24-33 • 10th in EASTERN CONFERENCE
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The Bulls had a strong start to the 2020-21 campaign, making a potential playoff appearance not out of the question. So, is this finally going to be the year that Chicago ends its now-three-year postseason dry spell?
It's a bit of a long shot, but at this point, we can't count the Bulls out. This team is still very much in playoff contention. It's an extremely tight race, but the Bulls have a shot.
Zach LaVine, who deservedly earned his first All-Star nod this season, will play perhaps the most important role for Chicago the rest of the way. If the 25-year-old is able to sustain his current level of play for the Bulls (something that he seems capable of doing), then a spot in the play-in round at the very least is within reach.
Not very good. Especially when you consider the six titles Michael Jordan won in his final six full seasons in Chicago. To be fair, this is the GOAT we’re talking about here, so it's a gargantuan task to try and live up to his extremely high standards.
The Bulls went into a rebuilding phase upon Jordan's (second) retirement in 1998. This was characterized by a six-year postseason drought. Chicago then went on to make the playoffs, but most of their appearances resulted in early first-round exits. During these dark years, the team managed just 66 wins in four seasons immediately succeeding MJ's departure. That's an average of just 16.5 wins per year.
Then came Derrick Rose, the youngest league MVP in NBA history. During his MVP year, he led Chicago to the Eastern Conference Finals -- the farthest they've gone in the post-Jordan era. It all came crashing down when Rose tore his ACL. The Bulls sustained their playoff-team status for several years, but they never got past the second round again.
After the Rose years, the Bulls made another brief appearance in the postseason in 2017 with Jimmy Butler at the helm. Since, it's been another three-year postseason drought for the Bulls. The squad has shown some promise in 2020-21, though Chicago currently has an outside chance of breaking their postseason dry spell unless they get hot in the play-in round.
Not many will argue with the notion that Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time. As such, he's also amassed one of the most sizable fortunes not only within the realm of the NBA, but in all of sports.
According to Forbes, MJ currently has a net worth of $1.6 billion (as of March 2021). While the figure might be staggering, it isn't actually surprising considering Jordan’s global reach.
During his playing days, the Bulls legend pocketed $90 million in basketball salaries, which many stars bag in just three years in the modern NBA. However, what's amazing about Jordan's fortune is that he pocketed an estimated $1.8 billion from his corporate partners.
Jordan purchased a majority stake of the Charlotte Hornets franchise back in 2010 in a deal that dug a $175-million hole into his deep pockets. His investment has since turned out to be a sound one, with the team now estimated to be worth $1.5 billion.
In terms of endorsement deals, Nike has always been MJ's biggest corporate sponsor. He's been raking it in with the sporting goods giant since the 1980s and he continues to earn significant profits from the brand to this very day. His Jordan Brand line has become so big that it is now earning billions of dollars of revenue every single year.
Aside from Nike, Jordan also has several deals with brands such as Gatorade, Hanes, and Upper Deck.
Yes, Dennis Rodman is a Hall of Famer. He was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011, 11 years after he retired from the NBA in 2000.
Rodman garnered a reputation as a "bad boy" throughout his career. This started long before he joined the Bulls, with the 6-foot-7 forward playing a key role for the back-to-back championship-winning Bad Boys Detroit Pistons in 1989 and 1990. While Rodman may be known for his out-of-this-world antics off the court, he was actually a great player on it. Rodman played an undeniably key role for Chicago's second three-peat, making him a five-time NBA champ.
Rodman, a two-time Defensive Player of the Year winner, is also widely considered as one of the best rebounders in basketball history (he led the league in boards on seven separate occasions). For all his contributions to the sport, it is only right that he is enshrined in the Hall.
As of 2021, it feels like the Bulls are one superstar away from becoming a true contender in the Eastern Conference, or at least a perennial playoff threat. With the Nets uniting Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden under one roof, all other teams in the conference (and in the NBA for that matter) will be hard-pressed to match up against such a formidable superstar trio. And then there are the Bucks. And the Sixers. And the Celtics. You get the point.
Chicago’s strong start to the 2020-21 season was thanks in large part to the emergence of Zach LaVine as a true superstar. The 25-year-old has been playing at such an elite level this season that he deservedly earned his first-ever call-up to the All-Star squad. Whatever level of success the Bulls reach this season (and probably for the next few years as well) will rely heavily on LaVine's play.
Zach can't do it alone, though.
The Bulls have a number of highly-promising players on their roster, including Coby White, Wendell Carter Jr., 19-year-old rookie Patrick Williams, and even Lauri Markkanen (who is in the final year of his rookie-scale deal). However, none of them are at LaVine's level just yet.
Otto Porter Jr. was amazing in the 15 games he played in after the mid-season trade from the Washington Wizards during the 2018-19 campaign, but since, he's perpetually found himself on the injury list.
If the Bulls want to be a legitimate contender in the East, they need to bring in a second star to play alongside LaVine. This could come in the form of a sudden emergence in one of the aforementioned prospects or externally via a trade. After all, they have the assets.
Lauri Markkanen is set to pocket "just" $6.7 million this season. In terms of player salaries, he falls significantly below the pecking order and is actually set to earn less than rookie Patrick Williams, who will be pocketing $7.1 million in his debut year.
The good news for Markkanen is that his current rookie-scale deal is set to expire at the end of the 2020-21 season, and the fourth-year power forward should be in for a hefty pay raise.
It remains to be seen if the Bulls intend to offer Markkanen an extension at the value he believes he’s worth, though. Contract negotiations could get tricky.
Unfortunately for Markkanen, injuries have played a significant role in his career thus far. In his first three years as a pro, the most he's played in a single season is 68 games. This year is no different, with the 23-year-old missing more than half of Chicago's first 30 games.
With the possibility of Markkanen walking away this offseason, a trade could’ve been an option ahead of the deadline. No such deal was made, but Lauri's future in Chicago beyond 2021 remains uncertain.
Chicago currently has a number of bright young prospects on its squad. However, Zach LaVine stands out as their best player. At 25, the 6-foot-5 guard/forward has established himself as the Bulls' cornerstone superstar as one of the league’s top young guards.
A testament to this fact is LaVine's first-ever call-up to the All-Star squad this season. It was a much-deserved nod, with LaVine averaging 28.6 points (on 51.8 percent from the field), 5.4 rebounds, 5.1 assists, and 1.1 steals over the first 30 games of the 2020-21 season. LaVine has also been lights out from distance, draining 3.4 triples per game on a highly-efficient 41.4-percent clip. For a bit of reference, the last time an All-Star emerged from Chicago was back in 2017 when Jimmy Butler made the team.
LaVine's current contract will last through the end of the 2021-22 season. At the moment, he is pocketing $19.5 million a year. This is a figure that will take a significant bump once he signs a new deal. Unless the Bulls front office decides that LaVine is no longer part of the team's plans for the future -- something that seems unlikely at this point -- then he should be in line for a massive extension soon.
Forbes lists the Chicago Bulls franchise as worth $3.3 billion as of February 2021.
The team is currently owned by Jerry Reinsdorf, who has been at the helm for nearly four decades now. Reinsdorf paid $16.2 million to purchase the franchise in 1985.
At the end of the 2019-20 season, the Bulls franchise declared revenue of $300 million and an operating income of $115 million.
The Chicago Bulls call the United Center their home.
The stadium broke ground in 1992 -- right at the peak of Michael Jordan's career -- and it opened its doors in August of 1994. At that time, the construction cost of the 23,000 max capacity stadium was estimated at $175 million.
The United Center served as Chicago's home floor for their historic second three-peat from 1996 to 1998.
Not too many basketball fans missed the epic 30 for 30 mega-hit docuseries The Last Dance. Jerry Reinsdorf was a prominent figure throughout the show as the Bulls owner -- a title the 85-year-old billionaire still holds.
Reinsdorf, who made his fortune in real estate, purchased the team in 1985 for $16 million. This purchase came four years after he bought the Chicago White Sox franchise for $19 million. Nearly four decades after purchasing the Bulls, Reinsdorf has now grown the team's value to $3.3 billion.
Reinsdorf is widely credited for significantly improving the team's stature immediately upon his arrival. Jordan, who was drafted in 1984, was already with the team when Reinsdorf took over. However, it was under Reinsdorf's watch that the Bulls drafted Horace Grant and Scottie Pippen. It was also under Reinsdorf's direction that the team hired Phil Jackson in 1987 (as an assistant coach) and promoted him as the squad's head coach in 1989. The rest, as they say, is history.
Billy Donovan signed on as Chicago's new head coach prior to the start of the 2020-21 campaign.
Prior to making the move to Chicago, Donovan served as the head coach for the Oklahoma City Thunder for five seasons. During that time, Donovan amassed a record of 243 wins and 157 losses (.608 winning percentage). Donovan led the Thunder to five consecutive playoff appearances, including a trip to the Western Conference Finals in 2016.
Donovan took over the head coaching post in Chicago after the Bulls parted ways with Jim Boylen during the offseason.
When Billy Donovan took over head coaching duties in Chicago during the offseason, he brought with him three of his assistants from the Oklahoma City Thunder: Dave Bliss, Mike Wilks, and David Akinyooye, all of whom agreed to join their boss as he made the move to Chicago.
Donovan's fourth assistant is Mike Miller (not the former Miami Heat player), who is also a first-year assistant in Chicago. Miller spent two years with the New York Knicks prior to this season, which also included the role of an interim head coach last term.
There is no doubt that Phil Jackson is the greatest Chicago Bulls head coach of all time. As a matter of fact, more than a few would argue that he is the GOAT coach in NBA history.
After serving as an assistant for two seasons, Jackson got promoted as the head coach of the Bulls in 1989. After losing out to the eventual champions Detroit Pistons in the 1990 Eastern Conference Finals, Jackson coached Michael Jordan and the Bulls to three consecutive championships between 1991 and 1993. MJ retired after their third title, but he returned in the middle of the 1994-95 campaign. A year later, Jackson and the Bulls were champions again. During the 1995-96 season, coach Phil led Chicago to a historic 72-win campaign en route to their first title in their second three-peat.
After parting ways with the Bulls in 1998, Jackson joined the Los Angeles Lakers and went on to win five more titles, making him a record 11-time champion coach.
In the post-Phil Jackson/post-MJ era, the farthest the Bulls have gone in the playoffs is one Eastern Conference Finals appearance. This came in 2011 when then-MVP Derrick Rose led Chicago to a league-best 62-win season. The man sitting at the helm at that time was head coach Tom Thibodeau, who deserves credit for his contributions for the franchise.
In five seasons with the Bulls, Thibs recorded 255 wins against 139 losses, good for an impressive .647 winning record. Had it not been for Rose's devastating injuries, Thibodeau could have possibly followed in Jackson's footsteps as Chicago's next champion coach.
During the early years of the franchise, it was Dick Motta who made his mark in Bulls coaching history. Motta was named as the team's head coach in 1968 -- just two years after the team was established. He served as the squad's top shot-caller for eight seasons. During his tenure, the Bulls won 356 games, making Motta the second-most winningest coach in Chicago (Jackson sits atop with 545 wins).
Michael Jordan is regarded by most as the greatest player of all time. The GOAT. This easily makes him the greatest player to ever wear a Bulls uniform.
Where do we begin with MJ's accomplishments? A 14-time All-Star, a 10-time scoring champion, an 11-time All-NBA, a nine-time All-Defense, a six-time Finals MVP, a five-time MVP, a six-time NBA champ, and a first-ballot Hall of Famer. The list goes on. You get the picture. So who else joins him?
You can't speak of MJ's legacy in Chicago without giving credit to Scottie Pippen. Had it not been for him, the Bulls probably wouldn't have won six titles in eight years.
Prior to Pippen's arrival in Chicago, Jordan and the Bulls were a middle-of-the-road type of team. However, things began looking up after the Bulls drafted Pip fifth overall in the 1987 NBA Draft. Not too long after, Chicago went on to win their first title in 1991.
MJ probably would not have reached the heights he did had it not been for Pippen playing alongside him. Pip is the best Robin in the history of Batmans and Robins in the NBA, making him the greatest sidekick/second superstar of all time.
The younger generation remembers the late, great Jerry Sloan as the head coach of the Utah Jazz team that MJ and the Bulls defeated in the 1997 and 1998 NBA Finals. However, as a player, Sloan was actually an all-time great for the Bulls.
Chicago selected Sloan fourth overall in the 1966 expansion draft, and the 6-foot-5 guard/forward instantly paid dividends for the team. Sloan bagged All-Star honors in two of his first three seasons in the NBA as he established himself as one of the top two-guards in the league. Sloan served as the squad's anchor on defense, which resulted in six All-Defensive selections. In 10 seasons with the Bulls, Sloan holds career averages of 14.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 2.6 assists. Inducted into the Hall of Fame as a coach in 2009, Sloan passed away on May 22, 2020 at the age of 78 due to complications brought about by Parkinson's disease and Lewy body dementia.
In spite of the multiple injuries that derailed his career, there's no denying that Derrick Rose is one of the greatest Bulls players of all time. Selected as the first overall pick in 2008, the former University of Memphis standout bagged Rookie of the Year honors during his debut campaign. By Year 2, he was an All-Star.
The following season (2010-11), Rose became the youngest NBA MVP ever at age 22. He led the Bulls to a league-best 61-win campaign, as the team went all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals -- the farthest they have gone in the post-Jordan era -- only to fall to the Miami Heat. It all came crashing down for Rose not long after that, with the 6-foot-2 guard suffering a couple of career-changing injuries to both of his knees over the course of the next two years. He was never the same after those injuries, and the Bulls eventually parted ways with him in 2016 after eight seasons with the team.
Finally, we have one of the most memorable hometown heroes from the 1970s in Bob Love. The 6-foot-8 forward played for the Bulls for nine seasons between 1968 and 1976, during which he was dubbed as an All-Star three times. Among other things, Love was an explosive force on the offensive end, topping off at 25.8 points per game during the 1971-72 season. Love scored a total of 12,623 career points during his time with the Bulls, making him third on the franchise's all-time scoring list behind Jordan and Pippen.
There is no Chicago Bull more legendary than the GOAT, Michael Jordan. MJ had his No. 23 jersey retired by the Bulls in 1994, not long after his first retirement. This is why he briefly used the No. 45 upon his return, but he eventually reverted and unretired the No. 23 after barely 20 games.
Other legendary players with their numbers retired by the Bulls include, of course, Scottie Pippen and his No. 33 jersey. Pip was a pivotal piece of Chicago's double three-peat during the 1990s as he served as the Robin to Jordan's Batman. Had it not been for him, the Bulls probably would not have found as much success as they did during the MJ era.
The No. 4 was also retired in honor of the late, great Jerry Sloan. Sloan was inducted to the Hall of Fame as a coach, but he was a pretty good player too during his heyday. He spent all but one season of his career playing with the Bulls, during which he earned All-Star honors twice.
Bob Love also had his No. 10 jersey retired by the Bulls to honor the 6-foot-8 forward’s contributions to the franchise in the 1970s. Love was a key figure for the squad during the early days, and the fact that the three-time All-Star and two-time All-Defense forward ranks third on the Bull's all-time scoring list (behind Jordan and Pippen) speaks volumes of his impact.
A couple of non-players also have their numbers retired by the franchise, and they too have undeniably attained legendary status with the team. Coach Phil Jackson was the man at the helm for Chicago in all six of their championships, while former general manager Jerry Krause played a key role in crafting the Bulls dynasty of the 1990s.