The following is my final story on the 2011-12 Chicago Bulls. For my full RedEye archives, click here.
The season that never happened.
By Jack M Silverstein
May 12, 2012
Maybe that didn’t just happen. They called a foul, right? C.J.’s going to the line for three… right?
Because if he isn’t, then this game just ended like THAT. With the Bulls losing and the season expiring. And there’s no way THAT happened.
Those were my first thoughts after C.J. Watson’s half-court prayer fell softly to the floor. There had to be a foul, a whistle I hadn’t heard, or a late call coming. But there was no foul. No whistle. And no more games for the 2012 Chicago Bulls.
We should have known this was coming. You don’t win a championship with your lone MVP candidate watching from a box suite. Whether it ended against Miami or Boston or, unlikely as it seemed, in the Finals or the 1st round, it was ending without a trophy. We should have known…
But that’s not how fans operate. We’re like players: if there’s a game, there’s a chance to win. And if there’s a chance to win, we’re invested until the bitter, bloody, buzzer-sounding end.
This series was the ultimate test of that mindset. It changed so fast. With two minutes left in Game 1, it was “You know what? We can hang with Miami.” After Game 1, it was “Well, we can’t beat Miami, but we’ll give ‘em a good fight.” After Game 2, it was “Damn, Philly’s no pushover.” After Game 3, it was “Oh my god – what if we don’t beat Philly?” After Game 4, it was “Oh my god – we’re not going to beat Philly!” After Game 5, it was “Good god that was hideous, but at least we have a chance.” With two minutes left in Game 6, it was “Just hold on here Bulls. You got this.” With 25 seconds left, it was “Yes! Game 7 at home!” With 12 seconds left, it was “No problem… everything is fine…” With 7 seconds left, it was “That was a dumb pass, but everything is still fine…” With 2 seconds left, it was “NO! NO! NO!”
And when the clock ticked zero, it was silence. The ball bounced into oblivion. The confetti fell. The Sixers celebrated. The Bulls walked away. This dream season of Chicago Bulls basketball was pricked and deflated leaving only the cold truth of failure and uncertainty.
And that was that, as they say.
After the game, I had trouble speaking. I was with friends, and they engaged in conversation while I sunk into my chair. Would Rose be the same? Would players return? Would we ever see this team again?
I slowly regained my speech, and we hung out a bit longer before leaving. On my walk home I got a call from my friend Ben, one of my favorite fellow Bulls fans. I picked up, and for a few seconds neither of us spoke.
“Damn,” he said, breaking the silence, “I’m ready for next season already. This one kind of felt like it never really happened.”
Maybe it didn’t.
Jack M Silverstein is a RedEye special contributor. Say hey @ReadJack.