From November 2010 to May 2011, I wrote for a site called “The Sports Blog Network,” a sports website launched by Chris Reed. The site folded, as websites do, and at some point in the past year (maybe longer?) the content was removed.
I loved the work I did there and appreciated the opportunity Chris gave me (thanks man!) so I am reposting all of those stories on ReadJack.
Dancing days for the Chicago Bulls
Originally published on Sports Blog Network December 1, 2010
In just a few minutes, the Chicago Bulls will take floor at the United Center to, I presume, the greatest of heroes’ welcomes bestowed on a Bulls team since Game 5 of the 1998 Finals, or, at least, Game 6 of the Celtics series.
That is because, for the first time since those ring-bearing Bulls of Jordan and Pippen, Jackson and Rodman, the Red and Black have run the annual circus trip gauntlet and secured more wins than losses.
Defeated the two should-be gimmes on the docket – Houston and Sacramento – and toppled the Mavericks of Nowitzki and the Suns of Nash. Lost to the L’s best team by seven, to its hottest by nine, and to one of its most talented by one.
That last came with their best player and the Eastern Conference’s leading scorer on the pine with a sore neck. No matter – if not for a just-signed, ice cold D-Leaguer bricking a pair of foul shots with 12 seconds to play, the Bulls of Rose and Noah and Thibs and Lu would have banged out that win too.
It was a trip during which Derrick Rose solidified his status as the East’s other starting guard while Joakim Noah became a no-doubter off the bench. It was a trip where they stared the two-time champion Lakers dead in the eye and barely blinked.
But it was that double overtime game in Phoenix that told me, unquestionably, that the Bulls have the undivided attention of the city of Chicago.
I was home working during that game, checking on the game via a bootleg internet station that does quite well with NBA feeds. The same success could not be attributed to the Bulls; late in the half, the team trailed by 19, the same point total in the quarter from former Bull Hakim Warrick. This would be, I told myself, the first bad L of the trip.
As such, with serious work still to finish and a date out with friends, I closed the broadcast and remained on task for the entire third quarter. Checked the score in the first minute of the fourth. Bulls down 82-75. More work. Re-opened the feed. A pair of Chicago buckets cuts the lead to nine, and Phoenix pushes it back to 11…
…but then, as I change from work-mode to pub-mode, bang-bang-bang, get it to 89-86 on two threes and a deuce from Deng and Kyle Korver.
Concerned that I might lose the feed as we came down the stretch, I hustled into clothes and skipped out to find a bar. It was raining, and I was dashing down the street, dry and then wet and then dry, ‘neath an umbrella that could not handle the wind. I spotted 6 Corners Sports Bar on North Ave. and hustled in.
…and here’s how I know the team is getting cheered to the dickens by the U.C. faithful tonight:
6 Corners was packed, Bulls fans a-ragin’. It was 91-86 Suns when I took off my coat, the two teams locked in a mini-drought, and all throughout the restaurant, fans were screaming and clapping and reacting for the Bulls.
I was at 6 Corners on October 27th with my friend, roommate, and San Francisco sports fan Rob. It was opening night for the Bulls, Game 1 of the World Series for the Giants, and the patrons at 6 Corners were most interested in 11th Black Hawks game of the season.
Less than a month later, and a Hawks game one screen over, the crowd on North was gung-ho for the Bulls.
Indeed, it was the first time in Rose’s career that the bulk of common Chicago sports fans were roundly gung-ho on Da Bulls, and they could not have faced a more fitting opponent. Back in January, I was at a northside bar for a Friday night Bulls game in Phoenix. The team had delighted the city the April before with the magical Celtics series, but it was not enough to maintain the city’s attention at the start of the 2009-2010 season. Much of the remaining enthusiasm was drained with a sluggish first half.
Then came the January 22nd Phoenix game, and The Dragic Dunk, the play that shook the city. The dunk scraped Rose’s head upon the backboard, threw apathetic beer drinkers around me into a frenzy, and instantly eclipsed the 4th quarter of Game 6 of the 1992 Finals as Stacey King’s most memorable moment with the organization.
That play was an awakening to The Star. This trip was an awakening to The Team. And once again, the transformation was sealed in Phoenix.
This recent Bulls-Suns game gave the 6 Corners crowd and the few Bulls fans in Phoenix quite a thrill. Our Bulls gutted out a 123-115 win, capitalizing on two clutch free throws from Rose at the end of regulation, and a spectacularly beautiful back door pass and reverse layup from Noah to his favorite point guard at the end of the first overtime.
It was a win that everyone saw, one that had everyone talking, and when they beat the Kings for their fourth win in seven games, they re-entered that rarified top-o’-the-city air, currently shared with their U.C. roommates.
And now, here they are, 9-6 and atop their division, the most purely athletic Bulls team since that ’92 bunch, playing host to a traditional Eastern power as a peer, not a poser. With or without Boozer, this is the best Bulls team since 1998.
That season was The Last Dance.
This time, the night is young.
Jack M Silverstein is a staff writer for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. Say hey @readjack.