COMMENTARY | Moments after the Miami Heat suffered an agony of defeat to the Chicago Bulls in Game 1 of the 2013 NBA Playoffs, I was nearly convinced the Chi-Town ballers were not one-trick-ponies. Weren't you?
When it was clear LeBron James' "Most Valuable Player" milestone was overshadowed by the team's cranial-numbing loss, I considered headlines like, "Deng, The Butler Did it" or even "You Noah Winner When You See One." But then reality kicked in; Tom Thibodeau's M.A.S.H. unit is good, but they broke the mold when Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen exited stage left.
But give the Bulls credit for making their mark in the NBA Playoffs as NBA.com suggests.
DeJa Vu? Can you say "2011 NBA Eastern Conference Finals?"
Rewind the tape back to 2011; I remember it well. It was Sunday, May 15 at the United Center. The Bulls were basking in a number of firsts, since 1998, of course: The rebuilt team with Rose at the helm, earned bragging rights for the East's top record with 62 wins, they clinched the best record in the NBA since 1997, and they moved on to the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals, a feat not done since 1998.
Oh, and did I mention, the Bulls had the league's 2011 MVP on their side? Stay with me now.
Arguably, on paper, Chicago looked like the team to beat and one that would deny LeBron his goal of retribution in getting to the Finals, having gotten by his nemesis, the Boston Celtics.
And when the Bulls took a commanding lead of Game 1 with third and fourth quarter surges, even some nay-saying NBA pundits heeded the "all aboard" call and boarded the "Believe" train.
I found myself doing the "Dougie;" even I enjoy rooting for the underdog every now and then.
However, Games 2, 3, and 4 went the way of the Heat and in an instant, the confetti falling from the rafters, the screaming "MVP-MVP-MVP" chants for D-Rose, and the "we bad" locker room mantras from five starters and a pantheon of bench bros, suddenly faded to black.
"We had the best record and we were going into the playoffs with the best team. Unfortunately, other things happened," said Luol Deng on the Bulls' impressive stats.
"Twenty five seconds left, up three and losing the game. It happens. That's the game. It's tricky sometimes. To win a world championship, everything has to be on the same page. I felt good. I just wanted to keep pushing. Give us the best opportunity to win and bring it back to Chicago. I thought we had it," said Richard Hamilton.
"I just missed. Some nights are like that. Some nights you are on fire. Some nights you are not. Tonight I wasn't, but my teammates did a great job of making shots. My teammates said to stay aggressive and confident and keep shooting. They just didn't go in. I feel like we should have won that game," said Carlos Boozer in wake of his 3-11 shooting.
Wonk, wonk, wonk.
Room for only one Chicago Bulls dynasty
Fast forward to today and it seems like 2011 playing out all over again, albeit a few different faces. Like two years ago, the Bulls face daunting injuries from key players.
Unlike then, there is no Derrick Rose to bail them out and bring the crowd to their feet with dizzying crossovers, no-look passes and fade away jumpers. While he looks stoically from the bench, reflecting on what could have been, even he knows Chicago's best road to victory is a 5-9 warrior, who sits three-deep on the bench.
In similar fashion to how a senator quipped at his colleague during a vice-presidential debate in 1988, I have these words for anyone drawing a comparison to that pivotal moment in sports history: Nate Robinson is no Michael Jordan.
Although it's been over a decade since Phil Jackson and company dominated the courts night after night, Bulls fans still buy season tickets, perhaps, still holding vigil that one day the ghost of MJ returns.
Arguably, Derrick Rose is the closest semblance of His Airness as they come, at least for the city of Chicago. But some things are not meant for do-overs. Some records are not meant to be touched. Some dynasties are not meant to rise again and appease uber-fans still suffering from separation anxiety.
And sorry fans of the game, some dreams are just that in this winner-take-all game…dreams kept alive by fantasy.
Bradley is a professional writer, journalist, sportswriter, and avid fan of the NBA, NFL, PGA and all things tennis. He keeps a watchful eye on Miami Heat developments.
- Sports & Recreation
- Chicago Bulls
- Miami Heat
- Michael Jordan
- Derrick Rose