I’ve never felt thrilled for another city’s fans. Not like this.
That is nearly the exact same intro I used for my column May 14, 2010, the day after the Cleveland Cavaliers were eliminated by the Boston Celtics — AKA the final game LeBron played as a member of the Cavs until his return last year.
Way back in October, back when the Bulls’ record of 72 wins was safe, I began an essay about the 12 moves the Bulls made between June 1993 and October 1995 that turned an aged, bickering, 57-win champion into a flourishing, rejuvenated, 72-win juggernaut.
Seven months later, I have a 13,000-word e-book and have spent more time reading about and watching clips of the 1995-96 Bulls than any time other than 1995-96. I’ll save you the suspense: It’s been a sweet 7 months!
Thus I am very proud to release “How The GOAT Was Built: 6 Life Lessons From the 1996 Chicago Bulls.”
I believe in the planning and principles behind the ‘96 Bulls and the whole second three-peat. A lot of sound reasoning went into those teams. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t any luck.
As I researched this team, I had fun diving into history’s wrinkles — those mostly forgotten sharp left turns our memories ironed into straightaways. The lesson: like the parable of the Chinese farmer, you truly never know if an event will end up being good luck or bad, so plan the best you can, react pragmatically, and move on.
And with that, here are my two favorite “what if?” moments of the 1996 Bulls — they’re related.
What if Chris Dudley didn’t sign with the Trail Blazers in 1993?
The championship Bulls don’t work without Scottie Pippen. So naturally the Bulls tried to trade him approximately a bajillion times between 1994 and 1998. In telling the story of the 1996 Bulls — and gleaning from that story wisdom for our own lives and pursuits — two abandoned Pippen trades stand out.
Incredibly, both failed because the OTHER team balked.
The first was between the Bulls and SuperSonics on the eve of the 1994 draft, the Pippen-for-Kemp deal that failed when Seattle got cold feet.
“I don’t want to be here (with the Bulls) the rest of the season,”Pippen said in early February. “I’m hoping teams are thinking about me. I’m still ready to get out of here. I’m looking for a different place, a different team, a different perspective on my career. I’ve got 18 days to go (to the February 23 trading deadline). The countdown is on. Just say I’m showcasing myself out here.”Continue reading “33-23 = 1.8, but 33+23 = 72”
Twenty years later, my number one vision of the Chicago Bulls in the spring of 1996 is 20 limbs and an approximate 35-foot combined wingspan fanned out like a flying octagon — five players between 6’6 and 6’11, four with point guard skills, four who could defend three positions, and a genius on the sideline joining his players in synced consciousness.
Originally published on ChicagoSide, September 13, 2013
One of the coolest pieces of sports memorabilia I ever saw was at Bookman’s Alley, the great old used bookstore in Evanston. It was a poster made of cloth displaying the schedule for the 1927 Chicago Cardinals season, like the 1920’s version of a team schedule refrigerator magnet.