Jordan shouted. After the tussle, the Bulls installed a privacy curtain at its Deerfield Multiplex practice facility. A smart move, as it would not be the last time M.J. would assault a teammate in practice. (See below, “Michael Jordan comes to blows with Steve Kerr.”)
Will Perdue starts a 1-900 number
Phil Jackson believed Will Perdue too weak defensively to give the seven-footer any significant game minutes, Smith noted in The Jordan Rules. “I’m treading water here,” Perdue once told the Daily Herald. “My skills are deteriorating, no doubt about it.” To amuse himself, the bored center started a hotline, 1-900-420-WILL. For $2 for the first minute, $1 for each additional minute, callers received recorded information about the Bulls and their opponents. He even reached for humor. “It’s now Tuesday,” went one message, “and Rony Seikaly keeps saying the [Miami] Heat are getting better. At what? Sunstroke?” It was proof Perdue had weaknesses beyond basketball.
NBA investigates Michael Jordan’s gambling
In February ’92, Eddie Dow, a bail bondsman involved in shadowy nightclub dealings, was shot to death in front of his North Carolina home during a robbery. The thieves took some $20,000 in cash from Dow’s briefcase but left behind paperwork that included three checks linked to Michael Jordan totaling $108,000. Dow’s attorney and brother said the money was payment for gambling debts. Jordan played dumb at first, but later said: “I wasn’t involved in any point-shaving or betting on basketball games. There’s nothing wrong with friendly wagers between friends. I’m sure everyone’s guilty of that in some circumstances.” NBA commissioner David Stern and other basketball officials met with Jordan in New York to determine if his dealings had violated the league’s “good-conduct rule.” They found Jordan not guilty of damaging the NBA’s integrity, but the Bulls star’s squeaky-clean corporate image was certainly dirtied.
Michael Jordan’s lies about gambling debt revealed in court
Michael Jordan became embroiled in a North Carolina drug and money-laundering trial when a $57,000 check Jordan made out to convicted cocaine dealer James “Slim” Bouler was seized in the investigation. Jordan initially told the media the money was a personal loan to Bouler for construction of a
golf driving range. It was the same story, Bouler bragged over the phone to a friend, that would help him avoid paying taxes on his winnings. Little did he know his phone had been wiretapped by county police. Ultimately Jordan fessed up while under oath in court: the payment was for gambling losses from golf and poker. Jordan’s late father, James, always held his son’s gambling mishaps were the result of a “competition problem.” This incident showed M.J. may have had a little problem with the truth too.
Michael Jordan spotted gambling in Atlantic City during the Eastern Conference finals
May 24-25, 1993
At various points in his career, M.J. had been known to cop a competitive high off the court at a casino. During “Dream Team” training camp in Monte Carlo before the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, for instance, Jordan played plenty of late-night blackjack. But never did His Airness’s off-court gaming become such a distraction to the team as when some hotel guests of Bally’s Grand in Atlantic City, a two-hour drive from Manhattan, reported seeing M.J. betting in the casino’s baccarat pit until 2:30 AM on the eve of game two of the Eastern Conference finals against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. The Bulls had lost game one, so presumably Jordan would be resting up to take on John Starks and the rest of the Bulls’ rough-and-tumble rival. Jordan later claimed he was gambling until only 11 PM and was in bed by 1 AM, early enough to get eight hours of sleep before the team’s 10 AM shoot-around. In any case, Jordan reportedly lost $5,000 at the blackjack table—and the Bulls lost game two.
NBA launches second probe into Michael Jordan’s high-stakes gambling
A little more than a year after the NBA cleared Jordan of any wrongdoing with regard to his gambling on golf and cards, the league again began looking into his off-court dealings. The second investigation was sparked by a book, Michael and Me: Our Gambling Addiction . . . My Cry For Help!, self-published in May 1993 by San Diego golf pro Richard Esquinas, who wrote that Jordan owed him $1.25 million from betting on the links. Esquinas said he negotiated the debt down to $300,000, and even showed reporters checks as proof of payment from Jordan. By the time NBA officials finished the investigation and cleared M.J. on October 8, 1993, it was too late. Two days before the ruling, Jordan announced his retirement. The curious timing touched off rumors that the league may have forced Jordan to walk away after uncovering incriminating information, something former NBA commissioner David Stern has repeatedly denied.
Michael Jordan retires from the Bulls (for the first time)
October 6, 1993
Less than three months after the murder of his father James, Michael Jordan walked away from the game he had come to define. “I have nothing more to prove in basketball,” he said during a crowded press conference at the Berto Center in Deerfield. In the wake of the announcement, the Bulls were left with a gaping, Jumpman-shaped hole in their 1993-’94 lineup.
Scottie Pippen arrested for packing heat
January 20, 1994
Shortly past midnight outside P.J. Clarke’s in the Gold Coast, Scottie Pippen was arrested and charged with unlawful use of a weapon after police found a loaded .380 caliber handgun in the Bulls forward’s Range Rover while trying to tow the vehicle from a no-parking zone. The 28-year-old All-Star was licensed to own the gun—but not to carry it. “Gun Arrest Could Shoot Holes In Pippen’s Image” went the headline of a Tribune story that quoted a ten-year-old boy from the west side doubting if he could continue to call Pippen a hero. Ultimately, Cook County prosecutors would drop the misdemeanor charge after a judge ruled the cops didn’t have the right to legally enter and search Pippen’s vehicle—thereby preventing the firearm from serving as evidence. In the end, the Bulls star’s greatest crime may have been his SUV’s vacuous vanity plate: DA PIP.
Michael Jordan makes a pitiable attempt to play pro baseball
February 1994-March 1995
In the wake of his sudden breakup with the Bulls, M.J. announced he would pursue a pro baseball career, a lifelong dream he shared with his late father. In 127 games with the White Sox’ AA team, the Birmingham Barons, the greatest basketball player ever made for a poor-to-middling right fielder and hitter (career batting average: .202). Whiffing at pitches and dropping fly balls, Jordan proved, once and for all, that he’s human.
Scottie Pippen’s playoff hissy fit
May 13, 1994
If any single moment epitomizes the post-Jordan unease of the Bulls’ 1993-’94 season, it would have to be the final play of game three of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the New York Knicks. After spending his career happily playing in the shadow of His Airness, Scottie Pippen inherited the role of chief offensive threat. So with 1.8 seconds remaining and the game tied, Pip was infuriated with coach Phil Jackson’s decision to give the last shot to rookie Toni Kukoc. When Kukoc buried the jumper to give the Bulls a victory, Jackson’s scowl didn’t budge. How could he smile when his team was splintering?
The Orlando Magic end the Bulls’ playoff series run
May 18, 1995
Returning from retirement with just 17 games remaining in the 1994-’95 regular season, Michael Jordan cast himself as the Bulls’ white knight—or perhaps the cavalry riding in to propel the team into the finals once again. Game six of the Eastern Conference semifinals, however, would not offer a fairy-tale ending. Shaquille O’Neal and an Orlando Magic lineup that included former Bulls forward Horace Grant, who’d signed as a free agent at the end of the previous season, stunned the United Center crowd with a 108-102 victory that dealt Jordan, Pippen, and company a big blow.
The drafting of Jason Caffey
June 28, 1995
In the 1995 draft, the Bulls had the opportunity to select Michael Finley, who was born in Melrose Park, was a big deal at Proviso East High School, and distinguished himself at the University of Wisconsin. Finley became a two-time All-Star and in 2007 helped the Spurs win a championship. With the 20th pick, the Bulls instead selected Jason Caffey, who was a nonentity in his three seasons. When his NBA career ended, Caffey had financial difficulties. He fathered ten children with eight different women; in 2009 an Atlanta judge ordered his arrest for failure to pay thousands of dollars in child support.
Michael Jordan comes to blows with Steve Kerr
As Michael Jordan began his first full season back with the Bulls following his return from retirement, the 32-year-old was greeted with speculation that his best play was behind him. “Everybody was saying this was Scottie Pippen’s team, but I was trying to work my way back up to 1993, where this was Michael Jordan’s team,” he told ESPN. “And this one day I was just in a very feisty, feisty mood. Phil put Steve Kerr opposite of me, but he was giving Steve all the calls. And I’m getting really ticked off. One thing led to another—I fouled him real hard, he fouls me real hard. Before I knew it, I just hauled off and whacked him right in the eye. All the anger, all the comments of people saying that my skills had eroded, and I was letting everything go.” The skirmish said more about Jordan’s pettiness than the state of the team, which went on to post a record 72 wins in the regular season and take home its fourth championship title in six seasons.
Dennis Rodman head-butts a referee
March 16, 1996
When the Bulls acquired bad boy Dennis Rodman from San Antonio in the fall of 1995, coach Phil Jackson called the move a “risk/reward” proposition. As the league’s reigning rebound leader, Rodman added needed muscle to the Bulls’ backcourt. The concern was that the tattooed forward’s eccentric behavior could be a distraction, or worse—that his volatility might disrupt the team’s chemistry. Jackson’s fears were first realized when Rodman head-butted referee Ted Bernhardt during a game against the Nets in New Jersey. Before the close of the first quarter, Rodman earned his second technical foul of the game—for reaching his hands into his shorts in what Bernhardt deemed an obscene gesture—and was therefore ejected, as dictated by NBA rules. Upset at the call, Rodman jabbed his head into Bernhardt’s and stormed off. The incident landed Rodman a $20,000 fine and a six-game suspension without pay.
Dennis Rodman marries himself
August 21, 1996
Promoting his memoir Bad as I Wanna Be, released in the spring of ’96, Dennis Rodman famously showed up to a New York bookstore for a signing wearing a bridal gown. If the publicity stunt didn’t seem to initially irk his more conventional fellow Bulls players, it certainly made an impression on Jordan. Asked five months later if he had any advice for Rodman, who was returning that night from a suspension, M.J. quipped: “I’d tell him to wear pants all the time.”
Dennis Rodman kicks a cameraman
January 15, 1997
While fighting Kevin Garnett for a rebound in a game against the Timberwolves in Minnesota, Dennis Rodman tripped over a cameraman for a local NBC affiliate, Eugene Amos Jr. In a moment of rage, Rodman kicked Amos in the groin. He was subsequently fined $25,000 and suspended without pay for 11 games; he would later settle out of court with Amos for a reported $200,000. For the Bulls, the assault and Rodman’s absence put further strain on the tense relationship between Rodman and his teammates. “All I know is that Dennis doesn’t give a damn about most things,” Scottie Pippen said upon Rodman’s return. “I’m not sure he’s capable of learning any lessons from his suspensions.” Asked about the status of his own relationship with the pugnacious power forward, Michael Jordan replied: “We have no relationship.”
Dennis Rodman, thespian
April 4, 1997
Was Dennis Rodman’s book Bad as I Wanna Be about his acting ability? As he helped the Bulls to a 69-13 record, the Worm became a distraction off the court as his movie Double Team—a critical and commercial flop starring Jean Claude Van Damme and Mickey Rourke—premiered in theaters. The film cleaned up at the Razzies, with Rodman garnering Worst New Star, Worst Supporting Actor, and Worst Screen Couple with Van Damme.
The end of the 90s dynasty
It’s the NBA’s version of the Beatles’ breakup: Jordan, Pippen, Jackson—scattered to the wind. “It was not just ugly, it was sad,” Lazenby told me. “The city loved that team so much.” GM Jerry Krause was the easy scapegoat, but the dynasty’s disintegration was more nuanced than one man, however bullheaded he might have been. For the Bulls organization, Lazenby says, this period was an “ugly mound of puss and ego and finger-pointing and bad blood.”
Ron Artest applies for a job at Circuit City
Before his rookie season began, first-round draft choice Ron Artest (who in 2011 changed his name to Metta World Peace) applied for a job at Circuit City just for the employee discount. When the store manager called the reference Artest put on his application, Bulls GM Jerry Krause, the executive put a stop to the hiring. A decade later Artest elaborated on the sad reality of his time in Chicago: “I used to drink Hennessy . . . at halftime,” he told Sporting News.
The 2000-2001 season
Simply the worst season in Bulls history. It was the third for Tim Floyd, who took over as head coach following the 1999 Jackson/Jordan/Pippen exodus. The team finished 15-67, with a .183 win percentage. Twenty-five games into the next season, on Christmas Eve, Floyd resigned.
The drafting of Dalibor Bargarić
June 28, 2000
“Terrible may be too strong a word, but slow, cumbersome and predictable (in terms of his moves) seem to fit,” the Trib‘s Bulls beat reporter K.C. Johnson wrote in 2002 of first-round draft choice Dalibor Bargarić. The Croatian center averaged a pathetic 2.6 points and 2.5 rebounds in his three seasons with the Bulls before the team bought out his contract and he decamped to play in foreign leagues.
Marcus Fizer fizzles
The Bulls used the fourth overall pick in the 2000 draft to nab Iowa State’s Marcus Fizer. The power forward admits he never developed into an NBA-caliber player because he didn’t have the work ethic. “I was rolling in 15 minutes before practice,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2013. “After practice, I was running out of there.”
The drafting of Eddy Curry
June 27, 2001
Eddy Curry dominated during his years at Thornwood High School in South Holland, Illinois, and he expressed interest in staying close to home. So when the big man decided to forgo a scholarship to DePaul to enter the 2001 draft, the Bulls used the fourth overall pick to snatch him up. Despite early signs that Curry would be an offensive threat, he was plagued by an irregular heartbeat and fitness issues that would sideline him.
Bulls players toke up before games (or so says Jay Williams)
There were plenty of basketball-related reasons 2002-’03 was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad season for the hapless 30-52 Bulls. But what if the players were just high as hell? “There were guys smoking weed before games,” Jay Williams told the New York Times last year, speaking of his first and only season in the NBA. The allegation prompted Deadspin to speculate about which Bulls players were most likely to have taken a pre-game toke. Topping the list: Fred Hoiberg, now head coach of the Bulls, who subsequently denied he’d ever smoked pot. “Never at all. Never in my life.”
Jay Williams’s career-ending motorcycle crash
June 19, 2003
After the Bulls selected Duke point guard Jay Williams as the number two pick in the 2002 draft, the team had such outsize expectations for him that the front office made a ceremony of giving him Michael Jordan’s old locker. But tragedy followed a so-so rookie year: the 21-year-old drove his motorcycle into a light pole in Wicker Park, dislocating his pelvis and left knee, severing the artery in his left leg, and damaging nerves. Williams descended into a cycle of depression, drinking, and self-loathing. He would never play in another NBA game.
Da Bull arrested for allegedly selling da weed
January 19, 2004
Remember Da Bull? The more agile dunk-centric cousin to Benny the Bull was a United Center standby for nine seasons until the man behind the brown-furred mascot costume, Chester Brewer, was arrested near the Cabrini-Green public housing project for allegedly selling marijuana from his car, where police said they found six ounces of pot. The Bulls promptly retired the character.
Benny the Bull allegedly injures a dentist with a high five
February 12, 2008
The long, strange journey of Benny the Bull got even weirder when Naperville dentist Don Kalant Sr. sued the man portraying Benny, Barry Anderson. The suit alleged Anderson went in for a high five but instead grabbed Kalant’s arm and fell forward, injuring the doc’s bicep. Anderson, it turned out, had a bit of a rap sheet: he was arrested in 2006 for allegedly punching an off-duty Cook County sheriff’s deputy who tried to stop him from riding a miniature motorcycle through Grant Park. Mascots!
A dark day in Bulls history
February 25, 2009
Longtime fans mourned the death of two towering Bulls figures who passed away in the span of 24 hours. Norm Van Lier, the tenacious star of the 1970s Bulls, was found in his home dead at age 61. Later on that same day Johnny “Red” Kerr, 76, the Bulls’ first coach and longtime broadcaster, died after a battle with prostate cancer.
Michael Jordan’s needlessly petty hall of fame speech
September 11, 2009
Michael Jordan never forgot a single person who had slighted him on his journey to becoming the greatest-ever NBA player. That was the general theme of his surprisingly vindictive Hall of Fame induction speech, in which the infamous trash talker singled out everyone from the high school coach who didn’t put Jordan on the varsity team to players who iced him out during his rookie All-Star appearance to former Bulls GM Jerry Krause, His Airness’s constant punching bag.
Derrick Rose tears his ACL
April 28, 2012
The NBA’s reigning Most Valuable Player had appeared in only 39 regular-season games, plagued by a variety of injuries—turf toe, a sprained ankle, and groin and foot injuries. In the final two minutes of a first-round playoff game against the eighth-seed 76ers (who ended up beating the Bulls), Rose tore his ACL, sidelining him for 99 games, including the entire following season. Never again would Rose regain his MVP-level play.
Derrick Rose tears meniscus in his right knee
November 2013 TO April 2014
Just ten games into his comeback, Rose limps off the court during a game against the Trailblazers in Portland. While changing direction to get back on defense, he lost his footing and suffered a medial meniscus tear in his right knee. Rose would miss 76 games, and come playoff time the Bulls lost in the first round to the Washington Wizards. At this point you were more likely to catch Rose shilling in a Giordano’s commercial than playing basketball.
Derrick Rose tears his meniscus (again)
February 24, 2015
D-Rose’s own personal Groundhog Day-style injury hell continues when the Bulls announce Rose has again suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee and will undergo surgery. He would miss 20 games, returning in time to propel the team to the Eastern Conference semifinals before they were beat by Lebron James and the Cavs.
Derrick Rose accused of rape
August 25, 2015
On the eve of the 2015-’16 preseason, an ex-girlfriend of Derrick Rose filed a lawsuit against the Bulls star and two friends, accusing them of drugging and gang-raping her in her Beverly Hills home back in August 2013. In his first public remarks about the situation, Rose said he would be proven innocent and, oddly, that he was using the accusations as “motivation.”
Derrick Rose, masked wonder
September 29, 2015
Another season, yet another major injury for Derrick Rose. During the first practice of the year, Rose fractured his left orbital bone after taking an elbow to the face. On the plus side, Rose was fitted postsurgery with one of those sort of rad Bill Laimbeer face masks.
Pau Gasol bullheaded enough to rail against Chicago-style deep-dish pizza
December 28, 2015
Like it or not, deep-dish pizza is a sacred cow in Chicago. It’s one of those annoying perennial topics every Chicago athlete of note will be asked his or her opinion of at some point in their career. So when GQ lobbed a softball question about ‘za at Bulls center Pau Gasol, all he had to do was nod and smile. Instead, the Spaniard expressed his displeasure with the pie: “I’ve tried it. I’m not a fan of this deep-dish pizza. To me, it’s just a cake of melted cheese.” For shame. v