Da Bulls Dream Teams
The greatest player ever leads this group of the all-time best Chicago Bulls.
Posted September 15, 2004
One thing is clear as the members of the All-Time Chicago Bulls team enter the Berto Center for their first mythical practice: Defense is their biggest strength. Assistant coach Tex Winter blows his whistle and rolls out a ball, shouting, “Let’s play!”
Dick Motta’s hard-nosed squad from the 1970s—Jerry Sloan, Norm Van Lier, Bob Love, Chet Walker and Tom Boerwinkle—find each other immediately. They wanted to practice at the Chicago Stadium, of course, but no one had the heart to tell them that building is long gone.
On the other side of the court, Michael Jordan organizes his team, huddling with two of his teammates from the Bulls’ six championships, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman, and two more that played under Sloan in the ‘80s, Artis Gilmore and Reggie Theus.
These are the best of the Bulls, a collection of 10 players representing 38 seasons of Bulls basketball.
Team Jordan has the ball first. Sloan, with a glint in his eye, refuses to give Jordan an inch, his feet in constant motion, as he tries to contain the best shooting guard ever.
Jordan craves the challenge too, dribbling defensively, looking for any kind of opening. He thinks to himself that this is what it must be like to go up against the biggest, baddest and toughest U.S. Marine.
Jordan believes he sees a crack and shoots a one-handed bullet pass to Theus streaking down the sidelines, but Van Lier comes out of nowhere and steals it, and finds a breaking Love going the other way for an easy layup. 1-0, Team ‘70s.
As he watches, Head Coach Phil Jackson is dreaming of different lineup combinations, his fourth quarter team, his trapping team, his halfcourt offense team, his 11th and 12th men.
Jackson seems to favor adding his guys, Bill Cartwright and John Paxson, to fill out the roster and address the team’s lack of depth at center and point guard and its need for a three-point threat. But he also sees Hall of Famer centers Nate Thurmond and Robert Parish chatting with Kirk Hinrich and B.J. Armstrong underneath a basket on the side and contemplates what those guys could add to the mix.
Another steal—this one by Pippen, who leads the break and finds Jordan, who deflects the ball to Theus for a thunderous dunk—Team Jordan jumps back into the lead, 6-5. Almost every point in this fullcourt battle has been scored in transition, off turnovers.
Team ‘70s wants to run off the in-bounds. Boerwinkle tosses a two-handed over-the-head pass to Sloan at midcourt who hits a breaking Walker heading to the rim ... SPLAT! Rodman levels Walker, and the two start to scuffle, each with a handful of the other’s shirt.
Doug Collins runs to break it up, but Jackson stops him: “Let them go,” he shouts. The Zen Master likes what he sees, a team with fight (literally and figuratively) and character.
He smiles, wryly. “It’s going to be tough to score against us,” Jackson says. The rest of the coaching staff—Motta, Winter, Collins and Johnny Bach—nod in agreement. “But,” Bach adds, “what if they kill each other first?”
Opening night is a month away, and up first are the Los Angeles Lakers with their backcourt of Magic Johnson and Jerry West and sixth man extraordinaire, Kobe Bryant.
College: North Carolina
AKA: Air Jordan
Bulls career: 1984-1993, 1995-98
Bulls averages: 31.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 2.48 steals, a .505 field goal percentage and a .838 free-throw percentage.
Career season: 1988-89: 32.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 2.89 steals, a .538 field goal percentage and a .850 free-throw percentage.
Bulls resume: NBA 50th Anniversary All-Time Team (1996), NBA MVP (1988, 1991, 1992, 1996, 1998), All-NBA first team (1987-93), All-NBA second team (1985), NBA All-Star (1985, 1987-93, 1996-98), NBA All-Star MVP (1988, 1996, 1998), NBA Defensive Player of the Year (1988), NBA All-Defensive first team (1988-93, 1996-98), NBA Rookie of the Year (1985), NBA Finals MVP (1991-93, 1996-98).
College: Central Arkansas
Bulls career: 1987-98, 2003-present
Bulls averages: 18.0 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 2.13 steals.
Career season: 1991-92: 21.0 points, 7.7 rebounds and 7.0 assists.
Bulls resume: NBA 50th Anniversary All-Time Team (1996), All-NBA first team (1994-96), All-NBA second team (1992, 1997), All-NBA third team (1993, 1998), NBA All-Star (1990, 1992-97), NBA All-Star MVP (1994), NBA All-Defensive first team (1992-98), NBA All-Defensive second team (1991)
College: Southern University
Bulls career: 1968-76
Bulls averages: 21.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists and a .816 free-throw percentage.
Career season: 1969-70: 25.2 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists and a .829 free-throw percentage.
Bulls resume: All-NBA second team (1971-72), NBA All-Star (1971-73), NBA All-Defensive second team (1972 1974-75).
AKA: The A-Train
Bulls career: 1976-82, 1987
Career season: 1977-78: 22.9 points, 13.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists, 2.21 blocks and a .559 field goal percentage.
Bulls resume: NBA All-Star (1978-79, 1981-82), NBA All-Defensive second team (1978).
Norm Van Lier
College: St. Francis (PA)
AKA: Stormin’ Norman
Bulls career: 1971-78
Bulls averages: 12.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 6.9 assists.
Career season: 1972-73: 13.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 7.1 assists.
Bulls resume: All-NBA second team (1974), NBA All-Star (1974, 1976-77), 1969), NBA All-Defensive first team (1974, 1976-77), NBA All-Defensive second team (1972-73, 1975, 1978).
College: Southeastern Oklahoma State
Bulls career: 1995-98
Bulls averages: 5.2 points, 15.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists and a .452 field goal percentage.
Career season: 1996-97: 5.7points, 16.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists and a .448 field goal percentage.
Bulls resume: NBA All-Defensive First Team (1995, 1996). Three-time NBA rebounding champion (1996, 1997, 1998).
AKA: The Jet
Bulls career: 1969-75
Bulls averages: 20.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists.
Career season: 1969-70: 21.5 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.5 assists.
Bulls resume: NBA All-Star (1970-71, 1973-74).
Bulls career: 1968-78
Bulls averages: 7.2 points, 9.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists.
Career season: 1969-70: 10.4 points, 12.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists.
Bulls resume: First round pick (4th overall) out of Tennessee in 1968. Holds team record for most rebounds in a single game (37 vs. Phoenix, 1/8/70), and is second all-time in total rebounding (5,745), and seventh in all-time assists (2,007).
Bulls career: 1966-76
Bulls averages: 14.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.6 assists.
Career season: 1966-67: 17.4 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists.
Bulls resume: NBA All-Star (1967, 1969), NBA All-Defensive first team (1969, 1972, 1974-75), NBA All-Defensive second team (1970-71).
Bulls career: 1978-84
Bulls averages: 18.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 5.6 assists.
Career season: 1982-83: 23.8 points, 3.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists.
Bulls resume: NBA All-Star (1981, 1983).
- By Kevin Brewer