Saturday, March 12, 2011
Posted: 11:08 a.m. Updated: 3:27 p.m.
By Aggrey Sam
Although he's a Chicago native, the face of the Bulls has a hard time recalling the franchise's first championship. Not because he was in a celebratory haze, but because "I was 2," Derrick Rose told reporters before Friday's win over the Hawks.
"To tell you the truth, it had to be when I was in grammar school, like fifth or sixth grade, just watching the Bulls, wanting to get Jordan shoes--I wasn't able to, but wanting to get them--but just being a fan. I wasn't an NBA fan or anything--I was a Bulls fan, of course--but most of the time, I was always in the parks, just playing basketball myself, so I wasn't that tuned in to every game that they played. But in the playoffs, you had to watch," recounted Rose about his memories of the era in general. "I remember watching games--everybody in my living room, watching big games--but I never paid attention to them."
"I just remember having a shirt on--after they won a championship, guys on the streets would sell shirts with the newspaper article on it--I remember having on one of those shirts."
At halftime of Saturday's matchup with the Utah Jazz--fitting, as the Jazz fell to the Bulls in the NBA Finals in Chicago's last two championships; additionally, it will be the first time Utah visits the United Center since three of its former players (Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver and Carlos Boozer, who is unlikely to play in the contest because of a sprained left ankle) defected to Chicago over the summer--the organization will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the team's first title. Expected to be on hand are Scottie Pippen (the Hall of Famer is currently the team's ambassador), Horace Grant (the power forward sat courtside with Pippen at Friday's game) and others, including Michael Jordan, the owner of the Charlotte Bobcats.
Pippen previously told Bulls.com, "Of all my six championships, the first one is the one I treasure the most."
Perhaps that's because, unlike their vaunted 72-win season or any of their other fabled campaigns, the Bulls weren't expected to pull off the feat in the 1990-91 season. After years of playoff frustration against the Boston Celtics and hated Detroit Pistons, few truly believed the upstarts from Chicago could defeat the Magic Johnson and the heralded Los Angeles Lakers.
However, behind the transcendent talent of Jordan and the emergence of a young Pippen--while Jordan's legendary right-to-left soaring layup was the lasting image of the series, Pippen's defense against Johnson was considered the turning point--Bulls head coach Phil Jackson's team began its run of six championships. The current version of the Bulls, while certainly aware of the significance of the anniversary (although they'll likely miss the halftime celebration, as Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau plans to keep them in the locker room for the intermission), will use the festivities for motivation.
I know tomorrows going to be a big celebration, but whats the celebration if we lose? Were not trying to do that, said Rose after Friday's win. Were trying to focus on winning. The celebration is great, I hope that Im able to do that one day, but were just trying to focus on Utah.
Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.