2013 was quite a ride for Chicago Bulls fans, filled with the highest of highs and lowest of lows. From Nate Robinson carrying the City of Chicago on his back, to Derrick Rose undergoing yet another season ending knee surgery, being a fan of this team this year was like riding an emotional rollercoaster.
So as we close out the year and head into 2014, we look back at 13 key moments in 12 months of Chicago Bulls basketball history that we’ll never forget.
13. Will He or Won’t He? – Depending on who you talked to and what you believed to be true, Derrick Rose was “supposed” to come back sometime in 2013 after tearing his ACL in the 2012 playoffs. After news leaked of his medical clearance, his alleged “domination” in practice, and his pre-game workouts and dunks, all were pored over with a fine-toothed comb and many fans had declared D. Rose ready even though he steadfastly maintained that he wasn’t. This turned his hometown against him and instead of “Rose” being the name on the back of his No. 1 jersey, to fans and local media, his uniform may as well have read “Public Enemy.”
12. Streak Stoppers – If you had a winning streak going in early 2013, it’s very likely it ended at the hands of the Bulls. The biggest, of course, was the Miami Heat’s 27-game winning streak that came to an end at the United Center on Mar. 27 as Chicago played that game without Joakim Noah, Rip Hamilton, Marco Belinelli and of course, Derrick Rose. A few weeks later, the Bulls snapped the New York Knicks’ 13-game winning streak, also at the United Center.
11. Three OT’s – Playing in an overtime game in the NBA happens, but it doesn’t happen all the time; let alone three games in a row. But that’s what happened to the Bulls in a four-day span in January as they went into overtime against the Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics and Memphis Grizzlies, winning the first two on the road and dropping the third extra session at home.
10. In Search of Four-in-a-Row – Believe it or not, but the Chicago Bulls didn’t have a single four-game winning streak during their 2012-13 campaign. They came close a few times, but always dropped that fourth game. In fact, they wouldn’t four straight until November of this year.
9. Nate Rob Dunks – It was one of those things that Bulls fan had been anxiously waiting for: when would Nate Robinson dunk in a game? Well, in 2013, it happened twice. The first came against the Milwaukee Bucks in a January game on the road, to which Lil’ Nate screamed emphatically at Rip Hamilton, “I want my money!” The second came in March, this time in front of the home crowd at the United Center, against the Portland Trailblazers. After splitting a trap at the top of the key, Robinson exploded down the middle of the lane for a huge one-handed tomahawk jam.
8. Two All-Stars – The Chicago Bulls sent two players to the 2013 All-Star Game in Houston. Luol Deng got his second-consecutive call to the midseason classic, while Joakim Noah was recognized as one of the league’s best for the first time in his career.
7. Bad Feet – Joakim Noah has been dealing with instances of plantar fasciitis at several times during his tenure with the Bulls. The big man played in 66 of the Bulls 82 games last season as he dealt with the ailment beginning in February, and it stayed with him for the remainder of the regular season and into the playoffs. The brand of shoes he wore – Le Coq Sportif – may have been the culprit as Noah switched to adidas for the 2013-14 season.
6. Nate Robinson, Game 4 – The Bulls triple-overtime victory against the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs, could quite possibly go down as not only one of the best gams ever, but arguably, the best game in Bulls history. With four minutes left in regulation and the Bulls down 14 points, Lil’ Nate went off. He singlehandedly erased the Nets deficit with a personal 12-0 run, then kept the Bulls in it with big shot after big shot. It was a game that endeared him to Bulls fans forever, and ensured that he’ll never have to pay for dinner whenever he’s in the Windy City.
5. The Prediction – Joakim Noah guaranteed a Game 7 victory against the Brooklyn Nets, despite the fact the Bulls would have to play that game on the road in Barclays Center. Chicago had just lost games 5 and 6 after going up 3-1 in the series. But that didn’t shake Noah’s confidence at all. “We’re a team of fighters. We keep getting punched in the face, but we fight back. I’m proud of this team and we’re going to go into a hostile environment in Brooklyn, and we’re going to win.” They did.
4. The Block – In the second-round of the playoffs against the Miami Heat, and with the series tied 1-1 as the Bulls had stolen Game 1 on the road, the scene shifted to Chicago for Game 3. The score was 68-66 in favor of the Bulls in the third quarter when LeBron James got out on the break, side-stepped Marco Belinelli at the free-throw line and appeared to be free and clear for a layup at the rim. But Nate Rob had other plans as he swatted “The King’s” shot and the United Center crowd went ballistic.
3. He’s Back!– Derrick Rose’s first official home game in over 18 months brought a capacity crowd to the United Center on Halloween Night, and the former MVP made it a momentous occasion. With 5.7 seconds left on the clock and the Bulls trailing the New York Knicks 81-80, D. Rose nailed a baseline floater over the outstretched arms of Tyson Chandler to give the Bulls an 82-81 victory. The United Center erupted and it appeared “The Return” was finally official.
2. Not Again – It was just a routine play. With the Bulls in Portland to take on the Trailblazers, Derrick Rose made a back cut looking to receive a pass from Joakim Noah at the high post. But the ball was stolen and on his way back up the floor on defense, D. Rose hesitated slightly as his knee buckled. He would leave the game and later be photographed leaving the Moda Center on crutches. The next day came the bad news: Derrick Rose had torn the meniscus in his right knee and he would be out for the season after requiring yet another surgery. Chicago Bulls fans everywhere were dejected and it seemed that the former MVP just couldn’t catch a break.
1. “My Story Isn’t Done” – Derrick Rose addressed the media a little more than a week after arthroscopic surgery to repair the torn meniscus in his knee. Faced with questions of being written off – not just by Bulls fans, but basketball fans everywhere – Rose defiantly declared that his career is not over and despite how it looks on the outside, he’s confident enough on the inside to know that he can overcome this latest career setback.