Celebrating 1990-91 - Craig Hodges
Sam Smith recently spoke with Craigh Hodges, former sharp shooter on the 1990-91 Chicago Bulls Championship team who shared his reflections on the season, twenty years later
Craig Hodges was the local guy, the Chicago kid from Park Forest and Rich East High School, and it was something he'd always dreamed about, a championship for his home town Bulls, and he was a part.
"I guess you can say it was melancholy to some degree," said Hodges, now a shooting coach for the Lakers with Phil Jackson. "It was a thing of love. It was great to have that first championship the Bulls won and be a part of that. It's something no one can take away, something to share with your children, your grandchildren.
"What made it so special was a combination of things, the way after those losses to Detroit we put our noses to the grindstone as a unit and everyone pushed together. And knowing how important and what it meant to the city and the people of Chicago."
Hodges was one of the vital, imported veterans to lend some perspective and experience. He'd been one of the top shooting sixth men in Milwaukee after stops with the Clippers and Suns. But he'd also been an early student and disciple of the triangle offense playing for Tex Winter at Long Beach State.
"For me one of the things I felt I brought to the team because I had been in the league and came prepared was the veteran part, the professionalism and what it was to be a pro," said Hodges. "Looking back on that team there was a spiritual toughness needed as well as the mental toughness, a spirit to bring us together to help us get over the hump.
"You had the aura and mystique of Michael Jordan and being one of the so called Jordanaires," noted Hodges, "but you had to stay strong and be productive and when me or B.J. or Pax or Pip needed a bucket we could get one.
"The biggest thing for me was Tex and the system I had when I was 18 years old and I come back when I'm 28, 29 and having seen it utilized in college and again as a pro. Michael didn't like it," Hodges recalled. "Scottie didn't like it. But I was, 'Hey man, watch what this will do for us.'
"And then by mid-December they were loving Tex," said Hodges. "They understood how much you could get accomplished with the least amount of energy and resistance. The main part of the system is not to fight pressure but that there were counters for everything.
"When you watch the Lakers that's a big reason we still are successful," says Hodges. "The system takes care of so much personal stuff. The system is geared to everyone's strength and helps you stay away from your weaknesses. You don't put it on the floor, so hit an open jumper. Not open, you move and let someone else."
Hodges carries an interesting perspective as he's been with the recent great Lakers teams, but he says he'll have debates with Kobe Bryant and Brian Shaw often about the best teams and he said he'd put the '91 Bulls up against the best ever.
"I know one thing," said Hodges. "There would be no championship team in history that would (beat us badly), but I feel like with the system we played and the talent we had we could play with any championship team ever. We played in an era with maybe the toughest teams ever, hand checking, no flagrant fouls, a toughness you don't see anymore. That team could stand up against anyone."