History of the Chicago Bulls

The Chicago Bulls made their NBA debut in 1966 as a member of the Midwest Division after two professional teams before them failed to make it in the Windy City (the Stags of the Basketball Association of America, and the Packers/Zephyrs, now known as the Washington Wizards). The opening season went well for the Bulls, as their 33-48 record made them the most successful first-year expansion team. Chicago also made it into the Western Division playoffs, but the team didn’t get past the first round. Head coach, Johnny “Red” Kerr, won NBA Coach of the Year, and the Bulls sent two players to the All-Star game: Guy Rodgers and Jerry Sloan, who would be the first Bulls player to have his number retired. Over the next eight seasons, the Bulls would clinch a spot in the playoffs seven times. The team during this span featured the franchise’s best rebounder of all-time in 7-foot Tom Boerwinkle, Chet Walker, and Bob Love, the Bulls’ scoring leader before Michael Jordan came to town. Even though these players comprised a pretty good Bulls team, the rest of the Western Division was even better with the likes of the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers, and Chicago never made it past the Western Conference Finals.

The rest of the 1970’s and the early 1980’s saw the Chicago Bulls struggle, as the team went through multiple coaching changes and draft pick busts. During the 1980-1981 season, the new Dallas Mavericks forced the Bulls to move to the Central Division and the Eastern Conference. With the move, the Bulls luck changed when they drafted Michael Jordan, the reigning College Player of the Year from North Carolina, with the third pick in the 1984 NBA draft. The 6-foot 6 guard contributed right away and became an instant scoring sensation. However, the Bulls wouldn’t start to have playoff success until Phil Jackson became the coach in 1989-90. A year later, the Bulls would finish with a 61-21 record, and would streamline through the Eastern Conference playoffs to make their first ever NBA Finals appearance. In what looked like to be a long series against Magic Johnson’s Lakers, the Bulls came away with the title in five games by winning the last four behind Jordan and his partner in crime, Scottie Pippen.

The Bulls would go on to three-peat, winning the Finals in the next two seasons. Then, out of nowhere, Jordan announced his retirement in 1993. He left the league to pursue a professional baseball career. Yet his stint as a baseball player didn’t go well, and Jordan returned to the Bulls during the 1994-95 season. The following season, the Bulls won their fourth championship and made NBA history by posting a final record of 87-13 (72-10 for the regular season). Chicago won again in ’97 and ’98 to capture its second three-peat, bringing its championship total to six—good for third most in the NBA behind the Lakers (16) and the Boston Celtics (17). After 1998, the trio of Jackson, Jordan, and Pippen finally came to the end. Jackson took a year off from coaching, Jordan retired (but would return again to play for the Washington Wizards for the 2001-2003 seasons), and Pippen left the club in a sign-and-trade deal. Since that winning season, the Bulls have yet to make another Finals appearance.

The Bulls are back in the right direction though ever since they drafted point guard Derrick Rose with the first pick in the 2008 NBA draft. Rose has led the Bulls to the playoffs every year since his NBA debut. In 2011, he became the youngest player and the only Bulls’ player since Michael Jordan to be named NBA MVP. This year the Bulls looked primed to make a serious playoff run, but injuries to Rose and center Joakim Noah led to the team’s defeat in the opening round.