Chicago Bulls: Best Players By Position Of The Modern Era

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Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were the centerpieces for six NBA championships in Chicago. (Image captured from

Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were the centerpieces for six NBA championships in Chicago. (Image captured from

Editor’s Note: The modern era of the NBA is generally accepted to have begun with the 1979-80 season, the advent of the 3-point line in the NBA. The lists to follow—one for each of the NBA’s 30 teams—will only consider seasons since 1979-80. We continue the series today with the best of the Chicago Bulls.

It took three tries for the NBA to catch on in Chicago, but the Chicago Bulls have definitely made it work.

The Bulls entered the league as an expansion team—the league’s second expansion team since the 1949 merger with the National Basketball League—in 1966 after two other franchises had failed in Chicago.

The Chicago Stags were a charter member of the Basketball Association of America in 1946, but folded after the 1949-50 season despite an all-time record of 145-92 and four playoff appearances in four seasons.

The Chicago Packers were next, as the first expansion team after the merger, in 1961. They played one season as the Packers, changed their name to the Zephyrs in 1962 and moved to Baltimore and became the Bullets in 1963. We know that franchise today as the Washington Wizards.

The expansion Bulls in 1966 cobbled together a mix of veterans such as Guy Rodgers, Bob Boozer and Don Kojis and mixed them with younger players like Jerry Sloan and Erwin Mueller and under the direction of NBA Coach of the Year Red Kerr managed to go 33-48 and make the playoffs in their first season playing at the International Amphitheatre.

The Bulls moved into larger Chicago Stadium in 1967 and remained there until moving into the new United Center in 1994, where the team went on to win three of its six championships.

In 48 seasons, the Bulls have made the playoffs 33 times, including each of the last six seasons, and their six championships (three in a row from 1991-93 and again from 1996-98) are the third-most in NBA history behind the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers.

Chicago set a single-season NBA record in 1995-96 with its 72 victories, while its worst season came in 2000-01, when the Bulls lost 67 games.

Phil Jackson is the franchise’s winningest coach, with a 545-193 record from 1989-90 through 1997-98, while Dick Motta went 356-300 while coaching the Bulls from 1968-69 through 1975-76. Including interim coaches, 21 different men have coached for the franchise.

There have been nine general managers of the Bulls, with Jerry Krause the longest-tenured of those, serving from March 1985 through April 2003. Krause also was interim GM from June-August 1976 after Motta was fired from his dual role of coach-GM.

Here are the best players, by position, for the Chicago Bulls in the modern era, beginning in 1979-80. Players had to have played 200 games for the franchise and averaged 25 minutes per game.

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Tags: Artis Gilmore Carlos Boozer Chicago Bulls Derrick Rose Michael Jordan Scottie Pippen

  • James Tillman

    Good article. Although Joakim Noah has played exceptionally well the past two seasons, I like Gilmore as the selection for top center. Also, like the old-school pics as well. How were you able to locate them?

    • Phil Watson

      The pics are the hardest part, because you have to find ones that are in the public domain. It’s funny. It takes me about an hour or so to write one of these and usually the better part of an afternoon or evening to locate the artwork.

      People sometimes forget just how good Artis was. He was a pretty easy choice over Noah even without having his first three years in Chicago included for this.

  • AaronBear

    Carlos Booze is, at best, the fourth best PF on the Bulls in the modern
    era. David Greenwood would be first, followed by Horace Grant and
    Dennis Rodman. Boozer’s defense stinks and his rebounds are padded by
    his poor team defense (leaving his man to seek out cheap boards). I have no disagreements at the other spots but I hope Joakim Noah continues to improve and in a few years could edge out the A Train.

    • Mark Vitek

      Have to agree here; although I would put Grant and Rodman ahead of both Greenwood and Boozer. No way is Boozer the top PF and then to not even do an ‘Apologies to’ for Rodman?

      • Phil Watson

        Rodman was the guy … except he missed by one game. Had to draw a line and 200 games was it. He had 199.

        For all the talk of Boozer’s defense, his D-rating is below 100 in three of his four seasons in Chicago. Boozer has averaged 4.2 defensive win shares per season with the Bulls. Grant averaged 3.4. It’s hard to do that when you’re “leaving your man to seek out cheap boards.”

        But I get it: It’s a bad contract so we need to manufacture reasons why the player is terrible. The numbers say otherwise.

        • Mark Vitek

          Ah, see the article only said “Players had to have played 200 games”; I didn’t see a “Players had to have played 200 regular season games” qualifier. So, you’re right there.


          • Phil Watson

            I’ll be more specific with that as I continue the series. I took that as a given, but now you’ve given me reason not to do that.