He never got his dues in The Last Dance, but Horace Grant remains a crucial piece to the Chicago Bulls’ first three-peat that wasn’t properly touched upon.
Scarcely mentioned throughout The Last Dance was one of the more important figures in the Chicago Bulls’ first three championships. This was somebody who never really got his chunk of time in any single episode.
Horace Grant arrived in Chicago the same summer as Scottie Pippen. Though he didn’t develop to the extent of his fellow 1987 draftee, Grant became the starting power forward for Chicago by his sophomore season and manned the position until his departure in the summer of ’93.
He wasn’t the specialist Dennis Rodman was for the latter half of Chicago’s title run — certainly wasn’t the character — but Grant was far more durable and dependable at both ends of the court.
During the Bulls’ first three-peat, Grant appeared in 236 out of a possible 246 regular-season games. Rodman was at 199 during his three-year stretch, playing over 70 only in 1997-98 (80).
From 1991-93, Grant averaged 13.4 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.3 blocks and 1.3 steals per game. Rodman never averaged more than 5.7 points per game and didn’t shoot above 50.0 percent from the field or 60.0 percent from the stripe. Whereas Grant was at 54.4 and 69.2 percent, respectively.
Across 58 playoffs games, Grant’s numbers were 11.7 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1.1 steals per game. In those three Finals, he was at 11.5 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.3 steals a game.
This isn’t meant to denigrate Rodman, whose rebounding and defense compare to only a handful of players in NBA history. He’s a Hall of Famer. Grant isn’t. Pouring over the well-rounded numbers Grant averaged is meant to highlight just how good he was without the personality and antics to draw attention to it.
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Was there was no time for the original third of the Bulls’ trio whose departure led to the acquisition of Rodman? The guy whose presence in the Orlando Magic’s frontcourt — and the hole subsequently created in Chicago’s — tipped the scales in the Magic’s favor in the 1995 conference semi-finals against the Bulls?
Grant compiled 33.6 win shares in those three championship years. That ranks ninth among all players during that stretch and placed him three spots higher than Pippen’s 32.5.
Steve Kerr was a valuable shooter of the Bulls’ latter three titles with an emotionally compelling upbringing. But his time as the head coach of the three-time champion Golden State Warriors boosts his place on those Bulls teams to a point it never reached. More John Paxson than Grant or Rodman.
More significantly, he was also accused by Michael Jordan of leaking info to author Sam Smith that helped develop The Jordan Rules, where we get only a snippet rebuttal and nothing more. Such is the narrative developed in a docuseries heavily orchestrated by the man of the hour.
“When that so-called documentary is about one person, basically, and he has the last word on what’s going to be put out there … it’s not a documentary,” Grant said in a Tuesday radio interview with ESPN 1000’s Kap and Company Show.
The reach of The Last Dance went far in the hope of unearthing everything that made those Bulls teams click at the highest level for so long. But the only way it got made was if Jordan was allowed authority over how it came out.
Maybe that explains Grant’s absence, given that Jordan believes he was the team’s squealer, which Grant denied in the doc and has since furiously refuted as a “Lie, lie, lie.”
Just about every significant member of those Bulls teams was able to see their images emerge in a new light. Although not entirely in a positive manner, each has evolved compared to where it stood before the doc’s premiere.
MJ’s competitive fire was put into words by the man who understands it best — himself. Phil Jackson‘s coaching pedigree was placed back atop the mantle of his legacy. The ego of Pippen was on display. Rodman is probably more respected for his play amid his nightly activities.
It’s a shame Grant, the third-leading scorer on those first three title teams didn’t have that afforded to him. His contributions to the dynasty certainly earned more than the scapegoat persona dumped on him.