Chicago Bulls greats celebrate team’s glory days

Julia Poe “Chicago Tribune”

The focus was on history Thursday night at the United Center as the Chicago Bulls honored a groundbreaking group of former players, coaches and executives in the inaugural Ring of Honor.

The Bulls, who made history with a 72-win season in 1995-96 and then won their fourth NBA championship in six seasons, reunited for a special night that included a red carpet ceremony and after-party.

The hardwood court where the Bulls normally play was transformed into a banquet hall filled with Hall of Famers and former stars who had made their mark in Chicago. Mayor Brandon Johnson, broadcasters Adam Amin, Chuck Swierski and Michael Reinsdorf served as emcees throughout the evening.

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“I’m excited to be here,” said Bob Love, one of the 13 inaugural members. “This is the best day of my life.”

Other inductees include Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson, Artis Gilmore, Johnny “Red” Kerr, Dick Klein, Jerry Krause, Toni Kukoc, Sk Dee Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Jerry Sloan, Chet Walker and Tex Winter.

Neither Jordan nor Pippen, two Hall of Famers who led the Bulls to six championships in eight years, attended Thursday night’s party. Also missing is Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman, a bitter rival of the Detroit Pistons who joined the Bulls during the historic 1995-96 season and hung on for their second three-peat. .

The 1995-96 team was the focus of the evening, always in the spotlight through highlight reels, documentary footage and personal interviews. The absence of the team’s core star was frustrating, but it also allowed the team’s supporting cast to celebrate as they won 87 of 100 games en route to the fourth NBA championship in franchise history.

For Kukoc, the night was a chance to reunite and reconnect with his Chicago teammates and coaches for the first time in years.

“When I started playing basketball, I never thought something like this was possible,” Kukoc said. “We’re talking about one of the best – if not the best – teams of all time.”

Bulls president Jerry Reinsdorf noted there was only one way the night could have been better — if Krause was in attendance. The longtime close friend of GM and Reinsdorf, who helped build a six-title dynasty in the 1990s, died in March 2017.

The event also featured Chicago’s past and present standouts, including Bulls great Horace Grant and current Sky star Kaalia Koper, who praised the legacy of the 1995-96 team.

“I used to call myself the female Michael Jordan,” Koper said. “To finally come to Chicago and want to keep this strong tradition and win a championship here in 2021, it’s very special. That team, they’re a bunch of winners and contenders. “I’m excited to come Come here and be a part of something so special and be with some of the winners. “

The celebrations are not over yet. The inaugural graduating class will be ceremonialized Friday during halftime of the Cal Bulls’ game against the Golden State Warriors. The Bulls planned the event around the Warriors game to give head coach Steve Kerr a chance to be honored along with other players from the 1995-96 team.

“It’s really amazing,” said Kerr, a member of the Bulls’ second three-peat team. “I hate to miss that, so the fact that the Bulls did it in our game is very gratifying and I’m glad it happened the way it did.”

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