Vaunted Chicago tenor Jim Cornelison, who entered sports fans' consciousness with his stirring renditions of "The Star-Spangled Banner" at Chicago Blackhawks hockey games, was tapped to sing the National Anthem prior to Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals series between the Chicago Bulls and the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night. Before the performance, Cornelison told CNBC business reporter Darren Rovell, "From an emotional standpoint, this might be the hardest anthem for me tonight."
Judging by the response from the capacity crowd in attendance at the United Center, and the stirring rendition you hear in the clip above, I think it's fair to call this a job well done. Pretty great way to start a basketball game, huh?
Unfortunately for the Chicago faithful, the game didn't end quite the way they'd hoped, as the underdog Hawks stole home-court advantage with a 103-95 road victory in Game 1.
Joe Johnson, whose play left much to be desired this season after scoring a massive max contract as a free agent over the summer, played like a star in the series' opening contest, notching 45 minutes and scoring 34 points on 12-for-18 shooting, going a perfect 5-for-5 from both 3-point land and the foul line. As he did during the Hawks' first-round victory over the Orlando Magic, Jamal Crawford gave Atlanta a scoring spark off the bench, popping for 22 points on 16 shots in 35 minutes.
Luol Deng was the steadiest Bull from the game's opening tip, scoring 21 points on 8-for-12 shooting to go with six rebounds and two assists. Chicago star Derrick Rose led Chicago with 24 points, but needed 27 shots to rack them up, and left Bulls fans fearing the worst after tweaking his left ankle — the same ankle he injured against the Indiana Pacers during the first round — in the game's waning seconds.
Game 2 tips Wednesday at 8 p.m. Eastern at the United Center.