Ranking the Top 25 Players in Chicago Bulls History

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The Chicago Bulls Basketball Team was founded on January 16, 1966, and it played its first NBA season in 1966–67. Currently, the Bulls share the United Center, an arena on Chicago’s West Side, with the Chicago Blackhawks of the National Hockey League.

The 1990s saw the Bulls reach their greatest level of success and were instrumental in making the NBA well-known throughout the world. Known for a legendary dynasty, they won six NBA titles between 1991 and 1998, including two three-peats. Coach Phil Jackson led the trio of Hall of Famers Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and themselves to six championship victories. Interestingly, the Bulls are the only NBA team with multiple championships and a perfect record in NBA Finals series.

The Bulls made history in the 1995–96 season when they won 72 games; that record stood until the Golden State Warriors won 73 games in 2015–16. NBA trailblazers, the Bulls were the first team to play more than 70 games in a single season, a record that was not surpassed by the Warriors in 2015–16.

Chicago Bulls struggled with a drop in their luck after 1998. Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah led the team to a spectacular 62-win season in 2010–11, but the club was doomed to mediocrity due to a history of injuries and significant player departures that prevented prolonged success. NBA Most Valuable Player Awards were shared by Michael Jordan and Derrick Rose during their time with the Bulls, for a combined six MVP titles. 

Time to explore the athletes who have defined an era for the Chicago Bulls and left an enduring impact on the world of basketball. This article contains the top 25 Chicago Bulls players, and how each of them has contributed to the unforgettable moments in the history of Chicago Bulls.

The Best Chicago Bull Players of all time

  1. Michael Jordan (1984-93, 95-98)

Career Averages: 31.5 PPG, 5.4 APG, 6.3 RPG

Michael Jordan stands as the undisputed king of Chicago Bulls history, his legacy etched into the very fabric of basketball. The way he soared through the air, the incredible scoring records—Jordan wasn’t just a player; he was a phenomenon.

His knack for taking over games, winning ten scoring titles, and delivering in clutch moments cements his status as the greatest player in NBA history. Beyond the points, Jordan was a defensive force, earning nine All-Defensive First Team selections and a Defensive Player of the Year award. His impact on the Bulls is immeasurable, making him the unequivocal leader of this elite list.

  1. Scottie Pippen (1987-98, 2003-04)

Career Averages: 18 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 2.1 SPG

The ultimate Robin to Jordan’s Batman, Scottie Pippen was the glue of the Bulls’ dynasty. A defensive virtuoso and the embodiment of versatility, Pippen once led the team in points, assists, rebounds, blocks, and steals in a season—a feat matched only by LeBron James. With seven All-Star nods, eight All-Defensive First Team selections, and six NBA championships, Pippen’s legacy endures. His skills on both ends of the floor firmly secure his place as the second-greatest Bull in history.

  1. Jerry Sloan (1966-76)

Career Averages: 14.7 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 2.2 SPG

Known as “The Original Bull,” Jerry Sloan laid the groundwork for the franchise’s defensive identity. A tenacious rebounder and relentless defender, Sloan earned four All-Defensive First Team selections and two on the Second Team. A two-time All-Star, he led the Bulls to eight consecutive playoff appearances. His jersey, the first ever retired by the team, symbolizes his lasting impact. Sloan firmly secures his place among the top three players in team history.

  1. Derrick Rose (2008-Present)

Career Averages: 21.0 PPG, 6.8 APG, 3.8 RPG

Derrick Rose’s rise brought hope and excitement back to Chicago. The youngest MVP in NBA history, Rose’s explosive style and unwavering spirit captured the city’s heart. Despite injury setbacks, Rose’s impact and cultural significance remain immeasurable. His resilience during rehabilitation and commitment to the Bulls make him a revered figure. Rose’s journey, still unfolding, positions him as a future Hall of Famer and a key player in the team’s storied history.

  1. Bob Love (1968-76)

Career Averages: 19.4 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.6 APG

Arriving in 1968, Bob Love emerged as a scoring force for the Bulls. A trailblazer among scoring power forwards, Love blended guard-like agility with forward-like size. A two-time All-Defensive Second Team member and three-time All-Star, Love led the Bulls to consecutive Western Conference Finals. Currently ranking third in all-time scoring, second in free throws made, and eighth in rebounds, Love’s impact is immortalized with his jersey hanging in the rafters.

  1. Norm Van Lier (1971-78)

Career Averages: 12.2 PPG, 6.8 APG, 4.6 RPG

Norm Van Lier, a defensive stalwart, formed a formidable backcourt alongside Jerry Sloan. Recognized for his defensive prowess, with three All-Defensive First Team selections and five on the Second Team, Van Lier’s contributions extended beyond steals and assists. Ranking third in both steals and assists in franchise history, his impact on the Bulls’ success during the ’70s is indelible. Van Lier’s legacy as one of the greatest defenders in Bulls history remains untarnished.

  1. Artis Gilmore (1976-82, 87-88)

Career Averages: 60.3% FG, 20.4 PPG, 11.2 RPG

Artis Gilmore’s arrival post the ABA-NBA merger transformed the Bulls. Renowned for his exceptional field-goal percentage and elite rebounding, Gilmore left an indelible mark. The Bulls’ all-time leader in blocks, fifth in rebounds, and seventh in points, Gilmore was a defensive anchor. A Hall of Fame inductee in 2011, his legacy as the greatest center in Bulls history is secure.

Gilmore wore number 53 and had two successful spells and inducted into the Gardner-Webb Athletics Hall of Fame and Stars Hollow University Hall of Fame in 1995 and 1993 respectively.

  1. Chet Walker (1969-75)

Career Averages: 48.3% FG, 20.5 PPG, 6.1 RPG

Nicknamed ‘Chet the Jet’ for his agility and speed, Chet Walker, a bona fide superstar, brought championship experience from Philadelphia to Chicago. A consistent scorer, Walker never averaged below 19 points and five rebounds during his six years with the Bulls. Alongside Jerry Sloan, Norm Van Lier, and Bob Love, Walker propelled the Bulls to perennial playoff contention.

Currently the sixth-leading scorer in franchise history, Walker’s elite play in the ’70s solidifies his status as one of the Bulls’ all-time greats. After playing for the Philadelphia 76ers for 7 years, Chet switched allegiance to the Bulls, averaging 18.2 ppg career points.

  1. Dennis Rodman (1995-98)

Career Averages: 5.2 PPG, 15.3 RPG

Dennis Rodman’s arrival in Chicago added a unique dynamic to the Bulls’ quest for championships. Already a force with two rings and two Defensive Player of the Year awards, Rodman’s three-year stint with the Bulls was transformative. Leading the league in rebounding each season, Rodman’s tenacious defense and unparalleled rebounding complemented the Bulls’ star-studded lineup. A vital piece in the second three-peat, Rodman’s impact extends far beyond traditional statistics.

  1. Reggie Theus (1978-84)

Career Averages: 17.6 PPG, 5.5 APG, 1.2 SPG

Drafted ninth overall in 1978, Reggie Theus made an immediate impact with his size and versatility. A natural 2-guard with the ability to play point guard and small forward, Theus showcased scoring and playmaking prowess. Despite a tumultuous end to his Bulls tenure, Theus’ contributions and popularity among fans endure. A two-time All-Star, Theus holds a prominent place among the great Bulls of the late ’70s and early ’80s. He was honoured twice as the NBA All-Star in 1981 and 1983 respectively. He was also selected for the NBA All-Rookie Team of the season in 1979.  

  1. Horace Grant (1987-94)

Career Averages: 53% FG, 12.6 PPG, 8.6 RPG

Horace Grant’s seven-year spell with the Bulls marked a historic moment in his career. His evolution from Charles Oakley’s understudy to a key figure in the Bulls’ first three-peat is a testament to his skill and adaptability. A proficient interior defender with a versatile offensive game, Grant’s impact extended beyond traditional stats. A key role player with three rings and an All-Star selection in 1994, Grant’s contributions remain integral to the Bulls’ success.

During his time in Clemson college, Horace became the first ever player to lead the league in ACC category, with a field goal shooting percentage of 70.8, 9.6 rebounds, and average score of 21.0.  

  1. Toni Kukoc (1993-00)

Career Averages: 14.1 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 4.2 APG

Toni Kukoc, the European import, injected new life into the Bulls’ offense. Renowned for his versatility, Kukoc excelled as a playmaker and scorer. A linchpin of the post-Jordan era, Kukoc’s contributions ensured the Bulls stayed competitive. His impact transcended mere statistics, solidifying his place among the franchise greats.

If anything, Kukoc is known remembered for his rebound numbers, incredible passing, and open-floor shooting. Winning the European Player of the Year five times was the height of his achievement with the Bulls. He won the NBA three times with the Bulls.

  1. Luol Deng (2004-14)

Career Averages: 16.1 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 2.5 APG

Luol Deng, a two-time All-Star (2011, 2013), epitomized consistency, and reliability in the post-Jordan era. His two-way proficiency and leadership made him a cornerstone during challenging times. Deng’s impact goes beyond the stat sheet, reflecting his commitment to the team’s values and success.

In addition to his on-pitch achievements, Deng is also a popular for his off-pitch charities. With his Luol Deng Foundation, the South Sudan-born athlete has impacted many lives in and outside his country of origin.

  1. Joakim Noah (2007-16)

Career Averages: 9 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 3.3 APG

Joakim Noah’s infectious energy and tenacious play defined his Bulls tenure. A two-time All-Star and former Defensive Player of the Year, Noah’s impact exceeded statistics. Integral in Tom Thibodeau’s defensive schemes, Noah’s leadership and passion endeared him to fans, making his contributions vital to the post-Jordan era.

Joakim represented the Bulls for close to a decade (2007-2016) during which he was included in the All-NBA First Team. He also won a two-time NBA All Star feature.  

  1. Ben Gordon (2004-09)

Career Averages: 18.5 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 3.5 APG

Ben Gordon, a scoring savant, played a pivotal role in the Bulls’ mid-2000s resurgence. His scoring prowess, especially in clutch moments, defined his Bulls tenure. Gordon’s impact on offense and his role in playoff runs solidify his place among the franchise’s greats. Although he only played for 5 years with the Bulls, Ben made a significant impact, winnnig the Sixth Man of the Year award in 2006.

  1. Jimmy Butler (2011-17)

Career Averages: 15.6 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 3.1 APG

Jimmy Butler’s ascent from a late first-round pick to perennial All-Star exemplifies work ethic and determination. A two-way force, Butler’s defensive prowess and scoring ability made him a Bulls cornerstone. His leadership post-Derrick Rose and subsequent league success enhance his legacy.

  1. Kirk Hinrich (2003-10, 11-15)

Career Averages: 11 PPG, 5.2 APG, 3.1 RPG

Kirk Hinrich’s blue-collar work ethic and defensive tenacity endeared him to fans. A versatile guard, Hinrich played a crucial role in mid-2000s success. His leadership, especially in Derrick Rose’s absence, secures his place among the Bulls’ greats.

  1. Jerry Lucas (1976-78)

Career Averages (with the Bulls): 5.9 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 2.8 APG

Jerry Lucas’s brief Bulls stint showcased notable impact, particularly as a rebounder and facilitator. A former NBA champion and Hall of Famer, Lucas provided valuable experience and leadership in Chicago. He is regarded as one of the most accurate shooters in the NBA with two all-time rebounds of 20  AND 21.1 rebounding marks  in 1964-65 and 1965-66  seasons.  

  1. Bill Cartwright (1988-94)

Career Averages: 12.2 PPG, 6.3 RPG

Bill Cartwright’s arrival marked the start of the Bulls’ championship era. A skilled center with a reliable mid-range shot, Cartwright’s on-and-off-court contributions are often understated. His leadership and basketball IQ were crucial in the early Bulls dynasty. Cartwright left as an unrestricted free agent following the Bulls’ controversial defeat by the Knicks in the semifinals of the Eastern Conference.   

  1. Jamal Crawford (2000-04)

Career Averages: 14.6 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 3.4 APG

Jamal Crawford’s Bulls tenure was marked by scoring prowess and flashy ball-handling. A Sixth Man of the Year winner, Crawford’s ability to create offense off the bench added a dynamic element to the team. He won the Sixth NBA Man of the Year three times

  1. B.J. Armstrong (1989-95, 01-02)

Career Averages: 9.8 PPG, 3.0 APG, 2.2 RPG

B.J. Armstrong, a key part of the first three-peat, provided steady play at point guard. Known for clutch shooting and basketball IQ, Armstrong’s contributions are significant, often overshadowed but worthy.

  1. Carlos Boozer (2010-14)

Career Averages: 16.2 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 2.2 APG

Carlos Boozer’s Bulls tenure overlapped with a competitive period. A double-double machine, Boozer’s scoring and rebounding were crucial to success. His contributions remain integral in the team’s history.

  1. John Paxson (1985-98)

Career Averages: 7.2 PPG, 3.9 APG, 2.0 RPG

John Paxson’s iconic three-pointer in the 1993 NBA Finals secured the Bulls’ third consecutive championship. A steady point guard, Paxson’s role in the first three-peat is commendable.

  1. Steve Kerr (1993-98)

Career Averages: 6.0 PPG, 1.8 APG

Steve Kerr’s sharpshooting from beyond the arc made him valuable off the bench in the second three-peat. Clutch moments, including the 1997 NBA Finals game-winner, solidify his place in Bulls history.

  1. Ron Artest (2002-06)

Career Averages: 12.4 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 2.9 APG

Ron Artest, known for defensive tenacity, brought ruggedness to the Bulls. Though brief, his impact on defense and later league success warrant inclusion in the top 25. The Chicago Bulls continues to script its legacy in the annals of basketball history. This article spotlights the top 25 players who have successfully imprinted their names into Bulls history.

FAQ

  •       What was Chicago Bulls best record ever?

The Bulls’ best record ever was in the 1995-96 season when they recorded 72 wins as they cruised to a deserving title. However, the 72-win recorded has been surpassed by Golden State Warriors 73 wins in 2015.  

  •   Are the 96 Bulls the best team ever?

Arguably, the Bulls are one of the best teams in the history of the NBA. From the 1990s till date, the team have won more trophies and seasons than any other teams in the history of the league. However, since 2018, the club has been in a downward trajectory having not won a single season.      

  •       Have the Bulls retired the number 23?

Yes, the Bulls retired the number 23 shirt for their iconic and legendary player, Micheal Jordan in November 1, 1994. Jordan represented the Bulls from 1984 to 1998 before joining Washington Wizard between 2001 and 2003. The Miami Heats also retired number 23 in honour of Jordan even though he didn’t play for them.

Featured image by jaydn at devianart

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