Chicago Bulls: Looking back at their long road back to contention

Chicago Bulls (Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports)
Chicago Bulls (Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Chicago Bulls
Chicago Bulls Eddy Curry (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

In Chicago’s first year after Jordan, they only won 13 games and the best player on the team was Tony Kukoc. The Chicago Bulls were awful but still managed to keep the arena filled every single night.

After a season of 13-37, the Bulls had the No. 1 overall draft pick and went with a player by the name of Elton Brand. Brand was great, being one of only 19 players to average at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in their rookie season.

Still, the Bulls were awful. They only won 17 games. Brand shared the Rookie of the Year award with Steve Francis.

They also had another first-round pick by the name of Ron Artest who made the NBA All-rookie second team. Tony Kukoc was also traded as the Bulls were headed in a full rebuild mode with their young assets.

Fast forward to the 2000-01 season, the Bulls tried to form a big three of Tim Duncan, Grant Hill, and Tracy McGrady. That went south as Duncan stayed with the Spurs, Hill went to the Magic, and McGrady opted to play near home.

The Bulls kept trying to rebuild through the draft as they drafted Marcus Fizer’s fourth overall in the 2000 NBA draft and acquired Jamal Crawford via trade from the Cavaliers. With an average age of 22.9 years old, it did not work out how the Bulls planned and won just 15 games that season.

After that, the Bulls had young talent in Eddy Curry, traded Elton Brand in the 2001 draft for a high school big man in Tyson Chandler, and had a new big three that consisted of Eddy Curry, Tyson Chandler, and Jalen Rose.

The inexperience and youth showed as the Bulls just won a total of 119 games from the 1998-99 season to the 2003-04 season.

Things started to look up in the 2005-05 season as the Bulls hit big on draft night with Ben Gordon, Luol Dang (via trade), and Chris Duhon. They ended up having a winning season for the first time since the 1997-98 season.

The Bulls were bounced out in the first round, but hope was restored for the city of Chicago. The following year, they made the playoffs once again only to lose to the Miami Heat in the first round.

Now, in the 2006-07 season, the Bulls traded the rights to LaMarcus Aldridge for Tyrus Thomas. A very key mistake as everyone knows the success Aldridge has had is light years ahead of Thomas’ NBA success.

The Bulls ended up dominating the defending champion Miami Heat in a 4-0 sweep in the first round of the playoffs. They came up short once again though, losing to the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The following year would be head coach Scott Stiles’s last as the Bulls failed to make the postseason, but still had sold out all 41 home games and ranked second overall in attendance.

It was clear that the city of Chicago was loyal to their team and was bound to be blessed by the basketball gods shortly.