For years, they have defined the team mentality that weve come to know the Bulls for.
Their contributions throughout the United Center often go unnoticed by most as the LuvaBulls and Matadors receive most of the notoriety, but aside from the actual team, there might not be a more important factor on game night than the IncrediBulls.
The roster goes 15 deep, including the likes of Terrance Grady, Morris Brent, Joe Alexander, Mitchell Mangoba, Ernesto Sanchez, Michael Turner, Ashlee Bodden, Darrel Dupit, Pegie Diaz, Eric Wackerfuss, Carlos Ayala, Deborah Byczkowski, Dagoberto Soto, Tom Niemiera, and Shawnkesse Jackson.
Its a team built on energy, enthusiasm, personality, creativity, teamwork, professionalism and showmanship. Aside from the energy aspect, teamwork is arguably the most essential aspect of the squad.
There are plenty of things that we have to do out there on the court, in the stands that involve more than just one person, says 10-year vet Ayala. We have to communicate with one another as far as running a sling-team where were swinging the t-shirts. We all have to be perfectly coordinated, two people holding the sling, one person slinging and we have one person whos technically showing the shirt to the crowd of what were going to be tossing them. Its very important. Its a lot of teamwork. Just like in any other workplace, you have to be able to communicate with everybody and work to be on the same page.
The t-shirts, arguably the item in which theyre most linked with and the ultimate souvenir for fans lucky enough to have one flung, thrown or cannoned their way during a break in play.
To casual observers, it may look just like a group of individuals scrambling around, but its all coordinated with timing.
Its knowing where youre supposed to be when youre supposed to be there, says Wackerfuss, an IncrediBull for five years. It goes along with teamwork. If you have a timeout that lasts about a minute-and-a-half, when you hear the horn go off, when the timeout is over, you know thats your signal to get off the court, so you dont disrupt the game and, god forbid, have the team get assessed a delay of game penalty because of something we caused. Its really an important issue to make sure that were in the spots that we need to be in, in order to both rev up the crowd and not disrupt the game.
From the 300 level to the ground floor, they keep United Center faithful engaged through wins, bouts of lack of energy and are still expected to draw the crowds reaction during a loss.
Its not all rah-rah either as any member on the Bulls will tell you that they have the best fans in the world and their tenacity on a nightly basis is a direct correlation to the crowds energy.
The energy that we bring to the crowd allows the NBA players to have the energy on the court, says four-year member Turner. I kind of feel without us amping the crowd up; it doesnt give players that energy. Thats just my personal opinion. Our energy feeds the crowd and that feeds the players.
Being an IncrediBull is only a part-time, seasonal position as there is no true job security with tryouts being held every summer for new potential members.
In any job, there are those days where you simply just dont have it in terms of energy and you have to coast throughout the day. That isnt a luxury that the IncrediBulls are afforded.
All of us have other jobs aside from this during the day, says Diaz, a five-year veteran. Sometimes we can have a stressful day at work but as soon as we get to the United Center, we have to leave everything outside and turn into a different person. Were here to make people happy and to get the crowd pumped up and screaming.
Their duties extend beyond the confines United Center as they also lend their time to charity and community events, represent the organization at special events and promotional engagements.
No matter what theyre called on to do, its never too much as each member has an undying love for the franchise and city which Ayala sums up perfectly.
10 years ago when I got this job, I had a friend who told me hey, the Bulls are looking to hire people that are going to be fun, energetic, throw a couple of t-shirts into the crowd, run a couple of contests and you get paid for it. Are you serious? That was a no-brainer for me. If they would have said its for free than I would have probably still done it. I was here every single game my rookie year. It was a couple tough years after the Jordan era, but Ive been a fan of sports my whole life and going back to the first six championships the Bulls had. To be in the same building, see those banners; why wouldnt anybody want to do that? If youre a fan of the Bulls, why wouldnt you want to be in my position? I feel like Im one of the lucky 13 people on this squad that get to do what we do.
Interestedin being a member of the IncrediBulls? Be sure to stay tuned to Bulls.com for tryout infomation.