Horace Grant was just a kid then, more a product of his rural Georgia background than the sophistication of Chicago and a developing NBA power in the Bulls.
But there he was with his teammates in the NBA Finals and though he had Michael Jordan as a teammate, he remembers thinking, “We’re playing against Magic Johnson!
“It was unreal, so surreal,” said Grant. “We had to take those bumps and bruises against Detroit those few years to get over the hump and here we were. It was hard to believe.
“So here we are, playing against Magic Johnson in the Finals with a great group of guys who you grew up with as a player,” said Grant. “Growing up it always had been my dream to help a team win an NBA championship. Just something you dreamed about, but then here you are on that stage and then you are kissing that trophy. What a moment!”
Grant lives a quiet life now in Nortern California with his wife and two daughters, a third on the way any day now. His daughters ride horses and he raises dogs and helps with some local coaching.
“Life is great, relaxing,” said Grant, who was a wise investor during his playing career and living comfortably, albeit quietly without any real connection to the NBA.
But Grant concedes it was a tough road to that first championship, though he would go on to add another with Jackson’s Lakers in the early 2000’s.
“Sweeping Detroit after what we went through with them stands out,” said Grant, who is making a rare trip to Chicago Saturday for the 20th anniversary celebration. “Especially after that previous season with Detroit in the conference finals losing in the seventh game, the sixth game before that. No one expected us to come out and have the season we had (wrestling away home court from the Pistons) and then to win. That was the year MJ bought in to Phil’s philosophy of trusting his teammates and you see what guys did in some of those big games, like Paxson. “It was hard for him at the beginning, but that’s when we started clicking as a team and Scottie, myself, Pax, B.J., Bill started feeling good about what we could do and heading in the right direction.
“For me it was all about hard work in the summer time,” said Grant, who grew into the ideal workman power forward from a 195 pound draftee. “A lot of credit goes to Al Vermeil and his assistant Erik (Helland, now Bulls strength coach) for helping me put on pounds.
“It comes down to how bad you want it,” said Grant. “There were a lot of people doubting me, doubting the whole team. But then you go out there and play and get the benefit of a call or two. I did learn the first names of all the refs. Had to show them a little Southern hospitality against Detroit.”