I will always cherish my memory of Paxson hitting that three against Phoenix. It looked like we were going to lose with less than a minute to play and the prospect of game seven in Phoenix seemed our destiny. I was too nervous to watch and left our house and went outside. We live in the Northern suburbs with primarily single family houses. While outside I heard this scream that surrounded me from all directions. It was surreal in its intensity for and area that is usually dead quiet. I ran into house and my wife was screaming, "he hit a three and we are winning". The repetitive replays showed an iconic sequence of passes with the ball ending up in John's hands with a few seconds remaining. And in one motion he caught it, immediately jumped, flicking the ball out of his hands all part of the same motion. And the ball went in and history was made. What a moment. I will never forget that. As GM he built two really fun teams. One with Heinrich, Deng, Ben Gordon, Noah and Nocioni. The other built around a 2.7% chance of a lottery pick, Rose. Injuries really hurt us and took away a chance to be in the finals. Too many coaching changes and an inability to build a team around Butler is also a part of his legacy. What are your thoughts?
I feel like the vitriol that has been reserved for Paxson lately is unbecoming for this community, especially given your wonderful memory. It was like that here I know, though I never witnessed it since I was at all the playoff games. And, as I recall, at that one in Phoenix there wasn't quite as much enthusiasm. Much like the 1998 finale in Salt Lake City. They were the two biggest shots in franchise history. John Paxson has one. And a share in another nearly as big with his five-some of jumpers down the stretch to clinch the first championship in 1991 when Jordan, admittedly, was in need of support. As much as Jordan has lauded Scottie Pippen for being the ideal complement, Jordan more than anyone else in his 13 years with the Bulls was most comfortable playing with Paxson. He said it all the time.
I know, it's the Bulls web site. But no, I don't have to say nice things about anyone if I don't choose to. I understand the disappointment regarding the fate of the Bulls, and I understand by not being a social media user that the ugly things often said or written aren't reflective of the majority. The treatment of Paxson reminds me some of what transpired with Derrick Rose. In the community's angst about the demise of that so promising team, or at least the fall from potential championship level, Rose was singled out as a slacker, indifferent, a figure to be ridiculed and eventually with the help of a false media narrative welcomed to leave. Derrick has been welcomed back exceptionally lovingly the last few years, which suggested to me an apology without admitting error. No one likes to admit they were so wrong. Better to point to others. I have no issue with favoring change or expressing displease with your team—it's part of the sports world and everyone in it understands—but it's the level of ugliness with is beneath this city. I'd expect it in my home city of New York, where Jim Dolan often isn't treated as rudely. Especially for a guy who stayed when no one else did. Not Jordan or Pippen or Grant or Cartwright. And someone who reflected this community as much as it likes to see itself, the overlooked, blue-collar worker who succeeds by refusing to accept the verdict of others.
Paxson came first to the Bulls after Jordan, a late first-round pick cut loose after two years by the Spurs. He actually signed the day Jordan was injured in Oakland in 1985. And then all the Bulls tried to do was replace him—Kyle Macy, Sedale Threatt, Steve Colter, Elston Turner, Rory Sparrow, Sam Vincent, Craig Hodges, B.J. Armstrong, and I'm probably missing a few—and all Paxson kept doing was finding his way back. He came in as a reserve, started, went to the bench for a few years, started again, and when some of the biggest shots in franchise history had to be made he made them. He was an assistant coach and a broadcaster, and, yes he helped put together some fun teams like all the best gms do, with some knowledge and a lot of luck. He's probably not perfect like the rest of us who watch games, but he committed to the team and community in a way that Chicago generally celebrates, being the guy who wasn't supposed to make as much impact. I've long lobbied for the Bulls to honor former players who made a difference, particularly Chet Walker and Norm Van Lier. John Paxson should be in their company for what he's done much more than what he has not.