NBC Sports Chicago is spending the next month re-airing the entirety of the 1996 Bulls title run. First up is a first round series with the Miami Heat, and Game 1 was raucous. Observations on all that was fun, weird and everything in between from a game the Bulls took 102-85:
Things that made me miss a decade I hardly knew
First of all, the classic Bulls intro theme was an absolute world-rocker. This video isn’t from tonight’s broadcast, but it sums it up pretty well:
Beats the Power Clap into Purple Lamborghini transition any day.
And three United Center idiosyncrasies I wish had stood the test of time: First, the geography of the visitor’s tunnel, which forced every fouled out or ejected player to pass by the Bulls’ bench on their way out of the game (which made for great theater when Alonzo Mourning made an early exit in the fourth quarter). The second: ‘Hit the Road, Jack’ blaring from the arena speakers to supplement the crowd’s jeers upon opponents’ departures.
And the third? Thicc Benny, of course:
Honorable mentions in this category: The vintage Bulls logo with the basketball image behind it at center court, loud rims and good basketball. And this:
They just asked for fans to send emails to the announcers in the broadcast 😂— Bulls Talk (@NBCSBulls) March 19, 2020
From now on, email all your complaints to NBCSBulls@gmail.com #BullsRewind
Non-Jordan/Pippen Bulls that stole my heart
Ron Harper going full supernova with eight points and what felt like 18 steals in a third quarter the Bulls won handily (what a concept).
Dennis Rodman barreling into forced charge calls, posing performatively on the floor post-flop and gobbling a game-high 10 rebounds. He’s a treasure.
Tim Hardaway (I cheated here, but he had 26 of the smoothest points in the first half I’ve seen in a long time). The cross, the off-hand finishing, the quick release… He’s cold, man. The Heat aren’t long for this series, but excited to continue watching him cook.
Toni Kukoc is a vision.
Hey, it’s that guy!
Rex Chapman (yes, that Rex Chapman) hit two flailing jumpers in the first quarter and was generally doing wild stuff all game. If you told anyone back then he would be the most-followed player on Twitter from this game 24 years later (he is, I checked), they would have said: What’s Twitter? But you get what I’m saying.
Steve Javie — the man that made Secaucus, NJ a household name — made himself heard in this one (the Bulls and Heat were whistled for 66 fouls combined).
Kurt Thomas hit Jordan with a mean elbow in the first quarter and played 26 minutes for Miami.
Protect Danny Schayes at all costs.
Bill Wennington, Randy Brown and the great John Salley made appearances, too.
Stats that stood out
‘Young person notices NBA teams used to shoot less 3s and more midrange jumpers’ is about the most tired trope in the book. But… The Heat made eight 3s in the first half of this one. The Bulls took seven (and made one!). Shoutout Tim Hardaway, man.
Nine technical fouls. This one was chippy, and all the more enthralling for it. Along with Mourning, Heat coach Pat Riley and backup center Chris Gatling got the boot for the visitors.
Tim Hardaway scored 26 points in the first half. The Heat scored 31 in the second.
The Heat committed 27 turnovers, and Scottie Pippen (five) and Harper (four) combined for nine steals. Pippen’s length was eye-popping and his combination of grace and power in the open floor legitimately evoked gasps from me at various points. This did, too:
Scottie Pippen slam pic.twitter.com/nZwx7LWpkv— Vega (@iamvega1982) March 19, 2020
Oh, yeah. Jordan had 35 points on 13-for-22 shooting. Ho-hum. He was phenomenal, an absolute terror on the block and I can’t wait for more.
Join us for Game 2 of Bulls-Heat Friday at 7 p.m. CT on NBC Sports Chicago.