Dear Chicago Bulls,
This is probably the hardest letter I’ve ever had to write. I’ve been a fan since—honestly I’m not really sure. Either 1984 or 1985. Like untold millions of your fans around the world, I was a Michael Jordan fan first, a Bulls fan immediately thereafter. I rooted for guys hardly anyone I knew on Long Island had even heard of—Dave Corzine, Granville Waiters, Dennis Hopson. I was one of those people who actually hoped Brad Sellers would work out. I told everyone I knew that the Bulls would win a title someday, that Jordan wasn’t just a selfish scorer. And in 1991, you proved me right. Six titles in eight years. An embarrassment of riches.
And when Jordan retired, I stayed with you. Many of us did. Those post-Jordan years were awfully lean, but there was still the afterglow of ‘98 and the hope of what was to come. Jerry Krause, God rest his soul, trading Elton Brand for the rights to Tyson Chandler seemed insane, but hell, dude traded the rights to Olden Polynice for Scottie Pippen. He deserved the benefit of the doubt. And although Tim Floyd seemed overmatched from the start, it was OK. Building the first dynasty took time. Building another wouldn’t happen overnight either.
For a while, this faith was repaid. Jay Williams seemed like a perfect fit until his ill-fated motorcycle ride, then Kirk Hinrich stepped in. Derrick Rose was a revelation, Joakim Noah the hardest worker in a long time, a perfect Bull if there ever was one. Jimmy Butler, plucked with the 30th overall pick in 2011, blossomed into the best two-way player since Pippen. With taskmaster and defensive genius Tom Thibodeau at the helm, the sky was the limit.
Then, like The Roots once said, things fell apart. Rose’s knee blew up, and the furthest those Bulls ever got was the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals, the same year Rose became the youngest-ever MVP. Y’all figuratively limped along for a couple of years after that, but your best chances of winning a title snapped with Rose’s ACL in the 2012 Playoffs.
This wasn’t the end either, not for you, not for me. But as the injuries mounted and frustrations grew, relationships grew strained. Yet somehow the front office duo of John Paxson and Gar Forman were never the ones to pay the price. Thibodeau, the Coach of the Year in 2011, was fired in the summer of 2015. Rose was dealt to the Knicks the following summer. Noah was allowed to walk. Just this past summer, Jimmy Butler—27 years old and the centerpiece of the franchise—was dealt to Minnesota. And as of yesterday, I’m leaving you too.
To be honest, I probably stuck around too long. Not through the first rebuild—that was fine, that was expected. You don’t lose the best player on the planet and remain competitive. But last summer, that should have been it for me. You traded Rose and declined to re-sign Noah—which was fine—but then, after promising to add youth and athleticism with Butler as the primary focus, you signed Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade. That should have been a sign. As if firing Thibs wasn’t bad enough.
Then there was yesterday. The last straw. As other teams load up to take on the Warriors—the Rockets adding Chris Paul, the Thunder Paul George—you announce the hiring of Doug Collins as a “senior adviser.” Doug. Fucking. Collins. In 2017. Collins, of course, was the last Bulls coach before Phil Jackson took over, then the coach of the Wizards when Michael Jordan made his final comeback. Collins is 66 now, and last coached the pre-process Sixers before resigning in 2013. He’s most recently made a living as a television analyst, telling and re-telling stories about how he used to coach Michael Jordan.
From now on you can find me rooting for the Minnesota Timberwolves, who hired Thibs and traded for Jimmy. I think of them as who you guys could be had you made the right decisions, only with Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns.
One suspects this is the same role he’ll have with the Bulls. He didn’t have to say, as he did Tuesday during his introductory press conference, that he isn’t here to coach. No shit. It’s the fact that you hired him at all that’s the problem. Instead of cleaning house—GarPax are a league-wide laughingstock, a pair of clearly outmatched over-their-head throwbacks—and hiring a forward-thinking front office for a quickly evolving league, you double down on dinosaurs by bringing in the ultimate retread. “I’m old but I’m not old school,” Collins said yesterday. “I am woke.” And look, I don’t know whether you believe that or not. I don’t even need to know. Your hiring him is answer enough.
The weird part of all of this is that I still want to see you succeed. I suppose that’s how the best breakups are, where you realize you’re no good for each other, but you still care enough that you want everything to work out in the end. I’ve realized for a while now that the problems were at the top—that Jerry Reinsdorf and his stupid-ass son were too caught up in the White Sox to actually run the franchise like a modern NBA franchise deserves to be run. The way one has to be run in order to stay competitive. But it’s been obvious for a while now that competitiveness isn’t the goal. Profit is. So far they’ve been able to exploit the Bulls’ extraordinarily loyal fanbase without financial consequence.
But this is it for me. I’ve had enough. So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, good night. I’ll hang onto my Jordan jerseys, since those have fantastic memories attached, but the rest of the Bulls gear goes. And clearly I won’t be spending my money on any of the new stuff. I didn’t grow up in Chicago, so I don’t have the same stake in the franchise that those from there do. Maybe that makes it easier, I don’t know. From now on you can find me rooting for the Minnesota Timberwolves, who hired Thibs and traded for Jimmy. I think of them as who you guys could be had you made the right decisions, only with Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. I see a future with them, while with you I don’t see a future at all. It’s hard to imagine you even having one when all you keep doing is turning back to the past.