NBA - CENTRAL
Arena: United Center
Coach: Billy Donovan
2021-2022 TEAM LEADERS
The Chicago Bulls are one of the most popular NBA franchises world-wide, thanks in great part to the teams of the 1990s that won six NBA titles and featured Michael Jordan. The team has struggled to reach that level since that roster was broken up prior to the 1998-99 campaign, though it has had some title-contending years since.
The current group features a pair of high-scoring wings in DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine, as well as an All-Star center in Nikola Vucevic. The team is considered one of the up-and-coming squads in the NBA and is expected to be a top contender for the Eastern Conference crown for the next few years.
The Chicago Bulls were formed as an expansion franchise for the NBA in 1966, setting a standard for expansion teams with a first-year record of 33-48. The team had its moments of making the playoffs in its first decade of existence, but fell on some hard times in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
That all changed in 1984, when the Bulls selected third in the NBA Draft and selected Michael Jordan. The guard was named Rookie of the Year for the 1984-85 season and was one of the most electrifying scorers in the league as soon as he joined the team. A steady ascent to title contention occurred over the next few years, with Phil Jackson taking over as coach in 1989-90 and players like Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant being drafted and filling major roles on the team.
The Bulls advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time in 1991, defeating the Los Angeles Lakers for the franchise’s first league title. Chicago won two more titles over the next two years, but Jordan suddenly decided to quit basketball and give professional baseball a try. He returned to the team near the end of the 1994-95 season, which ended with a loss to Grant and the Orlando Magic in the conference semifinals.
Eclectic forward Dennis Rodman joined the team prior to the 1996-97 campaign, and the team rolled through the regular season, racking up a then-NBA-record 72 wins. The season ended with a win in the NBA Finals over the Seattle SuperSonics, which was followed by two straight wins in the NBA Finals over the Utah Jazz for another three-peat for the team.
The team was broken up prior to the 1998-99 season, with Jackson being let go and others being traded and Jordan retiring. The Bulls have never reached that level of success again, though they did reach the Eastern Conference finals in 2010-11 behind league MVP Derrick Rose, falling to the Miami Heat.
2021-2022 Key Stats
The Bulls made some big moves in the 2021 offseason, bringing in guard Lonzo Ball and forward DeMar DeRozan to add to the nucleus of Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic. The team was immediately considered a top contender in the Eastern Conference, with plenty of firepower and lots of defense.
Chicago has had four straight seasons of not making the playoffs, the longest streak for the team since the early 2000s. It’s also been six seasons since the Bulls won a playoff series, defeating the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2015 playoffs before falling to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the conference semifinals.
Championships Won by the Chicago Bulls
The Bulls dominated the 1990s in the NBA, winning six NBA titles in eight seasons. The departure of Michael Jordan to try to play professional baseball may have been the only thing that kept the team from winning even more championships in the decade.
The team’s first three-peat featured victories over teams featuring members of the original Team USA Dream Team: Magic Johnson’s Los Angeles Lakers, Clyde Drexler’s Portland Trail Blazers, and Charles Barkley’s Phoenix Suns. Michael Jordan was named the Finals MVP in each of the championship series victories.
The second three-peat run featured a win over the Seattle SuperSonics in the 1996 NBA Finals, then back-to-back championship series victories over the Utah Jazz. Again, Jordan was named the Finals MVP in each of the victories. None of the six championship series featuring the Bulls reached seven games.
The Bulls have also won nine division titles over the years. Six of those titles came in the NBA championship seasons. The first was in 1974-75, while the last two came back-to-back in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons.
Important Team Events
The most important event in Chicago Bulls team history was the drafting of Michael Jordan out of North Carolina with the No. 3 pick of the 1984 NBA Draft. The team felt very lucky to have Jordan drop to them with the third pick, and he immediately turned around the culture of the franchise with his drive to be a winner in the NBA.
Two more draft picks were very important to the development of the team. In 1987, the team had a pair of first-round picks, selecting Virginia center Olden Polynice and Clemson forward Horace Grant. The Bulls then traded the rights to Polynice to the SuperSonics for the rights to Scottie Pippen, who would go on to become a Hall of Famer. Grant and Pippen would be starters in the frontcourt for all of the Bulls’ first three championship teams.
Jordan’s retirement in the 1993 offseason was a major blow to the team’s title hopes. Pippen did his best to lead the team, reaching the conference semifinals in 1993-94, but it took Jordan returning near the end of the 1994-95 campaign to really get the Bulls back to title contention.
After three straight titles, general manager Jerry Krause decided he wanted to split the team up, letting coach Phil Jackson go and trading away many key pieces to the team’s second three-peat. It started an ascension into mediocrity that took many years for the team to get out of.
When talking about the top players in the franchise’s history, it’s pretty easy to determine the top player. Michael Jordan is believed by many to be the best player in NBA history, and his time with the Bulls was complete domination of the league by an individual. Jordan earned five NBA MVP awards, six NBA Finals awards, was a 10-time All-NBA first-team selection, was the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year in 1998, and first-team NBA All-Defensive nine times.
Scottie Pippen is also considered one of the top 20 players in the history of the NBA, and the team’s six titles don’t happen without the forward’s contributions. Pippen earned first-team All-NBA honors three times, was a seven-time NBA All-Star, and was named to the league’s All-Defensive first team eight times.
Guard Derrick Rose was one of the brightest stars in the NBA in the early 2010s, earning NBA MVP honors in 2010-11 at the age of 22. Unfortunately, Rose suffered an ACL tear in his left knee in the 2012 playoffs, sidelining him for the 2012-13 season, and when he came back at the beginning of the 2013-14 campaign, he lasted just under a month before suffering a right knee meniscus tear, ending his season.
Four men have won the NBA’s Coach of the Year award as the Chicago Bulls head coach, but one stands out above the rest. Phil Jackson amassed 545 regular-season wins and helped the franchise to six NBA titles in an eight-year span, making him easily the top coach in team history. Jackson was the NBA’s Coach of the Year in 1995-96 as the team rolled to a 72-10 regular-season record. Jackson had a .738 winning percentage in the regular season and a .730 winning percentage in the playoffs.
Dick Motta was the Bulls’ coach from 1968-69 to 1975-76, earning NBA Coach of the Year honors in 1970-71. Motta had 356 regular-season wins over that span, the second-most in franchise history. Chicago made the postseason in six of Motta’s eight seasons at the helm, losing in the conference finals in both 1974 and 1975.
Tom Thibodeau helped spark a resurgence for the team when he came aboard as head coach in 2010. He won NBA Coach of the Year honors in his first season on the Bulls sideline, as the team went 62-20 and advanced to the Eastern Conference finals. Thibodeau finished his Bulls coaching career with 255 regular-season wins.
Chicago Bulls Frequently Asked Questions
Michael Jordan scored 29,277 points during his 12-plus seasons with the Bulls, the most in franchise history.
The Bulls have picked first overall in the NBA Draft twice, taking forward Elton Brand in 1999 and guard Derrick Rose in 2008.
The Bulls have six championships, all won over an eight-season span between 1990-91 and 1997-98.
Phil Jackson won a franchise-record 545 regular-season games during his tenure as head coach from 1989-90 to 1997-98.
Three players have won the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award for the Bulls: Michael Jordan (1984-85), Elton Brand (1999-2000), and Derrick Rose (2008-09).