The talk going about the sports fans is that the REAL championship of the National Basketball Association is being played out this week and next, what with the Chicago Bulls taking on the Miami Heat.
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The winner of that best-of-seven series gets to take on the winner of Memphis/Oklahoma City in the NBA Finals. Which has basketball fans saying the real two top teams are Miami and our very own Bulls.
I’M SURE THE fans of whichever team prevails in the eastern conference finals will wind up remembering this series more than whatever they do against Memphis. Or Oklahoma City. Both of which sound to me like they ought to be playing minor league baseball against each other in a southern-based league.
That will be particularly true if the Bulls do manage to beat Miami and advance to the finals.
Being able to say that our city’s professional basketball team managed to make it to the NBA Finals (or perhaps even win a league championship) WITHOUT the presence of LeBron James or the other two of the unholy trio (including Chicago-born and and one-time suburban Richards High School star Dwyane Wade) that used free agency last year to suddenly turn Miami from a nondescript franchise to a serious contender will be one of those talking points that gets used for years to come – if it happens.
Remember how it was the Bulls that seriously thought they were going to be the team that got James when he decided that his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers were no longer worthy of his esteemed talent?
BEATING ON THE Heat would help ease the pain that Bulls fans felt when James had the gall to think that Chicago wasn’t worthy of his esteemed talent either.
Looking at the television ratings, it seems that the eastern conference finals are the ones that are drawing the viewers. Crain’s Chicago Business reports that television executives think seriously that people are tuning in – hoping that Miami and James get taken down a notch in their esteem for themselves.
So that literally puts the Chicago Bulls in the position of being “America’s Team” – at least for a week.
And it also means the Bulls made the nation happy, so to speak, when they managed to win the first game of this round of the playoffs by a 103-82 score.
SO THE QUESTION becomes, Can the Bulls make America happy? Will this karmic energy create a mood that enables the team to think itself worthy of its first NBA title since the days of Michael Jordan?
Or will the karmic energy of being a Chicago team ultimately impose itself, leading the Bulls to a defeat in the best-of-seven playoff series (Game Two of which is Wednesday at the United Center)?
To a younger generation that sees a White Sox World Series title in ’05, a Black Hawks’ Stanley Cup victory in ’10 and a Bears Super Bowl appearance in ’07, this may seem odd.
But I came of age back in the 1970s when it was completely conceivable that in any given season, every single Chicago sports team could finish in last place.
THERE’S A REASON why in the year of the Bicentennial I was watching the New York Yankees (including former Cubs manager Lou Piniella) win their first league pennant in over a decade; the Chicago teams were unwatchable – even with future Hall of Fame ballplayers like Rich Gossage and Bruce Sutter on the rosters that year.
That run in the 1990s of two sets of three NBA titles each for the Chicago Bulls was so un-Chicago-like. Thinking back to that era when one of our local teams was a renowned power that was feared, respected, and possibly even hated by some fans similar to how Miami is thought of these days seems like a fantasy.
Did it really happen? Or is that Michael Jordan statue outside the United Center somebody’s idea of a joke to play with our minds?
All of this means that a part of me is fully braced to accept the idea that the Bulls are about to blow this series. Heck, they’ll probably win again tonight to give them a two games to nothing lead in the series – only then to start blowing ballgames worse than the 1919 White Sox.
OR ANY CUBS team ever in existence in the past two-thirds of a century.
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Personally, I’d like it if about a week from now, somebody sends me a sarcastic e-mail or two reminding me of this commentary and telling me how ridiculous I was for doubting the Chicago Bulls’ ability to move forward.
Perhaps this is the year that people stop thinking of the Bulls as a team that could only win with Michael Jordan, and hasn’t been able to do a thing since.
It could be interesting to see Derrick Rose and crew gain the love of a sports nation eager to see Miami gain nothing this season, instead of being just a losing ballclub that only a Chicago sports fan could possibly love.