Throughout the Chicago Sky's exhilarating run to the franchise's first WNBA championship, DeMar DeRozan and Patrick Williams became courtside fixtures at Wintrust Arena.
On Sunday, when that run culminated in a title-clinching 80-74 win over the Phoenix Mercury, both Chicago Bulls forwards were there to bear witness. After the Bulls' Monday practice, DeRozan described the atmosphere as "incredible."
Now, the entire Bulls team will look to emulate the energy the Sky sparked throughout the city when the former's season tips off Wednesday.
"It gives us some big shoes to fill," Bulls guard Zach LaVine said with a smile when asked his reaction to the Sky's victory. "Very excited for them. Congrats to Candace Parker on coming home and doing all the things that she's accomplished. But that entire team put the city on their back."
DeRozan also made sure to shout out Parker, who signed with her hometown team last offseason after spending 13 decorated years with the Los Angeles Sparks. DeRozan hails from Compton, and said the two are friends.
"Seeing her go from LA to Chicago, come back home and win a championship, her story has definitely been incredible," DeRozan said. "I've been following her her whole career, and to be able to witness that, it was incredible man. It was incredible.
"That's what it's all about. Supporting women's basketball, and especially the Chicago Sky, in a city that I just come to. To witness that was awesome."
Bulls head coach Billy Donovan, like LaVine, sees something aspirational in the Sky's success. Donovan, after all, is the same coach that took Williams on an instructive road trip to a Bucks-Nets playoff bout in Milwaukee after the Bulls' 2020-21 campaign ended short of the play-in.
"I think any time you're in that type of environment it's great," Donovan said. "I'm really, really happy for them (the Sky) and congratulations to them. I really appreciate our guys going there and supporting them.
"Any time you're in that type of environment where there's so much on the line, you're playing for a championship and the investment that the team made and both teams made — and you could certainly see the emotion and the passion when they won and what it meant to them — I think any time you're in that type of venue, whether it's a playoff football game, playoff basketball game, WNBA, World Cup soccer, I think feeling those venues, you feel the intensity."
While championship expectations might be lofty for the Bulls this season, certainly there are lessons to take away. At the very least, it's something to strive for.