The NBA’s third foray into Chicago has been a success, as the Chicago Bulls just completed their 50th season. Who have been their 25 best players?
For the NBA in Chicago, the third time was—in fact—the charm.
The NBA had failed in Chicago in the 1940s with the Stags, a charter member of the Basketball Association of America that lasted just one season after the BAA merged with the National Basketball League in 1949.
The NBA had failed again in Chicago in the early 1960s with the Packers/Zephyrs, the first modern-era expansion franchise that fled to Baltimore after just two seasons.
In January 1966, the NBA was ready to try again, awarding an expansion franchise to Dick Klein, who had played in the old NBL with the Chicago American Gears and called his new team the Chicago Bulls.
"“We were the meat capital of the world. At first I was thinking names like Matadors or Toreadors, but if you think about it, no team with as many as three syllables in its nickname has ever had much success except for the Canadiens. I was sitting around the house, kicking these names around with my wife and three sons when my little son, Mark, said, ‘Dad, that’s a bunch of bull!’ I said, ‘That’s it! We’ll call them the Bulls!’ And that’s how the team got its nickname.”"
In 1972, Klein sold the Bulls to Arthur Wirtz—who also owned the Chicago Blackhawks of the National Hockey League.
After Wirtz’s death in 1983, the team was eventually sold to Jerry Reinsdorf—also the owner of baseball’s Chicago White Sox. Reinsdorf has owned the franchise since.
The Bulls set an NBA record that still stands, going 33-48 in 1966-67, the best record for an expansion team.
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The team played its first season in the Chicago Amphitheater, moving to larger Chicago Stadium in 1967. The club moved into the United Center, its present home, when it was completed in 1994.
The Bulls were almost immediately competitive, making the playoffs in eight of their first nine seasons and reaching the Western Conference Finals twice, but that next step proved elusive.
Following back-to-back losses in the Eastern Conference Finals in 1989 and 1990, Chicago broke through with three consecutive NBA titles from 1991-93 and put together three more in a row from 1996-98.
The Bulls are 6-0 in the NBA Finals and have made the postseason 34 times in their 49 seasons, including a franchise-best 14 years in a row from 1985-98.
Chicago had a run of seven straight postseason appearances snapped in 2015-16, despite finishing with a 42-40 record. The longest playoff drought in franchise history was a six-year stretch from 1999-2004.
With an overall record of 2,115-1,936, the Bulls’ .522 winning percentage is eighth among the 30 active NBA franchises.
Chicago has six 60-win seasons, capped by the NBA’s first 70-victory season, a 72-10 mark in 1995-96. The team was 69-13 in 1996-97, 67-15 in 1991-92, 62-20 in both 1997-98 and 2010-11 and 61-21 in 1990-91.
Conversely, the Bulls have three 60-loss seasons, which were consecutive. The club was 15-67 in 2000-01, 17-65 in 1999-2000 and 21-61 in 2001-02.
The Bulls’ record 72 wins was surpassed in 2015-16 by the Golden State Warriors, who were 73-9.
It has also been a very stable franchise in the front office, with just nine general managers in 49 years.
Jerry Krause held the job from March 1985 through April 2003, John Paxson was in the position from April 2003 through May 2009 and current GM Gar Forman has been on the job since replacing Paxson.
Rod Thorn also had a lengthy tenure, from May 1978 through March 1985, meaning the tenures of franchise’s last five GMs stretch back more than 37 years.
The winningest coach in franchise history is Phil Jackson, who was 545-193 from 1989-98 and won all six titles, going 111-41 in the playoffs.
Pippen Ain't Easy
Dick Motta coached the club from 1968-76 and was 356-300 in the regular season and 18-29 in the postseason and Tom Thibodeau was 255-139 in regular-season play and 23-28 in the playoffs from 2010 until he was dismissed after the 2014-15 season.
The team has had 22 coaches in all. Current coach Fred Hoiberg, hired in June 2015, went 42-40 in his inaugural campaign.
They have drafted second four times, third three times, fourth four times and fifth twice.
Here are the 25 best players in the history of the Chicago Bulls. Players had to have appeared in 150 games and averaged a minimum of 20 minutes per game for the team to qualify for this list.
Next: Undrafted Big Man Carved Out Long Career