The Chicago Bulls joined the NBA during the expansion era of the mid-60s to mid-70s (that also included the Cavs, Bullets, Supersonics, Trail Blazers, Jazz, Buffalo Braves, Suns, and Rockets). In their 50 seasons, the Bulls have played in the playoffs a total of 34 times, and have come away with a total of 6 championships (while led by a player whose name rhymes with Schmichael Jordan).
A total of 337 players have worn a Bulls jersey during the regular season and/or the playoffs. The list of players is always a fun thing to look at. You could make jokes about the bar-and-meat reputation of The Windy City just using players found in the “B”s… where there are two guys named Boozer, two guys named Brewer, a guy named Bratz, and a guy named Booth. There have been 8 Browns, 6 Johnsons, 5 Jones’, 4 Robinsons, and 3 Smiths. And while there was no Partridge, there is a Pargo… and maybe that’s close enough.
So what that means is that a ton of guys have played for the Bulls through their three arenas. Many of them haven’t been very good, by NBA standards… but there have been some great players to lace ‘em up in Chicago. We are going to focus on the 20 Greatest. Their heyday might have been in a different team’s uniform, but we are focusing on the players and not the laundry.
There were many tough cuts, so be sure to argue and troll and whine and complain to us with comments.
21 Honorable Mentions: Butler, The Bigs, and the Technicality of Wade
Jimmy Butler is an amazing player. He has won the Most Improved Player award, been an All-Star twice, and made three All-Defensive 2nd Teams. Yet, Jimmy Buckets (great nickname, by the way) is only 26. He made a thrilling case for Top 20, but he doesn’t have enough reps just yet. Clearly, though, the young man’s future is bright and he’ll be on a list just like this in the near, near future.
Chicago also has had a number of very talented big men over the last 50 years. Surprisingly, in both statistics and accolades, they measured out to be remarkably similar (one might have been better at blocks, one might have been more of a scorer, one might have been better with a shorter career, one might have been more of a role player but had more longevity). The bruising, enforcer big man is the player that perhaps should be most associated with the Bulls… despite Schmichael being the all-time face of the franchise. And so here we honor the very tough, bunched-up-towards-the-end cuts of Carlos Boozer, Bill Cartwright, Tyson Chandler, Antonio Davis, and Charles Oakley.
20 20. Derrick Rose
20th out of 337 (or 21st out of 338) isn’t bad; but all the same this is a very unfortunate and depressing ranking. Derrick Rose, currently a member of the Knicks following a trade, was always meant to be the next messiah of Chicago. A hometown kid, drafted 1st overall, Rose had an electric game and perhaps the fastest 5th gear the hardwood has ever seen.
Rose won the Rookie of the Year award in 2009, and became the youngest league MVP ever just two years later. He was a 3-time all-star and made the All-NBA 1st Team once. During a playoff game against the Philadelphia 76ers in 2012, however, Rose suffered a devastating injury in the form of a torn ACL. Since that time, he has struggled to stay on the court due to a spate of injuries. When healthy (-ish), he has shown glimpses of being a very good player still, albeit one very visibly robbed of the athleticism and gumption that made him so thrilling during his halcyon days.
19 19. Jerry Sloan
Fans under 40 know Sloan, if they know him at all, as the longtime coach of the Utah Jazz. What young fans might not know is that the former 4th overall pick was a 2-time All-Star himself that gritted and pushed and banged his way into the hearts of Chicagoans to become known as “The Original Bull”.
Sloan played 11 seasons in the league; 10 of them with Chicago. A wing player with seemingly endless ferocity hustled his way to six All-Defensive Teams (four of them 1st) and two All-Star appearances. Jerry Sloan sits in the Top 10 for a number of career Bulls stats (stats earned as a Bull), but most tellingly… he is second in steals per game, second in total fouls, and first in defensive rating. His number is retired by the Bulls.
18 18. Reggie Theus
Reggie Theus was essentially a high-scoring shooting guard that was so adept with the ball that he played point guard for half his career. Theus was the big star in Chicago just before Michael Jordan came to town, and he was an exciting and heady player to watch.
Theus was the runner-up for Rookie of the Year in 1979 (losing out to Phil Ford). He was, however, a 2-time All-Star (both selections as a Bull) who then moved on to the Kansas City Kings after six seasons in Chicago. He was the centerpiece of the Kings as they moved from Kansas City to Sacramento, averaging nearly 19 points with 5.6 assists and 3.4 rebounds during his time there. Despite never being a 3-point shooter, he sits at 52 on the all-time scoring list. He is also 79th in steals and 44th in assists.
17 17. Metta World Peace
Metta began his career as a Bull (when he was known as Ron Artest), having been drafted 16th in 1999. A promising player and physical, defensive hound, he was included in a high profile trade to Indiana (along with Brad Miller, who almost made this list himself) for Jalen Rose (among others). It was in Indiana where World Peace began to make a (different) name for himself and gain both some fame and infamy.
As you might expect from someone who changed his name to Metta World Peace, Metta is an interesting character. Coming from a very troubled past (including witnessing first-hand someone getting murdered by getting stabbed by a table leg at a YMCA), Metta has publicly battled mental illness and his own hard-luck story. It has led to very negative incidents, such as being the precipitating factor for the infamous fan-player brawl the ‘Malice at the Palace’, some high-profile cheap shots (like elbowing James Harden in the temple), and an ugly domestic violence situation with his ex-wife (we’d like to take the opportunity to remind Metta and all our readers that none of these antics are acceptable… but that domestic violence is a very serious matter that does not get dealt with harshly enough in pro sports). It has also led to far more lighthearted scenarios… like the time when playing for Houston that World Peace was late for the team bus and showed up without pants due to being absent-minded and in a rush.
16 16. Horace Grant
Horace Grant never got the attention or spotlight equal to MJ and Pippen (to be fair, he wasn’t quite as good as either of them), but Grant was the definitive third option for the first three Bulls championships. A strong and savvy power forward with a deft scoring touch, Grant provided an amazing compliment to Jordan and Pippen, while keeping the likes of Elden Campbell, Larry Nance, Charles Oakley, and Charles Barkley at bay. Even fans who don’t know Grant by name surely know him by his bulky and colorful goggles and ferocity in ripping down boards.
Grant hung on with the Bulls during Michael Jordan’s baseball sabbatical, becoming the 2nd option on a still-formidable playoff team. It was there that he received his sole All-Star selection. He then moved on to Orlando, where he became a fixture and fan-favorite for several years (actually beating the Bulls his first year with the Magic en route to getting swept in the Finals versus Houston).
Horace won a 4th title as a Laker in 2001 (re-uniting with Phil Jackson, Shaq, and Brian Shaw). For his career, Grant is 44th in total rebounds, 62nd in blocks, and 99th in steals. He was a member of four All-Defensive 2nd Teams, and is 149th in Basketball-Reference’s HoF Probability Index.
15 15. Elton Brand
Elton Brand was drafted by the Bulls 1st overall in the 1999. He showed great promise, winning co-Rookie of the Year honors (with Steve Francis), and was traded to the Clippers after two seasons for the rights to Tyson Chandler, kicking off the “Baby Bulls” era for Chicago.
14 14. Guy Rodgers
Guy Rodgers might be the toughest player to place on this list. He began his career before anyone else on this list, and almost didn’t get on it simply because the game was so, so different when Rodgers was playing. Rodgers spent eight seasons with the Warriors before being traded to Chicago during the Bulls’ inaugural year of 1966.
13 13. Joakim Noah
Noah, despite being a pretty popular player with the accolades to match, has been something of a cult figure in the NBA throughout his playing career. A wild-haired center with tremendous defense and passing ability, he is constantly described as being the sort of player you hate… unless he’s on your team. Just as much as he’s known for his pestering energy on the defensive end and his long, curly hair, Noah is known by his shot… which is perhaps one of the ugliest and most awkward heave shots in basketball history (despite his being a career 49% shooter).
12 12. Bob Love
Bob Love (no relation to Kevin) was another player in the fine Chicago Bulls mold of being defense-first. Love, however, combined that with a pretty handy scoring acumen to make for a devastating two-way player at the two forward positions. Originally having been rejected by the Cincinnati Royals (who drafted him), he doggedly worked his way into the league by first playing in the Eastern Basketball League for the Trenton Colonials (we know, we wish that was a team in the NBA, too). His numbers shot up following his transition from Cincinnati (and 14 games in Milwaukee) to Chicago; where he wound up averaging 21.3 points per game and nearly 7 rebounds.
11 11. Norm Van Lier
“Stormin’ Norman” Van Lier was a bullish (pun intended) defense-first point guard who played with the Bulls for 7 of his 11 seasons in the league. He was drafted in the 3rd round (but 34th overall, so the equivalent of a high 2nd rounder right now).
10 10. Ben Wallace
Ben Wallace was a very one-of-a-kind player with a very one-of-a-kind background (and one-of-a-kind afro). Wallace came into the league with the Washington Bullets as an undrafted player. The fact that he made the team despite being a severely undersized center (at 6’9”) with absolutely no shot to speak of is a testament to his rebounding and defensive abilities. After two seasons in Washington coming off the bench and playing sparingly, he got his first big shot in his one season with the Orlando Magic. He was traded with Chucky Atkins for promising superstar Grant Hill, and somehow more than managed to live up to expectations. He found his true home in another industrial Midwestern city in Detroit, where he played for six seasons before signing with Chicago (where he played for two before being moved to Cleveland).
9 9. Chet Walker
Chet “The Jet” Walker was a small-ish small forward who spent the second half of his career with the Bulls after spending the first half with the Philadelphia 76ers (his rookie year, the 76ers were known as the Syracuse Nationals). He won an NBA championship with Philly (alongside Wilt Chamberlain and Billy Cunningham).
8 8. Artis Gilmore
Artis Gilmore was a gigantic lefty center (he was 7’2”) who sported a gigantic afro (and magnificent sideburns) that likely put him at 7’6”. Nicknamed “A-Train”, Gilmore made his biggest mark in professional basketball in the ABA, as a member of the Kentucky Colonels. As a Colonel, he won Rookie of the Year and MVP of the league in the same year. He made All-ABA and All-Defensive ABA 1st teams in his full five seasons in the league. He was also an All-Star each of those years, and won the 1975 championship. When the ABA collapsed, he was the first player taken in the dispersal draft (the pick was made by the Chicago Bulls).
7 7. Dennis Rodman
There has perhaps never been a player more polarizing, controversial, and simultaneously a household name as Dennis “The Worm” Rodman. A slim and undersized power forward, Rodman began his career as a 2nd round pick of the Detroit Pistons. His frantic workaday defensive and rebounding acumen, his athleticism in hounding his man, and the theatrics his style of play induced on the court ingratiated him to Pistons fans worldwide. He became a key force in Detroit’s back-to-back championships of 1989 and 1990 (as a bench player in ‘89 and the starting power forward in ‘90). But it was precisely that manic energy, combined with alcohol problems, drug problems, attitude problems, and a very public “alternative” persona (compared to the traditional jock personality) that wore his welcome out in each of his stops in the league. From Detroit, he had a short two season stint in San Antonio. He then went on to be a key part of the Bulls’ 2nd threepeat. To close out his career, he lasted 23 games with the Lakers and only 12 with Dallas. He made several comeback attempts with independent, foreign, and minor league teams.
Rodman was an All-Star 2 times, as well as a 2-time winner of Defensive Player of the Year. As mentioned before, he was a big part of a total of 5 championship teams. He made a total of 8 All-Defensive Teams (all 1st but one). He also made All-NBA 3rd Team twice. A complete non-shooter, Rodman’s all-time stats are nonetheless impressive. He ranks 22nd in career rebounds, 4th in offensive rebounds, and 1st in total rebound percentage (for his career he sucked up nearly 25% of all available rebounds in the game). His number is retired by the Pistons, and he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2011.
6 6. Robert Parish
After his long and storied career with the Boston Celtics (and his early years as a Warrior), “The Chief” was a member of the Hornets for two seasons. He closed out his career with a final season in Chicago at age 43… where he won his 4th championship. By this point, however, he was just a bench player averaging nine and a half fairly productive minutes a game (4 point and 2 rebounds to go with half a block).
5 5. Pau Gasol
Pau Gasol, the Spanish big man (power forward, primarily) with the easy touch and heady passing skills, spent two seasons with Chicago. He signed with the Bulls after seven up-and-down seasons with the Lakers (having come to the Lakers after seven years with Memphis in a trade for his own brother). He came in search of another ring and instead was party to a very tumultuous regime change from coach Tom Thibodeau to Fred Hoiberg. He has, this offseason, hitched his wagon to the San Antonio Spurs in order to potentially win more hardware.
4 4. George Gervin
Gervin, in addition to having been an incredible offensive player at the forward positions, is a strong contender for greatest basketball nickname of all-time with “Iceman”. George Gervin began his career with a 4-year stint in the ABA (one year and change with the Virginia Squires before going to the Spurs), because he was picked 40th overall by the Suns in the NBA Draft. When the ABA collapsed and the Spurs became one of four teams added to the NBA, Gervin went along for the ride. He continued to play 9 more seasons with San Antonio before being traded to the Chicago Bulls for his 15th and final season (actually playing on the same team as a very young Michael Jordan).
3 3. Nate Thurmond
For the eagle-eyed among you, you might notice that in our previous article about the “Top 20 Greatest Players to Wear a Warriors Jersey”, Nate Thurmond placed behind Robert Parish (yes, both were Bulls for very short periods as well as Warriors at a certain point in their careers). We are not afraid to admit when we’re wrong. Unfortunately, Nate Thurmond’s death after a short battle with leukemia just recently on July 16, helped to put his career in perspective.
2 2. Scottie Pippen
Scottie Pippen, the world’s most famous 2nd banana. Pippen began his career with the Bulls, teaming with Michael Jordan to create one of the most devastating tandems ever seen on the hardwood. While Pippen did manage to win 6 championships as a Bull (two separate threepeats), the defensive dynamo from Arkansas will forever be linked in discussion with Jordan. Pippen, however, led the Bulls in Jordan’s absence during his baseball years to very respectable finishes at the upper echelons of the Eastern Conference. Scottie then moved on to the Portland Trail Blazers (after having been traded to Houston for half a season), where he settled into a do-everything veteran role on a number of fantastic Portland teams. He then re-signed with Chicago for his final season.
1 1. Michael Jordan
Graced by several all-time players, the Bulls franchise could never be topped in a list of greatest players by anyone other than “His Airness”, Michael Jordan. Jordan was picked 3rd overall in the legendary 1984 draft that also produced Olajuwon, Barkley, Stockton, Alvin Robertson, and more. Very quickly, it became clear that Michael “Air” Jordan was something altogether different. Having spent all but two years (after having been retired for 3 seasons, he came back briefly with the Washington Wizards) with the Bulls, Jordan is very commonly referred to as the GOAT… the Greatest Of All Time.
Jordan played both shooting guard and small forward with a singular focus and determination. That focus led to on- and off-court confrontations with both opponents and teammates. His hyper-competitive nature, however, propelled the Bulls (along with the contributions of other greats such as Pippen, Rodman, and coach Phil Jackson) to two separate spates of back-to-back-to-back championships at a time when several all-time great players stood in the way of the crown. MJ currently sits 122nd all-time in rebounds and 106th in blocks (as a wing player), 42nd all-time in assists, 4th in points, and 3rd in steals. His career scoring average of 30.1 points per game is the best in history.
Until this past season, Jordan’s Bulls held the record for most wins in a regular season with 72. MJ was an All-Star in each of his 14 full seasons (he came back with only a few games left in the ‘94-’95 season after having ‘retired’ to try his hand at baseball with a White Sox minor league team). He was the All-Star MVP three times, he was the Finals MVP six times, and he was the league MVP five times. He was the Rookie of the Year and the 1988 Defensive Player of the Year. Jordan was a 10-time scoring champion, 9-time All-Defensive 1st Team selection, 10-time All-NBA 1st Team selection (and 1-time 2nd Team). He led the league in steals in 3 seasons. Jordan won two of the most talked about Slam Dunk Contests of all-time. Jordan was a member of the 1992 Dream Team, winning Olympic gold, and won a previous gold in the 1984 Olympic Games. Jordan was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009, and was voted part of the NBA’s “50 at 50” Team. Michael Jordan’s jersey is retired, not just as a Bull, but also for a franchise he never even played for, in the Miami Heat… for his contributions to the game of basketball.
Leave A Comment
Looking for an AD FREE EXPERIENCE on TheSportster?Get Your Free Access Now!