Luc Longley back from Down Under to visit the Bulls
By Adam Fluck | 01.12.2012
When former Bulls center Luc Longley, who lives in his native Perth, Australia, talked to his wife and their children about taking a vacation, or “holiday,” as those Down Under tend to call it, the decision was an easy one.
“As we planned a family trip to the United States to show our kids around, we knew Chicago would be the first stop,” said Longley, who returned to the United Center this week for just the second time since his playing career ended in 2001. “It was home to me for a long time and I couldn’t wait to bring them here for a game. It’s a great city and I’ve always loved it here.”
Longley and his wife, Anna Gare, visited the United Center a few seasons ago to take in a game. But her two children, Jackson and Elsie (ages 17 and 15), plus his two children, Clare and Lily (also 17 and 15), didn’t make that trip. Everyone was in attendance to take in a pair of Bulls games this week—Monday against the Pistons and Wednesday against the Wizards. They had originally planned on only coming to the Detroit game, but that changed.
“I gave them the choice,” explained Longley on Wednesday prior to tip off. “I said, ‘We’ve been to one game. Do you want to go back?’ It was a landslide vote and they were super excited to come back.”
A self-described “hat juggler,” Longley said he has no trouble keeping busy these days. But the timing for a trip to Chicago, with his children approaching college age, was right.
“My wife has a full on TV career as a celebrity chef, and with four teenagers, a lot of it can often fall on me,” said Longley, who will turn 43 next week. “When I’m not with my own family, I like to coach kids and help out a bit with the national team. I also had a surf and dive charter boat that we ran up the west coast of Australia for awhile, and that was fun.”
For Longley, who was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves with the seventh overall selection in the 1991 NBA Draft and went on to play ten NBA seasons, returning to the United Center was an emotional experience.
“At first, it was a bit overwhelming,” said Longley. “It was a flood of memories—great memories—that came back. [Being back for the second game Wednesday] has been a little easier for me, but equally as enjoyable. The energy this crowd brings, even in the blowout of Detroit [on Monday] is incredible. Chicago has always had an educated fan base, and a passionate one.”
Longley caught up with several old teammates, including team ambassador and Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen, Bill Wennington and Randy Brown, whom he also played with for two seasons while the two attended the University of New Mexico. He also chatted with Neil Funk and Stacey King, who was traded by the Bulls to Minnesota for Longley on February 23, 1994.
“It’s been great catching everyone, but I’ve also enjoyed seeing some of the fans who were here back in those years,” said Longley. “So many of the guys in the stands look familiar, too. Same crowd, same people, same media guys, same cameramen; it’s like nothing has changed.”
As for his thoughts on this year’s Bulls after observing the team claim back-to-back victories against the Pistons and Wizards, count Longley among those impressed with the 10-2 start.
“I really like the team,” said Longley. “They’ve got a lot of balance, and even though it has been a lot of Derrick Rose so far this season, I think they have some very able players in the low post and they will get it going soon.
“I’m a [Joakim] Noah fan and I love his energy, and [Carlos] Boozer has a strong track record,” added Longley. “There is no reason why those two won’t get it going for this team.
(Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images)
Having played a total of five seasons in Chicago, Longley shared the court with Michael Jordan for three years and Scottie Pippen for his entire Bulls tenure, which produced three NBA championships. In Rose, he sees many of the same qualities that some of his well-known former teammates had.
“He looks like he’s got all the ingredients,” said Longley of Rose. “He’s out there being a leader, pulling guys aside and talking to them about defense and things of that nature. He’s not just a ball monster; he’s a leader. And his talent obviously makes him great.”
It remains to be seen what memories might be in store for the Bulls and those in attendance at the United Center over the next several seasons. But for Longley, he’ll always remember capping off Chicago’s historical 72-10 season at home with a 4-2 series win over the SuperSonics in the 1996 NBA Finals.
As he did every game in which he played that season, Longley started on June 16, 1996, and recorded 12 points and eight rebounds as the Bulls clinched the franchise’s fourth championship.
“That was a pretty cool scene,” recalled Longley. “The job was done with a minute or two left to go, and I remember sitting there, looking around and seeing what was happening. It was a long two minutes of gloating.”
If the Bulls look like they might reach that point again, it might be time for the Longley family to take another holiday.