Bulls' DeMar DeRozan felt Michael Jordan's ghost early in Chicago
How DeRozan strives to live up to MJ’s legacy with Bulls originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
It didn't take long into DeMar DeRozan's Chicago Bulls career for him to feel the ghost of Michael Jordan.
Last Oct. 28, with the Bulls sitting at 4-0, DeRozan attempted a game-winning buzzer beater against the Knicks at the United Center.
"I airballed. And i just felt the whole vibe of everything, like, what was that? I felt like I disrespected the aura of what these fans are used to seeing from obviously MJ hitting game-winners," DeRozan said during an appearance on "The Draymond Green Show." "You live for those moments. And to be in that moment for the first time my fourth or fifth game, and I take that shot, I told myself I would never be in that situation again. To let that same feeling happen for these fans.
"It was that game to where it was like every shot I take in the clutch, I'm going to make it count every single time. You look back at all the moments that I had in that arena, it was more so like, 'Yo, I'm trying to inherit the ghost of Michael shooting his fadeaway with the clock running down.' I carried that to heart after that moment because you felt it from the fans. You felt it on social media when it was like,' Yeah, you're taking that.' It was like, 'Nah.' That's how I carried it every time I walk in there. You see Scottie (Pippen) and Michael. You see Bob Love. You see these jerseys up there and you hear this music when you come out, it's the same thing. You gotta live up to it."
DeRozan provided plenty of heroics at home and also hit historic, back-to-back, game-winning 3-pointers on the road to beat the Indiana Pacers and Washington Wizards on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. It marked the first time in NBA history that a player had hit game-winning 3-pointers on consecutive days.
But DeRozan told Green on his podcast how that initial failure drove him and opened his eyes to the expectations of Chicago sports fans.
"It trips me out even just driving there, like parking outside. I remember just seeing all the highlights of Jordan back in the day parking outside. So for me, every time I go there, I feel it. I'm not even gonna lie," DeRozan said on Green's podcast. "You just feel like you gotta bring it every single night, especially for those fans."
As for what DeRozan and the Bulls can do for an encore this season, Green asked him what has to happen for the team to take the next step. After a hot start in which they led the Eastern Conference as late as Feb. 25, the Bulls finished sixth in the conference and exited in the first round of the playoffs to the Bucks. It marked the Bulls' first playoff appearance since 2017.
"I think for us as a group, as a core, you know many of us wasn't together much. At the same time, the second half of the season, we gotta know what that feels like going into training camp. We kind of fell apart. We lost ourselves obviously through health. But regardless, I think I told one of the young guys after All-Star break, I said this is the moment when you see what teams are serious. He didn't know what I meant by that," DeRozan said. "For us to hit the wall that we hit showed that we wasn't ready for adversity. We had so much success so early to where you could lose sight of how hard this (expletive) really is."
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