Listing the honorable mentions took longer than picking who would actually be on Mount Rushmore. And no, I wasn’t allowed to select Jordan 4 times.
When you think of the four most important people for a Chicago Bulls Mount Rushmore, most fans obviously consider Pete Myers, Marcus Fizer, Orlando Woolridge, and coach Tim Floyd. These four names are what brought three championships to Chicago following three years of defeat at the hands of the Pistons.
Additionally, these same four men are the reason why another three championships were achieved after crushing defeats to the Knicks and the Magic in 1994 and 1995 respectfully. And, this is why Dwyane Wade and several other players will proudly wear the red, black, and white this November when the 2017–18 NBA season tips off. #SeeRed
If you’re still with me, you not only enjoy my sense of humor, but you also know any realistic Mount Rushmore for the Bulls of Chicago would be built on the remains of those four guys.
Pete Myers holds a special place in my heart as the man who replaced Michael Jordan in the starting lineup in 1993. That said, I was tasked with picking the four most important people in Bulls history who would comprise Chicago’s Mount Rushmore. Before we get to our giant faces on a mountain or skyscraper (this is Chicago we’re talking about), let’s examine honorable mentions.
Johnny “Red” Kerr: Not only was Red the Bulls’ first ever coach (he won Coach of the Year in 1967), he also was responsible for bringing the man they call Mr. Chicago Bull (Jerry Sloan) to Chicago. Further, Red gets mentioned for his 33 years as the voice of the Bulls, including his memorable call of MJ’s game-winner over Craig Ehlo in the first round of the 1988 playoffs.
Chet Walker, Artis Gilmore, Norm Van Lier: I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention these three stalwarts of the 1970s. They made the Bulls better than they should’ve been, for a barely 13 year old 1979 franchise.
Walker was a four-time All-Star with the Bulls with career averages of 18.2 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists. Gilmore also made four All-Star games averaging 18.8 points, 12.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists. And, Van Lier was 3-time All-Star posting 11.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game.
The Bulls made the playoffs seven times in the 13 seasons when one of these three players were on the floor, advancing as far as the Western Conference Finals in 1974 and 1975.
Bob Love: A three -time All-Star, Love posted marks of 21.3 points per game and 5.9 rebounds in his seven full seasons with the Bulls. The Bulls averaged 46 wins in those seasons and made the playoffs six times as well. Love (#10) was the second Bull to have his number retired after Jerry Sloan.
Dick Motta: Coached the team from 1968 to 1976. Won Coach of the Year in 1971 and only missed the playoffs twice. He went on to lead the Bullets (Wizards) to their lone NBA Title in 1978.
Doug Collins: The longest tenured coach for MJ’s career other than Phil Jackson (5 seasons, 3 with the Bulls and 2 with the Wizards), Collins was at the helm for Jordan’s first playoff series win in 1988 and guided the Bulls to their first East Finals in 1989.
Scott Skiles: Led the Bulls back to the playoffs after a 6 year drought in 2004 and sent the defending champion Miami Heat out of the playoffs in 4 games in 2006.
Tom Thibodeau: Left a Celtics team that had just narrowly lost the 2010 NBA Finals for his first head coaching gig and it paid off in spades. Led the Bulls to two 50-win seasons and their first 60-win season after Jordan left in 2011. During his tenure the Bulls were the number top seed (twice) entering the playoffs. He’s the fourth and most recent Bulls coach to win Coach of the Year.
Jerry Reinsdorf and Jerry Krause: Reinsdorf bought the Bulls in 1985 and Krause was brought in as General Manager to start rebuilding the team around a just drafted Jordan. The results of this partnership led to six NBA Titles, the greatest player of all-time, one of the greatest seasons of All-Time (1995–96, 72–10), three Hall of Famers (Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, and Phil Jackson), and the start of Jackson’s head coaching career.
They also were an integral part of the Bulls becoming one of the most popular sports teams (not just in the NBA) in the late 1980s and most of the 1990s. Additionally, they were responsible for dismantling the Bulls in 1999. Krause specifically had issues tied to contract negotiations or team strategy with Jackson, Jordan, Pippen, and Horace Grant throughout the years.
Chicago Stadium/United Center: Chicago Stadium was the Bulls’ home from 1967 until it closed in 1994. The first three-peat took place here and MJ scored 52 points in Scottie’s charity game in 1994 to close it down properly. The United Center is the Bulls’ current home floor and housed the second three-peat. The Bulls notched 36 wins at the Stadium in 1991–92 while the 1995–96 and 1996–97 Bulls’ won 39 games in the United Center.
Ben Gordon: Drafted third in 2004, Gordon was a huge reason the Bulls returned to the playoffs in 2005 after being MIA since Jordan’s second retirement in 1999. In his five seasons in Chicago, his per game averages were 18.5 points 3.0 boards and 3.2 assists with four post season appearances.
Joakim Noah: The defensive anchor for the Bulls during the Thibodeau years. Noah was also the heart of a Bulls team that pushed the defending champion Celtics to seven games in 2009 and made the East Finals in 2011. A 1-time All-Star, Joakim won Defensive Player of the Year in 2013–14 while averaging 11 boards, 1 block, and 1 steal to go along with a career best 12.6 points per game.
Derrick Rose: The most successful Bulls player since Jordan. Plagued by injuries after his ACL tear in 2012, he recently signed a one-year deal with the Cavaliers to either replace or play behind Kyrie Irving. During his 2011 MVP season, he averaged 25 points, 3.1 rebounds and 7.7 assists while the Bulls posted the league’s best record. He was Rookie of the Year in 2009 after being selected number 1 overall in the 2008 NBA Draft. Despite missing the 2012–13 season, the Bulls only missed the playoffs in his final season in Chicago (2015–16).
Horace Grant: A key member of the first three-peat, Grant played in Chicago from 1987 until 1994. Ultimately, he left for Orlando due to continuous squabbles over money. Still, it was Grant’s tough play and steely resolve that held the Bulls together on nights Jordan and Pippen’s shots weren’t immediately falling. A one-time All-Star, Grant averaged 12.6 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists for the Bulls. Notably Grant produced the game winning assist and block of the 1993 Finals.
Dennis Rodman: Brought in after the Bulls had no answer for the aforementioned Grant in the 1995 East Semis and Rodman’s own falling out with the Spurs. Added a month before the season started, he was the defensive anchor for the second three-peat, often taking on the opposition’s biggest post threat (Karl Malone, Shawn Kemp, Shaquille O’Neal).
Rodman won the last three of his seven consecutive rebounding crowns with the Bulls and was the spark Chicago needed to jump start their 1995–96 record breaking season.
Toni Kukoc: Infamously drew Jordan and Pippen’s wrath in the 1992 Olympics. This was due to Krause drafting him in 1990 and doing everything in his power to get him to come to the Bulls from overseas, including delaying contract negotiations for Pippen and Grant.
Kukoc arrived in 1993 and became the Bulls’ number two option behind Pippen prior to Jordan’s 1995 return. With the arrival of Rodman, he moved to the bench and won Sixth Man of the Year in 1996. He averaged 14 points, almost 5 rebounds, and 3 assists while playing copious positions. He and Dickey Simpkins were the last players to leave the Bulls from the second three-peat in 2000.
The greatest player of All-Time made his home in Chicago. Of his many accomplishments he was:
- 10-time scoring champ
- 14-time All-Star (3 MVPs)
- Rookie of the Year
- 5-time MVP
- 6 time Finals MVP
- 1988 Defensive Player of the Year
- 6 NBA Finals appearances with 6 championship victories
Of his many memorable performances:
- The Shot
- The Shot II
- Game 1 of the 1997 Finals
- Flu Game
- Game 6 of the 1998 Finals
- Double nickel at the Garden just 10 days back from retirement
- 69 points against Cleveland in 1990
- 63 points in the Garden in the playoffs in 1986
- 41 points per game in the 1993 Finals
- The dunk over Ewing in 1991
- Tears of joy in 1991 and 1996
- The Shrug Game
- Double-nickel Game 4 of the ’93 Finals
- Double-nickel Game 2 of first round in 1997
- Dunk on Stockton which led to the dunk on Mel Turpin
- Batting .200 for the Birmingham Barons after not playing baseball in years
- 42 point game at MSG in 1998
- Two Slam Dunk Contest crowns (1987, 1988)
- Free throws with closed eyes
Most believe Jordan is the GOAT (greatest of all time), but he was also known as the most competitive. This was punctuated by his demeanor on the court. Specifically — the trash talk, his swagger, the gambling, the tongue, the competitive fire, the torturing of teammates, the learning to trust other teammates, and quite simply, the man.
There was only one Michael Jordan. There will only be one Michael Jordan. Records and memories may be broken, but no player in NBA history is in a conversation with ‘His Airness’.
Many often said LeBron James reminded them of Magic Johnson or Scottie Pippen when he was younger. Now that LeBron has firmly established himself as one of a kind, we can go back to giving Pippen the credit he deserves.
A defensive terror, Pippen is acknowledged with hampering Magic Johnson from scoring consistently in the ’91 Finals, leading to a 4–1 Bulls win. In addition to being able to matchup with anyone positionally from 1 through 4, Scottie Pippen is also one of the most celebrated point forwards in NBA history. Pippen would often share the ball handling with Jordan or whoever was running point for the Bulls.
He led the Bulls in scoring in the season and a half Michael was retired but also struggled as a leader. This made him appreciate his role as the second option behind Jordan, something he didn’t like as he was coming into his own in the early 90s. As Jordan learned to not dominate the ball and adapt to the triangle offense, Pippen blossomed being able to score without having to force the action to get his numbers.
Aside from forming one of the NBA’s most fearsome duos of all-time with MJ, Pip was also known as a great teammate. This was especially true during the Bulls second three-peat. To wit, Bill Wennington and Luc Longley cited Pippen’s support as crucial to their early interactions with a returning Jordan.
You may want to call him Robin, but Scottie Pippen was a two-way monster who gave the Bulls an added edge in their successful 1990s. He finished his Bulls career with averages of 17.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists over 12 seasons.
Phil Jackson only won Coach of the Year in 1996. That fact was pretty unbelievable for the man who was able to make the league’s most dominant player into a multiple time NBA Champion. Meanwhile, Jerry Krause won Executive of the Year twice. No coach has won back-to-back COY’s, though Gregg Popovich came close in 2011–12 and 2013–14.
It’s disconcerting Jackson didn’t win COY during the first three-peat. Instead Don Chaney was honored because his Rockets won 52 games without Olajuwon as did Don Nelson. The latter makes no sense given Phil won 67 games and Nelson won 55 games with a Golden State team that finished second in the Pacific in 1991–92. And, Pat Riley won for leading the Knicks to the number one seed in the East.
Snubs aside (and I’m not even mentioning the Lakers years) Jackson was equally important to the Bulls titles. Certainly, reserves Rodman, Grant, and Kukoc bolstered Pippen and MJ to the 6 championship banners hanging in the United Center. But, it can be argued Phil Jackson was the most important cog.
The Zen Master managed egos, used the triangle offense to great success, and insisted on a stifling defense. Jackson’s system and management is intrinsically linked as the backbone to every Jordan drive/fadeaway or Pippen dunk/post move. Moreover, he stirred such loyalty in his players that Jordan and Pippen both said they would not play for the Bulls again without Jackson at the helm (Pippen only did when he was past his prime).
Jackson won 545 games in 9 seasons with the Bulls, just 65 less than what he won in 11 seasons with the Lakers. Jackson, along with Kerr, is one of only two men to have a banner raised in their name who were not players at the United Center.
The Jerry Sloan I grew up knowing was the longtime coach of the Utah Jazz. In my opinion, he may still be coaching if it weren’t for an argument with Deron Williams which likely led to his resignation. Ironically, the Jazz traded DWill to the Nets shortly after; one would have to think that was some form of punishment.
Jerry Sloan, the player logged 10 seasons for the Bulls from 1966 to 1976 averaging 14.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 2.6 assists. Along with Van Lier, Love, Walker, and Gilmore, he was a vital part of the Bulls’ early success in the 1970s. Sloan was the first Bull to have his number retired in 1978 and he finished his career with two All-Star selections. Jordan may be the most recognizable face in Bulls history but there’s only one Mr. Chicago Bull.