When the Bulls finally won their first Championship, the city of Chicago was long overdue for a good time. With each Bulls Championship that followed, the Grant Park festivities grew bigger, the Chicago streets became rowdier and the euphoria heightened.
Living in Australia I could only view the team’s achievements from afar, and as for the celebrations at Grant Park, well my only exposure to those at the time were photos in magazines, rare snippets on local sporting highlights shows and occasionally in the NBA home videos such as this one. I was never fully aware of what was taking place in the City of Win. What I know now, I am still yet to experience first hand, but from all reports it makes New Years Eve look tame.
So for the sake of this piece and for your edutainment, I reached out to some friends of mine ( all Chi Town born and raised) to share their stories from those glory years with us via email.
First cab off the rank is Gustavo Vega, he grew up in The Little Village neighbourhood and fondly recalls the jubilation of the Bulls second title triumph over the Trailblazers in 1992. “I remember the Bulls come back win in Game 6. I was watching it with my brother Oscar. We were so happy that the Bulls had won.”
He was not alone.
“When the Bulls did win, the neighbourhood went wild! There was fire works, M-80’s & you name it going off and people shooting their guns in the air. Since we were young our parents didn’t let us out, so we watched most of it out of our basement window”. “The local TV stations were live at the Stadium and you had to change channels to follow your favourite players. The stations were also warning people to stay in because there was a lot of rioting and shooting.”
Watching from the comfort of one’s own home sounded like the safer option for the younger generation, but for those more adventurous…
Co-host of the Bulls Zone podcast Will Miller‘s take continues on where Gustavo’s left off. “I grew up in a suburb named Aurora, 30 miles south of Chicago. Large minority population and a gang problem. I remember being down town on a busy intersection just celebrating. Every one came down and drove in circles, honking horns, standing on their roofs and hoods. We were with some thugs who were using the opportunity to let everyone know what gang they were in, they would get in front of cars that looked like they might be a rival. These guys had crack rocks in baggies hidden under their tongue, they were crazy. I think I was 14, so I thought it was cool (dumb teenager),well anyway, this one guy got in front of the wrong car and started flashing signs, this guy in the car was just trying to celebrate, the gangbanger didn’t move, so the guy in the car accelerated and flipped the gangster over his hood on to the ground. We got the hell outta there after that”.
“Gun shots everywhere, girls getting crazy, I saw a few sets of titties”. adds Will.
So as you can see from the picture Mr. Miller paints, when the Bulls won, Chicago got buck wild.
It wasn’t all looting and mayhem as the media at the time would have had you believe, as Will explains further. “During the later titles I was in Chicago. Nothing special, just good times with a huge crowd. Dancing and screaming, seen a couple fights, but for the most part everyone loved each other. The titles made everyone forget about rival gangs, color or sexuality. We were all Bulls fans in love with this team and everyone else who loved them “.
Proof right there that Bulls basketball brings people together. Don’t believe me? Read on…
Last but not least I bring you the fond memories of my good friend Marek, a man who I befriended over twitter not long ago. Marek kindly welcomed me into his home earlier in the year when I ventured to Chicago to cover the Bulls. He gladly assumed the role of tour guide, and to say he was a gracious host would be a gross understatement. Not many people I know personally share the same passion for Chicago and the Bulls that I possess, but after reading Marek’s story, you’ll see why me and my Polish friend get along like a house on fire.
“The first championship was very memorable, even at the young age of 9 years old. This was the first time I knew we had something special in the duo of Michael and Scottie. Chicago was pumped for the finals, and so was my family. My dad and uncles all had watching parties for every finals game with BBQs, a Basketball hoop set up, vodka bottle on the table with food and snacks. As a kid I would wear Bulls shirts and shorts with my Scottie Pippen flight shoes. I remember MJ being so dominate—making shots when needed and the famous right to left switch layup off the glass. I knew it was over and so did the city. My dad and uncle were pouring vodka shots for the victory (this is where I get my vodka celebrations from lol—as you know Adam) and my cousins and I were hugging from excitement. Going home after game 5, all I remember is cars honking, Bulls flags out peoples windows and watching the celebrations continue on the news, followed by the Grant Park celebration. I remember MJ crying with the trophy, his dad by his side and cigar in hand. I knew at this point MJ was going to be the greatest ever.”
See? My friend is a passionate one all right. Pardon my interruption, Marek please continue…
“MJ returns for another 3 peat, now being 13-16 years old things were different the second time around and having my father pass in 1995, I didn’t get to share the 3 peat with my dad once again. I was watching with friends/cousins and now having a car to celebrate with. My cousin and I were pouring the shots now in honor of the Bulls winning and for my dad. This time around I was out on the streets of Chicago, giving high fives, with Bulls flags out of my cousins car, honking up and down as we drove the streets. We would drive down into the city as thousands of people were honking and screaming, as was I. I was finally able to experience that in person for the first time and it was surreal. The love for the Chicago Bulls was ginormous. I was finally able to see all the chaos that occurred at the Grant Park celebrations. All I remember is thousands of people in Bulls gear, giving high fives and music being played, I was in the distance watching and thinking….I am so happy being a bulls fan. I was smiling the whole time. Each championship made it more special but I knew the dynasty was coming to an end. Understanding the NBA more, the politics and money aspects of the game, I knew of the tension between Jerry Krause and MJ was growing and it was only a matter of time before this beautiful run was going to end and sure enough it did.”
Marek is now 32 and a proud season ticket holder. “I always knew I was going to have season tickets for the team I love”. Like myself and many other fans, he’s stuck with the team through thick and thin and with recent off season moves, he also shares the same hopes of the die hard Bulls faithful.
“I feel like a kid again, because I know we have something great in the making. We will rise and I know this team can win again!”
Will it be this season? Well that all hinges on the health of Derrick Rose. I think a large portion of Bulls fans are quietly confident that he can see the season through, but of course there are those who remain sceptical given his recent injury woes. I can’t blame them.
There are others who have already touted the Bulls as the team to beat in the East and fans that are already boldly declaring “this will be our year”.
I personally think it’s too premature to get ahead of ourselves given it’s only August, but if by chance and with a little bit of luck, Rose, Noah, recent addition Pau Gasol and one of the NBA’s deepest squads can make it to June and (basketball) god willing end the sixteen year title drought in the land of the humble and proud, no doubt one of the biggest parties Chicago has ever seen will commence, BUT it’s important to remember that no matter how much fun you’re having…