Contrary to popular belief, the Chicago Bulls weren’t born in 1984 when “His Airness” donned the Red and Black for the first time. In fact, the club, which was established in 1966, posted four seasons of 50-plus wins in the ‘70s before the tongue-wagging, Gatorade swilling legend ever took the court. Even more remarkable is that fans of the team stuck around to support the franchise even after the game’s most popular player retired (both times).
While Chicago booked trips to the postseason in each of its first two years in the league, it wasn’t until the debut of forward Bob Love in ‘68 that the squad had its first headline attraction. Over the course of his nine seasons in the Windy City, Love lead the Bulls in scoring seven times and was named to three All-Star teams. Big-name talents such as Norm Van Lier, Nate Thurmond and Artis Gilmore would all suit up for the Bulls in the ‘70s, but none were able to elevate Chicago to the upper realm of the NBA’s elite. However, fortunes would change at the 1984 draft when the Bulls selected a 6-foot-6-inch shooting guard from the University of North Carolina with the third overall pick.
Michael Jordan arrived in Chicago with a singular goal in mind: to be the absolute best. In his first season, “MJ” lead the Bulls to the playoffs for the first time in four years and earned league Rookie of the Year accolades. A broken foot would hamper him the next year, but true to form, Jordan returned in time for the playoffs. Headed into the ‘89-90 campaign, Phil Jackson assumed the head coaching reins and got to work on molding a roster that featured not just Jordan, but emerging All-Star Scottie Pippen as well. The following season, it all came together: the club captured its first world championship, while Jordan’s personal trophy case began to grow.
Jordan would take home both regular-season and Finals MVP honors in ‘91, duplicating the feat the following year while also powering the Bulls to titles two and three. In the wake of Air Jordan’s stunning retirement after the ‘93 season, Pippen became the face of the franchise, and the team moved to its new coliseum, the United Center. However, “MJ” couldn’t stay away from the game, and in ‘95, he came back to Chicago. Unsurprisingly, the Bulls returned to their dominant ways, and another “three-peat” took place as the franchise claimed the NBA crown in ‘96, ‘97 and ‘98 to run their championship count up to six. Once again, Jordan was named Finals MVP each time.
In 2000, the team saw its home sellout streak of 610 games come to an end: there were empty seats in the house for a Chicago basketball game for the first time since 1987. However, that isn’t to suggest that fans left. Since then, the Bulls have ranked in the top 10 for attendance every year, including leading the league in both ‘06-07 and ‘09-10. If anything, diehards are just gearing up for what they hope is another lengthy title reign.