Chicago Bulls

The Chicago Bulls are historically the third pro basketball team to find a home in the Windy City. Created in 1966 as an expansion franchise, they currently play in the Central Division of the Eastern Conference.
The history of the Chicago Bulls is, more than any other team in history, linked to one single player, five-time MVP Michael Jordan. While in Chicago, Jordan led the Bulls to six championships, making them the third most-titled franchise in NBA history, just behind the legendary Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers. After being the team of the 1990s and helping NBA become the global force it is today, the Chicago Bulls are now witnessing the rise of a new generation.

Children of the stockyards

In the 1950s and early 60s, Chicago found itself at a lost for a professional basketball team. The National Basketball team American Gears, the NBA Chicago Stags and Chicago Packers had all folded or relocated. In the mid-60s, Dick Klein, a former basketball player and local businessman gathered a group of entrepreneurs to bring pro basketball back to the Windy City and on January, 16th 1966, was granted an expansion team by the NBA. To evoke the Chicago stockyards, the slaughter houses located near the stadium where they were going to play (and which belonged to the Union Stock Yard and Transit Company), Klein first thought of calling the team the Matadors or the Toreadors. When his youngest son Mark dismissed the names as being “a bunch of bull”, Klein had found his team’s name.

The uniforms

The Bulls are one of the few teams whose uniforms have undergone very few changes, more like tweaks, in the course of their 45-year history. Since 1966, the home uniform has been white with red trim, the road set is red with white and black trim. The shorts feature the bull logo in a diamond on the sides.
Originally, the name “Bulls” was written in red on the home jerseys and in white on the road ones, above the centered number.
In 1969, black and white stripes were briefly added on the sides of the jersey but didn’t stay. The word Chicago replaced the “Bulls” on the red uniforms.

jerry sloan bulls

Jerry Sloan in the traditional white home uniform.

clem haskins bulls

Clem Haskins in the “Chicago” road uniform in the early 70s.

In 1973, the player’s number, originally centered on the front of the jerseys, was pushed to the side on both the home and away versions. The white one kept the same “Bulls” lettering, while on the red road jersey appeared a black and white cursive wordmark of Chicago. This style would last through the mid-80s, until Michael Jordan’s rookie season.

norm van lier bulls

Van Lier in the cursive “Chicago” road jersey, 1970s

bob love bulls

Bob Love with his number 10 in the jump

From 1985 on, the red jerseys featured the same “Bulls” bold wordmark as the while ones, written in black, and the number came back in the middle. The word “Chicago” would not appear again on the uniforms until 1999. Even though the fabrics used have changed, today’s players still wear those uniforms.

jordan pippen rodman bulls

Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Denis Rodman in the traditional home uniform, 1990s

derrick rose in red road sets

Derrick Rose in the traditional red road sets

In 1995, at the height of the “pinstripe” frenzy that had taken over the NBA, a black alternate uniform with red pinstripe was introduced and used a few times on the road on the season. Only the bull logo – minus the diamond – decorated the sides of the shorts. In 1997, the pinstripes vanished but the black survived and is still used on occasions today. In 1999, the word “Bulls” displayed on the front of the jerseys was replaced by “Chicago”. The jerseys briefly adopted a different V-neck shape in 2001, before coming back to a more traditional shape in 2006, when the red diamond was added around the bull logo on the sides of the short to match the red and white sets’.

michael jordan dunks

Michael Jordan in the pinstriped jersey

toni kukoc bulls

Toni Kukoc in plain black

ben gordon bulls

Ben Gordon in the V-neck jersey.

derrick rose bulls

Derrick Rose in the red diamond shorts.

As many NBA teams, the Bulls also don a green version of their uniform a few times in March to celebrate St Patrick’s Day, and have a “loche latina” “Los Bulls” version. On April, 9, 2009, the team also wore a darker green uniform as part of the NBA environment awareness campaign “Green Week”.

derrick rose green black outfit

Rose in the green and black St Patrick’s Day outfit.

chicago bulls green week jersey

Chicago Bulls darker green and red “Green Week’ special uniform.

The logo

As for their uniforms, the Bulls are also among the rare NBA teams, and certainly the oldest, to never have changed logos throughout their histories. The image of the red angry bull with the tip of its horns dripped in blood was created by famed American cartoonist Theodore W. Drake in 1966, after he gained some recognition for designing Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish logo.
In the 1970s, an alternate logo briefly had the bull puffing a cloud of smoke circling the words “Windy City”.

Original 1966 logo
windy city logo

1970s “Windy City” alternate logo

The venues

The Bulls played their rookie season in the Chicago International Amphitheatre, an indoor arena first built in 1934 by the Union Stock Yard and Transit Company, primarily to host the International Livestock Exhibition. The NBA Chicago Packers had also played their first year there before changing names and moving to the Chicago Coliseum. As soon as 1967, the Bulls left the amphitheatre for the Chicago Stadium which was to become their home floor for the next 27 years.
The Stadium, opened in 1929, was the world’s largest indoor arena at the time of its opening, and soon became one of its loudest, especially during hockey games, which earned it the nickname “Madhouse on Madison”. The Bulls played all their home games there before moving again in 1994 – along with the other tenants, the hockey team Chicago Blackhawks – to the newer United Center, located just across the street. The Chicago Stadium was destroyed in 1995.
The Bulls then started the 1994-95 season in the United Center, that had just opened and bears the name of its corporate sponsor, United Airlines. The 21,000-seat arena located 1901 West Madison Street belongs to the owners of both the Blackhawks and the Bulls who decided on its construction to replace the aging Stadium. The acoustics were especially designed to recreate the “roar”, the deafening sound rising from the audience that made the Stadium famous. For that reason, the United Center also bears, like its predecessor, the moniker “Madhouse on Madison”, but is also commonly referred as the “House that Jordan built”, Michael Jordan having won three championships there with the Bulls in the first few years following its opening. As a tribute, a statue of Jordan has been erected on the east side of the building.

The circus/disney on ice road trips

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Baily Circus has a contract with the United Center for dates in November which every year around Thanksgiving sends the Bulls and Blackhawks on the road for two weeks. Disney on Ice also has a yearly three week-string of shows at the United Center in April. Both team owners are currently looking to change these dates so that players won’t have to play on the road for such an extensive period of time.

The team that Michael built

The history of the Chicago Bulls could easily be divided into three eras, before, during and after Michael Jordan. But even if only Jordan-led rosters have been able to win championships, others have also enjoyed some success, like the 1970s Jerry Sloan-led unit.

A hot start and a tought follow-up (1966-70)

In 1965, Chicago, the second largest city of the USA, was without a basketball team. The most prominent franchise so far, the National Basketball League’s “American Gears”, had folded in 1947, after all sorts of financial problems. The first NBA venture, the Stags, had failed to attract fans and had disappeared after just one season. Then, in 1961, the first NBA expansion team ever, the Chicago Packers, posted an awful first season which turned the fans away. The franchise was sold to a group of investors from Maryland, relocated to Baltimore in 1963 and was renamed the Bullets.
A former player from the American Gears, Dick Klein, who had since his retirement become a successful businessman and had already tried to buy the Packers to keep them in Chicago, started gathering a group of investors to bring an expansion franchise to the Windy City. After securing the support of television network ABC, he managed to convince partners that a pro basketball team could be a success in Chicago and on January, 16th 1966, the NBA awarded the investors an expansion team. Dick Klein became its first General Manager.

To allow him to acquire players and build his roster, an expansion draft was held from April, 30th to May, 1st 1966. That particular type of draft allows expansion teams to select players currently playing with other existing teams. Each team in activity has the possibility to “lock in” a certain number of players and stop them from being acquired, while the new franchises can choose from any of the unprotected ones. Dick Klein negotiated that the existing teams only protect seven players, instead of eight as originally planned, agreeing in exchange to be the last to chose in the forthcoming regular college draft rounds.
The Bulls selected a total eighteen players, two from each of the nine existing teams.
His first pick was Jerry Sloan, from the Baltimore Bullets. Other selections included power forward Bob Boozer and all-stars Johnny Kerr, Al Bianchi and Len Chappell. Kerr and Bianci retired before the start of the season and were named respectively head and assistant coaches. Ten players eventually signed with the Bulls for their inaugural season, along whom Guy Rodgers and Jerry Sloan who were both selected for the 1967 All-star game.
The Bulls also took part in the regular 1966 draft in which they selected guard Dave Schellhase 10th overall, and center Erwin Mueller in the second round. With an official starting line-up of Sloan, Rodgers, Boozer, Mueller and small forward Don Kojis, the Bulls were ready to set on their journey.
Their first regular-season game took place in St Louis, on October, 15th against the Hawks and resulted in a win. Under head coach Kerr, the Bulls won the two following games before finishing with a 33-47 record, the best ever by an expansion team in its rookie season. They made the playoffs for the first time that very year but were swept in the first round by the Hawks. Kerr was named 1967 Coach of the Year.
Rodgers was traded in the off-season and the Bulls started their second season with a dreadful 1-15 record. They came back to finish 29-53 and found their way back to the playoffs where they lost in the division semifinals. The relationship between Kerr and Klein deteriorated throughout the year and at the end of the season Kerr joined the expansion team Phoenix Suns as their first head coach while Dick Motta replaced him with the Bulls.
Motta, a successful college coach, set on to make the Chicago Bulls a tough, defense-oriented team. In the 1968 draft, they selected center Tom Boerwinkle, then in November, traded Flynn Robinson in exchange for scorer Bob Love and guard Bob Weiss and added Chet Walker to the roster. In spite of these changes, the Bulls missed the playoffs for the first time of their short history.

The hard-nosed bulls (1971-75)

It is during the 1970-71 that the Bulls registered their first winning season, even posting a league’s third best 51-31 record. Under Motta, the Chicagoans had developed into a hard-nosed, defensive-minded team, with Chet Walker and Bob Love as their top scorers. They reached the division semifinals but eventually lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in seven games. They would go on to post four consecutive 50+ wins seasons, until 1973-74, with Love as their main scorer and Boerwinkle dominating the glass. In 1972, they acquired guard Norm Van Lier who formed a hard-nosed defensive duo along Jerry Sloan. In 1974, they reached the Western Conference Finals but were swept by Abdul-Jabbar’s Milwaukee Bucks.
In spite of five straight excellent seasons, they never got past the Western Conference Finals.

A decade long slump (1976-84)

After another good 1974-75 season that led them to the Conference Finals for the second time in a row, 1975-76 was a harsh disappointment. Chet Walker retired, Jerry Sloan sustained a knee injury that kept him off the court and the team finished 24-58. Ed Badger replaced Dick Motta at the end of the season.
In 1977, Chicago acquired center Artis Gilmore in the ABA dispersal draft who, along with Norm Van Lier led the team in scoring. But the rest of the team was not up to par. After several years of missing the playoffs and in the midst of several coach changes, the Bulls moved to the Eastern conference in 1980 after the West welcomed the expansion franchise Dallas Mavericks. The change reenergized the team who, under head coach Jerry Sloan, finished with a 45-37 record, the second best in the League. This led them into the playoffs were they lost in the conference semifinals to the eventual champions Boston Celtics.
But success was short-lived and in spite of more coach changes and roster revamping, the next three seasons were a huge disappointment. Only shooting guard Reggie Theus managed to have some success and was voted in the 1983 all-star game, before being traded in the 1984 off-season for Steve Johnson and draft choices.

The early Jordan years (1984-87)

After another disastrous season, the Bulls found themselves getting the 3rd pick overall in the 1984 draft. They used it to select North Carolina guard and College Player of the year Michael Jordan. The young shooting guard immediately got a spot in the starting line-up and started chattering all of the franchise’s records, one time scoring 49 points against Detroit. He finished the season with a 28.2 ppg average – third in the league – which earned him a berth in the 1985 All-star game. He also led the team in assists, steals and rebounds. But as Jordan was getting very little help from his teammates, Chicago finished 38-44 and were swept by Milwaukee in the first round of the playoffs.
Although ”His Airness” broke his foot in the third game of his sophomore NBA season, the Bulls were back in the playoffs in 1886, only to be swept again, this time by the Boston Celtics. Jordan, who got back on the court towards the end of the regular season left his mark on the series by signing a 63-point performance in Game 2, a single-game playoff record that still holds today.
At the start of the 1986-87 season, head coach Stan Albeck was replaced by Doug Collins and the Chicago crowd witnessed another out-of-this-world season by Jordan who finished with a 37.1 ppg average – the highest of his career – and scored 40+ points in nine consecutive games in the fall. He became the first player since Wilt Chamberlain to score 3,000 points in a season. The Bulls finished 40-42 but lost again to Boston in the first round of the playoffs.

En route to the championship (1987-90)

Even with Jordan’s amazing stats and offensive explosiveness, and the addition of center Charles Oakley who led the league in rebounding, the Bulls were lacking real quality elements on the rest of the roster. A problem vice-president of basketball operations Jerry Krause successfully addressed in the 1987 draft. As he had two picks in the top 10, he selected center Olden Polynice in N°8 and forward Horace Grant in N°10. He then traded Polynice and draft choices for forward Scottie Pippen who had been selected N°5 by the Seattle Supersonics. With finally a supporting cast that was up to par, the Bulls improved to 50-32, their best record since 1973-74. They got to the playoffs for the fourth time in a row, but lost to Detroit in the conference semifinals. With the wave of success came an array of awards for Jordan who won the scoring title for the second season in a row (35 ppg), but was also crowned MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, All-Star Game MVP and NBA Slam Dunk Champion.
Before the start of the 1988-89 season, Jerry Krause kept on tweaking his roster. He traded Oakley, one of the top two rebounders of the league, for center Bill Cartwright and acquired three-point specialist Craig Hodges from Phoenix. After a 47-35 season, the Bulls got into the playoffs where they defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers and the New York Knicks, thus reaching the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 1975 and only the third time in their history. After taking a 2-1 lead on the road, they eventually fell to the Detroit Pistons in 6 games.
In the 1989 off-season Doug Collins was replaced by Phil Jackson, a former New York Knicks player who had enjoyed success as a minor league head coach and had been an assistant to Collins since 1987. With Jackson implementing his trademark “triangle offense”, the Bulls started firing on all cylinders and went 55-27 on the season, including a 27-8 finish. On March, 28th, Jordan chalked up 69 points against Cleveland, his career high. Pippen, his faithful lieutenant was also selected to the All-Star Game. But again, after cruising through the playoffs, they met in the Conference Finals with the Detroit Pistons who prevailed in seven games.

The first three-peat (1990-93)

After an awkward 0-3 start to the 1990-91 season, the Bulls went on a tear the rest of the way. With Phil Jackson’s triangle offense stressing teamwork but also defensive effort, Chicago looked almost unstoppable. On December, 4th, they scored 155 points in regulation against Phoenix. They finished 61-21, becoming only the 9th team in history to win 60+ games on a season. They cruised again through the playoffs, sweeping the Knicks in the first round, and their rivals Detroit Pistons in the Conference Finals, to reach their first ever NBA Finals, where they met Magic Johnson’s L.A Lakers. The highly-anticipated confrontation never really happened as the Chicago Bulls steamrolled past the Lakers and snatched their first title by winning the series 4-1. Michael Jordan was named League MVP for the second time, won his fifth scoring title and was crowned Finals MVP.
The 1991-92 season brought more franchise records. The men in red put together a 14-game winning streak in December, and a 13-game one in January, posted a 36-5 home record and racked up 31 wins on the road, to finish 67-15. However the playoffs proved more difficult than the previous year. The New York Knicks stretched the semifinals series to seven games and Cleveland resisted six games before giving in. In the Finals, they met the Clyde Drexler-led Portland Trail Blazers. With the Bulls leading the series 3-2, Portland took a significant lead in the third quarter of game 6. But the Chicago bench initiated the biggest fourth-quarter comeback in Finals history and the Bulls eventually won the game to take home their second championship in a row. They became only the 4th team in history to win back-to-back titles. Jordan was once again the scoring champion, and was crowned both league MVP and Finals MVP for the second year in a row, a feat only Larry Bird had accomplished before him.
In the 1992-93 season, the Bulls took care of business as usual but with a 57-25 regular season were not the best record in NBA, which was claimed by Charles Barley’s Phoenix Suns. They gained momentum in the playoffs, sweeping both the Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers in the first two rounds before meeting with head coach Pat Riley’ New York Knicks. After a 0-2 start, they went on to win four straight to reach their third NBA Finals in a row. As expected, they faced the red-hot Phoenix Suns. Chicago took the lead early by winning the first two contests in Phoenix but the Suns rallied and stole two in Chicago to put the series to 3-2 after a triple-overtime win in game 3. But just as it looked as if the Suns were going to force a game 7, The Bulls’ John Paxson drained a three-pointer in the dying seconds and Chicago won their third ring in three years, becoming the first team since the 1960s Celtics to “three-peat”. Michael Jordan, who averaged 41 points per game in the series, was named Finals MVP for the third straight time.

Jordan retires (1993-95)

In October 1993, Michael Jordan stunned the world by announcing his retirement from pro basketball at barely 30. Evoking the sudden death of his father; murdered by two teenagers over the summer, Jordan declared he had lost the desire to play. He was going to pursue a career in pro baseball to honor the memory of his father, a devoted baseball fan.
Now led by Scottie Pippen and with active seasons by both guard B.J Armstrong and forward Horace Grant, the Bulls still posted a 55-27 record on the year. But it was in the playoffs that Jordan was sorely missed and for the first time in four straight confrontations, the Knicks knocked them out of title contention. Scottie Pippen was named All-Star game MVP, for which teammates Armstrong and Grant were also selected for the first time.
During the off-season, The Bulls had also acquired Croatian Toni Kukoc, who was widely regarded as the best European player of the time. Coming off the bench, he proved a worthy sixth man in his rookie year. The following year, and with Horace Grant gone to Orlando, he made his way into the starting line-up along Scottie Pippen. In spite of the impact of this powerful duo, the Bulls slowed down a bit and found themselves around .500 at mid-season, when on March 18, Jordan suddenly announced he was back. On March 29, he was already scoring 55 points against the Knicks and led the team to a 9-1 record in April. But in the playoffs, Jordan couldn’t shake off the rust and above all compensate for the lack of size in the paint. The Bulls fell to the Orlando Magic in the Conference semifinals.

Second three-peat and the end of the Jordan era (1995-98)

In an off-season trade, Krause acquired Dennis Rodman who was the leading rebounder in the league, and the Bulls were once again set for making history. They beat their longest winning streak, stacking up 18 wins in a row from late December to early February, and lost back-to-back games only once in the entire season. They were near perfect at home, going 39-2 in the United Center. They finished with an astounding 72-10 record, the best ever, and a feat many thought was utterly unattainable. They bulldozed their way through the playoffs, losing just one game in three series against Miami, New York and Orlando. They met Shawn Kemp’s Seattle Supersonics which they disposed of in six games. Jordan was once again scoring champion, league MVP and Finals MVP.
In 1996-97, they picked up where they had left, finishing the season 69-13 and finding themselves once again in the NBA Finals, where they faced the Utah Jazz led by the hall-of-famer duo of Karl “The Mailman” Malone and John Stockton. After the series were tied 2-2, Jordan played what has gone on to be known as the “flu game”. Suffering from a stomach virus and visibly very weak, he still managed to pour in 38 points including the three-pointer who gave the Bulls the win. After a 39-point performance in Game 6 and an assist to Steve Kerr for the winning three-point shot, the Bulls were champions for the 5th time in 7 years.
Pippen being injured for the better part of the season, the 1997-98 campaign proved a little less easy but still resulted in a 62-20 record, tied with the Utah Jazz for best in the league. In the Conference Finals, Reggie Miller’s Indiana Pacers managed to bother the Bulls enough to take them to game 7 but couldn’t stop them from reaching the finals, for a rematch of the previous season’s vs the Jazz. Jordan shone again and the Bulls took the series in 6 games, while he was crowned Finals MVP for the sixth time. After the victory, Jackson who had had conflicting relationship with the Bulls’ front office announced he would not come back the following year. Then, as a lock-out paralyzed the league in late 1998, Jordan announced he retired again, Pippen was traded and Rodman signed with the Lakers, closing the book of one of the greatest sports dynasties of all-time.

Failed rebuilding with youth (1999-2004)

For the next five years, Jerry Krause’s focus was to rebuild through draft picks. But even if he selected talented players, their skill couldn’t make up for their lack of experience and the experiment proved somewhat unsuccessful. Guys like Elton Brand, Ron Artest or Tyson Chandler despite playing well were still not solid enough to win more than 30 games in a season. Acquiring veteran guard Jalen Rose, or even bringing Scottie Pippen back didn’t solve the Bulls’ problems either and in 2004, for the fifth year in a row, Chicago was left out of the playoffs.

Back to the playoffs (2004-07)

2004 started with new head coach Scott Skiles at the helm, while second-year player Kirk Hinrich, rookies Ben Gordon and Luol Deng took the court alongside Argentine forward Andres Nocioni, Tyson Chandler and Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace. They finished the year 45-35, their best record in years and advanced to the playoffs for the first time since 1998. They lost to the Washington Wizards in the first round. The following season, and in spite of more roster shuffles, the Bulls managed to make the playoffs again and faced the Miami Heat, who defeated them before winning the title against the Dallas Mavericks.
They met again in the 2007 playoffs. With Ben Gordon, Thabo Sefolosha and J.R Smith on the court, the Bulls managed to upset the defending champions, sweeping them out of the playoffs in the first round. Facing their 1990s nemesis Detroit Pistons in the semifinals, the Bulls came back from a 3-0 deficit but eventually lost in six games.

Bulls become dominant again (2008-today)

In 2007, the Bulls drafted University of Florida center Joakim Noah and traded a large portion of their roster in a three-team deal with the Cavaliers and SuperSonics. Then, in 2008, after an awful season which earned them a spot in the NBA lottery, they won the first pick with which they selected point guard and Chicago native Derrick Rose. They also acquired Turk seven-footer Omer Asik.
They were back in the playoffs in 2008 and 2009 with decent 41-41 records but both years got taken out of the playoffs in the first round. Then, in the summer 2010, the Bulls decided to hire former Boston Celtics’ assistant coach Tom Thibodeau as the new head coach. Under Thibodeau and with the notable additions of forward Carlos Boozer, the Bulls improved to 62-20, posting the best record in the league for the first time since 1998. They easily defeated the Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks but fell 4-1 to the superstar-filled Miami Heat in the Conference Finals.
They entered the 2011-12 season with a starting line-up of Derrick Rose, veteran Richard Hamilton, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng.

After posting the league’s best record in 2011 and Derrick Rose winning the MVP award, all eyes are on the Chicago Bulls to return to the glory of the Jordan era.

Players and personalities

The Bulls played their first-ever regular-season game on October, 15th 1966 with a roster acquired in the expansion draft. Among the players were guards Jerry Sloan and Guy Rodgers, power forward Bob Boozer, rookie center Erwin Muller, small forward Don Kojis and power forwards Len Chappell and McCoy McLemore. The Bulls finished with a 33-48 record, the best ever recorded by an expansion franchise during its rookie season, Guy Rodgers and Jerry Sloan were both selected to the All-Star Game while Johnny “Red” Kerr was named Coach of the Year.

chicago bulls 1967 team

Standing – L to R: Gerry Ward (G), Don Kojis (F), Keith Erickson (F/G), McCoy McLemore (F/C), Jerry Sloan (G/F), Dave Schellhase (G), Guy Rodgers (G), HC Johnny Kerr Seating – L to R: Barry Clemens (F), Bob Boozer (F), George Wilson (C), Erwin Mueller (F/C), Nate Bowman (C), Jim Washington (C/F)

Jerry Sloan, the “Original Bull” was also the head coach of the franchise in the late 1970s and early 80s and was the first player to have his number retired by the organization.

Sloan was also part of the first roster to reach the division finals twice in a row in 1974 and 1975 under head coach Dick Motta (who won coach of the Year in 1971). This squad, a tough, hard-nosed, hard-working unit is widely regarded as the best the Bulls ever had outside of the championship teams in the 90s and the current one. Alongside Sloan were scorers Chet Walker and Bob Love, guard Norm Van Lier and rebounding force center Tom Boerwinkle.
Bob Love was selected for three straight All-Star games while with the Bulls and has also had his number retired. Van Lier was a three-time All-Star and Chet Walker was inducted in the basketball hall of fame in 2012.
In 1974, the Bulls also added legendary center Nate Thurmond to the roster. He was a seven-time All-Star and is the first player to ever record a quadruple double (On October 18, 1974, while with the Bulls).
On the roster was also bench guard Rick Aldeman who went on to have a successful career in coaching, particularly in Portland where twice he led the team to the NBA Finals. He is currently the head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

van lier, walker, sloan, love

L to R: Norm Van Lier (G), Chet Walker (G), Jerry Sloan (G/F) and Bob Love (F)

bulls best 70s players

Chicago Bulls team leaders

But obviously, the one player who changed the course of the Bulls history was Michael Jordan, who was drafted out of the University of North Carolina in the 1984 draft. He was named Rookie of the Year in his first season and was the third best scorer of the league. After missing most of his second year with a broken foot, he finished his third season with the scoring champion title, an honor he would go on to earn a record 10 times between 1987 and 1998. In 1988, he won his first MVP award and was also named Defensive Player of the Year. He was the champion of the Slam Dunk Contest twice in a row in 1987 and 1988 and was selected to the All-Star Game every single season of his career.

michael jordan rookie

Michael Jordan in his rookie season.

jordan first all-star game

During his first All-Star Game, in 1985

air jordan dunk

With his signature high-flying dunk in the 1987 Slam Dunk Contest in Seattle

While Jordan posted extraordinary numbers, the rest of his team lacked quality to make it to the top of the NBA. But in 1990, it all changed with the acquisition of forward Scottie Pippen, center Bill Cartwright, power forward Horace Grant and guard B.J Armstrong. Under coach Phil Jackson, the Bulls would realize the first “three-peat” since the Celtics in the 1960s. Jordan was again crowned League MVP in 1991 and 1992 and was Finals MVP every time. Scottie Pippen was also selected for the All-Star game in 1990 and from 1992 to 1997. Bill Cartwright was later a coach for the Bulls, first as an assistant under Phil Jackson, then as head coach from 2002 to 2004.

chicago bulls 1991 team

Standing – L to R: Cliff Levingston (F), Scott Williams (F/C), Will Perdue (C), Stacey King (F/C), Dennis Hopson (G/F), GM Jerry Krause; Seating – L to R: Craig Hodges (G), John Paxson (G), Horace Grant (F), Bill Cartwright (C), Scottie Pippen (F), Michael Jordan (G), B.J Armstrong (G) Head Coach Phil Jackson is in the back, in the middle with the moustache.

During the one-year-and-a-half hiatus when Jordan retired, the Bulls posted two strong seasons but fell short in the playoffs losing to the New York Knicks and Orlando Magic in the Conference Finals. Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant and B.J Armstrong were all selected to the 1994 All-Star Game. Jordan announced his return in March 1995 and started wearing number 45 instead of his usual 23. (45 was his brother Larry’s playing number in high school where Jordan was also a student. As he couldn’t use 45, he decided to use 23, the rounded-up half of 45). He went back to wearing n°23 in Game 2 of the Orlando Magic series.

jordan wearing 45

Jordan’s back and wearing n°45

In the 1995-96 season, Bill Cartwright, Horace Grant and B.J Armstrong were gone, replaced by European superstar Toni Kukoc, top rebounder Dennis Rodman and three-point specialist Steve Kerr. The Bulls posted a 72-10 season, the best ever by any NBA team (no other team has ever had 70 wins in a season). The following year, they came close to repeat the exploit but finished 69-13. They won three more championships in a row, for a second three-peat. Jordan was again named MVP in 1996 and 98, and Finals MVP every time. Toni Kukoc was 6th Man of the Year and Phil Jackson was coach of the Year in 1996.

chicago bulls 1996 team

Standing – L to R: Jud Buechler (F/G), Jason Caffrey (F), James Edwards (C/F), Bill Wennington (C), Dickey Simpkins (F), Jack Haley (F/C), Randy Brown (G) Seating – L to R: Toni Kukoc (F), Luc Longley (C), Dennis Rodman (F), Michael Jordan (G), Scottie Pippen (F), Ron Harper (G/F), Steve Kerr (G)

After more than ten years of ups and downs, the Bulls were back to the top in 2010, when under new head coach Tom Thibodeau, they finished with a best of the league 62-20 record. Alongside MVP Derrick Rose were Sudan forward Luol Deng, center Joakim Noah and forward Carlos Boozer.

noah deng rose boozer

L to R: Joakim Noah (C), Luol Deng (F), Derrick Rose (G), Carlos Boozer (F)

Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman are already in the Hall of Fame, while Phil Jackson will certainly be enshrined in the next few years.
Other Hall of famers having played with the Bulls include: Chet Walker (with the team from 1969 to ’75), Artis Gilmore (1976-82), Nate Thurmond (1974-76) George Gervin (1985-86) and Robert Parish (1996-97).
Other players who were All-Stars while playing with the team include: Luol Deng (2012), Reggie Theus (1981, 1983), Artis Gilmore (1978-82), Norm Van Lier (1974, 1976-77), Chet Walker (1970-71, 1973-74), Bob Love (1971-73), Jerry Sloan (1967, 1969), Bob Boozer (1968) and Guy Rodgers (1967).

bulls 1982 team

Reggie Theus is far left on the front, Artis Gilmore is on the fourth row, second from the left.


Personal stats

Unsurprisingly, Michael Jordan leads all stat categories but one, including the number of games played in a Bulls uniform. He’s the franchise’s best scorer, best assist man, stealer and rebounder. Scottie Pippen is not far behind and also makes the top 3 in most categories. Other key players include scorer Bob Love and rebounder Tom Boerwinkle. Artis Gilmore has the most blocked shots and Norm Van Lier is in the top 3 for assists and steals. Dennis Rodman in his three years with the team has the best rebound per game average ever.

Best scorers
1 – Michael Jordan
2 – Scottie Pippen
3 – Bob Love
Best PPG
1 – Michael Jordan
2 – Jalen Rose
3 – Bob Love
Most assists
1 – Michael Jordan
2 – Scottie Pippen
3 – Norm Van Lier
3,676 (2nd best APG)
Most rebounds
1 – Michael Jordan
2 – Tom Boerwinkle
3 – Scottie Pippen
Most blocks
1 – Artis Gilmore
1,029 (also best BPG)
2 – Michael Jordan
3 – Scottie Pippen
Most steals
1 – Michael Jordan
2,306 (also best SPG)
2 – Scottie Pippen
3 – Nom Van Lier
Most games played
1 – Michael Jordan
2 – Scottie Pippen
3 – Jerry Sloan

*Ennis Whatley has the best APG ratio (7.0)
*Dennis Rodman has the best RPG (15.3)
*Michael Jordan was League MVP five times, tied with Bill Russell for second most behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s six titles. In 2011, guard Derrick Rose was the second Bull in history to be crowned MVP.
*Jordan was also Rookie of the Year in 1985, as were Elton Brand in 2000 and Derrick Rose in 2009.
*The Sixth Man of the Year award, which has only been awarded since 1982 went twice to a player from Chicago: Toni Kukoc in 1996 and Ben Gordon in 2005.
*Four Bulls coaches have been honored as Coach of the Year: Johnny “Red” Kerr for the inaugural season, Dick Motta in 1971, Phil Jackson – who was only recognized once despite his 11 NBA titles – won the award in 1996 after the 72-10 season, and finally, Tom Thibodeau in 2010 after a 62-20 campaign.
*Long time General Manager Jerry Krause was named Executive of the Year twice, in 1988 and 1996 and Gar Forman, once, in 2011 tied with Miami’s Pat Riley.

The Bulls have retired relatively few numbers, only 6 so far. Most of them are in connection with the 1990s dynasty:

4: Jerry Sloan, G
10: Bob Love, F
23: Michael Jordan, G
33: Scottie Pippen, F
Phil Jackson, Head Coach
Jerry Krause, General Manager

bulls retired numbers

The banners in the rafters of the United Center.

The 2011-12 season

After a lock-out shortened the season to 66 games, the Chicago Bulls started on December, 25 with a win on the road against the Los Angeles Lakers. After an impressive 12-2 start, they are currently 45-14, 1st in the Eastern Conference. They currently hold the best record in the league, two games ahead of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the West, in spite reigning MVP Derrick Rose being hurt for most of the season. As of April 16th, they have 6 games left on the season, including one at home against their Eastern Conference Rivals Miami Heat.

The roster 2012.

At the start of the season, the starting line-up consisted of C Joakim Noah, PF Carlos Boozer, SF Luol Deng, SG Richard Hamilton and PG Derrick Rose. Hamilton and Rose have been injured for the better part of the season but they are back in the lineup and should be playing come playoff time.

rose bulls

1 – Derrick Rose (G)

cj watson bulls

7 – C.J Watson (G)

john lucas bulls

15 – John Lucas (G)

richard hamilton bulls

32 – Richard Hamilton (G)

ronnie brewer bulls

11 – Ronnie Brewer (G)

jimmy butler bulls

21 – Jimmy Butler (G)(R)

loul deng bulls

9 – Luol Deng (F)

kyle korver bulls

26 – Kyle Korver (F)

carlos boozer bulls

5 – Carlos Boozer (F)

taj gibson bulls

22 – Taj Gibson (F)

brian scalabrine bulls

24 – Brian Scalabrine (F)

joakim noah bulls

13 – Joakim Noah (C)

omer asik bulls

3 – Omer Asik (C)

Point guard Derrick Rose, who’s only played 37 games, is currently the team’s best scorer with a 22.5 ppg average (7th in the NBA). He also leads the team in assists with a little less than 8 dimes a game (7th in the NBA). Joakim Noah is number one in rebounds with 9.7 rpg (10th in the NBA) and in blocked shots with 1.4 bpg (21st in the NBA). Ronnie Brewer is their best steal man with just above one per game.

The front office

Since 1985, the club belongs to an investment group led by New York ex-attorney Jerry Reinsdorf, who owns 63% of the shares. Reinsdorf also owns the baseball club Chicago White Sox. His son Michael is the Chairman of the club.
On May 21st 2009, Gar Forman replaced former player John Paxson as General Manager (Paxson had succeeded Jerry Krause), the latter being named VP of Basketball Operations.

The coaching staff

Tom Thibodeau is the current head coach assisted by Ron Adams, Rick Brunson, Andy Greer, Adrian Griffin and Ed Pinckney. Fred Tedeschi is the athletic trainer.


While playing in the International Amphitheatre, the young franchise hovered just under 4,000 for its first two seasons. Then, the early 70s Chicago Bulls with their gritty style regularly attracted around 10,000 people on average nights. After six tough years on the court and in the stands, the Chicago Stadium started filling up with the arrival of Michael Jordan, until reaching full capacity in the 1987-88 season. The crowd kept growing when the Bulls moved to the United Center and reached a record 26,650 average attendance (exceeding the Center actual seating capacity) in the 70+ win-season of 1995-96. After a few years under the 20,000 mark in the early 2000s, the attendance has been back to near full-capacity since 2006-07.

The Chicago Bulls, thanks to an extraordinary string of seasons and championship runs, are one of the most legendary franchise in the history of the NBA, and the third most-titled one. After going through a long slump following the end of one of the greatest sports dynasties, the Bulls are back to being a force to be reckoned with in the NBA and have again their eyes on the ultimate prize.

Bulls trivia and factoids

Besides wearing n°23 and n°45, Michael Jordan wore n°12 on Valentine’s Day 1990 against the Orlando Magic after his jersey had been stolen from the Bulls’ locker room on the road.

Michael Jordan is now the owner of the NBA franchise Charlotte Bobcats.

The Bulls are the only team to win in every one of their Finals appearances (6 out of 6)

Michael Jordan is ranked third on most points scored in an NBA career with 32,292, behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone but he has the best ppg average in history with 30.1 (tied with Wilt Chamberlain). He also has the most points in playoffs with 5,987.

Two players were selected before Michael Jordan in the 1984 draft. With the N°1 pick overall, the Houston Rockets selected Hakeem Olajuwon who went on to become the dominant center of his era while the Portland Trail Blazers selected Sam Bowie who had an injury-laden career and is considered as one of the biggest draft busts of all-time. On this draft were also selected future hall of famers Charles Barkley (n°5) and John Stockton (n°16). Jordan, Barkley and Stockton were all part of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics Dream Team.

Phil Jackson is the head coach who has won the most championships in the history of the league. He has 11 including 6 with the Bulls. He surpasses the Celtics’ Red Auerbach (9) and Miami/Los Angeles Pat Riley (7).

At age 22, Derrick Rose was the youngest player to ever been named season MVP (the previous one was Michael Jordan)

Joakim Noah is the son of French tennis player and Roland Garros winner Yannick Noah, and the grand-son of Cameroonian pro soccer player Zacharie Noah.

In 1979, the Bulls lost the coin flip for the n°1 draft pick to the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers then selected point guard Magic Johnson, while the Bulls had to settle for power forward David Greenwood.

Michael Jordan holds the record for most points scored in a playoff game with 63, in a double OT game versus the Boston Celtics on April, 20th 1986.
His personal record is 69, which he scored on March, 28 1990 against the Cleveland Cavaliers. It is the 11th best performance by a player in the league history and the best in Bulls history.

Jordan is responsible for 91 of the 100 best scoring performances in Bulls history.

Michael Jordan also had 39 50+ games in his career which ranks him second all-time, behind Wilt Chamberlain (who had a staggering 105)

In 2003, the Miami Heat retired the n°23 and hung it on their rafters to honor Michael Jordan. Pat Riley declared that Jordan was too great for any other player to wear n°23 in Miami. For that reason, LeBron James, who had been wearing n°23 in Cleveland as a tribute to MJ had to change numbers when coming to Miami in 2010. He now wears n°6.

The Chicago Bulls played in the game with the largest attendance in NBA History. The Bulls faced the Atlanta Hawks in the Georgia Dome in front of 62,046 people on March 27th 1998, just weeks before Michael Jordan’s 2nd retirement.

While with the Chicago Bulls, Nate Thurmond was the first – and one of only four players – to register a quadruple double, on October 18th 1974 vs the Atlanta Hawks. He had 22 points, 14 rebounds, 13 assists and 12 blocks. It was the Bulls’ season opener and Thurmond’s first game with the franchise. The 12 blocks is a franchise record.

The franchise record for most assists on one game was set by Guy Rodgers who dished 24 dimes on December, 21 1966.

Michael Jordan has the Bulls record for most steals in a game, with 10, on January 29, 1988.

The record for most rebounds is 35, snatched by Charles Oakley on April, 22 1988.

The Bulls’ mascot is a red bull wearing number 1 and called Benny the Bull.

The Bulls longest winning streak is 18 games back in Jan-Feb 1996 (7th T-best all-time).

The 1995-96 Bulls hold the best all-time road record with 33-8.