Updated: May 16, 2013 9:29PM
I hate losing. Winning is all that matters, right? That’s how I have always felt. Even as a young kid, I would cry if my dad beat me shooting free throws. (Of course, who could blame me — he shot underhanded!) Anyone who has watched a Bulls game with me knows I really hate losing.
So, after losing a heartbreaking game to Miami that ended our season, am I upset? Of course. But I feel differently this time. Why? Because this team was special, and this year, they not only captured the hearts of people across Chicago, but of basketball fans everywhere.
The 2012-13 Chicago Bulls team — even with all of this year’s crazy injuries and setbacks — didn’t make excuses and refused to give up. Plain and simple.
Kirk Hinrich, who injured himself in the first half of a triple-overtime game, ended up playing 60 minutes. He is one of just eight players in NBA playoff history who played as many minutes in one game. After the game, he couldn’t walk and remained sidelined for the rest of the playoffs. How tough is he?
Nate Robinson doesn’t know pain. He got flattened on a back pick in the backcourt against Brooklyn and responded by scoring 23 points in the fourth quarter, bringing us back from 14 points down with 3:45 left in the game. We ended up winning in triple overtime. In the Game 1 win against Miami, he fought the flu and a split lip that required 10 stitches at halftime — and ended up leading us to victory.
Joakim Noah has plantar fasciitis that hurts him to walk, let alone play, yet he battled Brook Lopez and played one of the best games of his career, leading the Bulls to our first Game 7 playoff victory on the road in our history.
Jimmy Butler not only played nearly every minute against Miami during the Eastern Conference semifinals, but had to guard LeBron James, the best player in the game. Did anyone notice LeBron embrace Jimmy after the game in the ultimate show of respect?
Luol Deng played through a multitude of injuries throughout the year, yet he earned NBA All-Star honors for the second consecutive season. His veteran leadership, coupled with his versatility and consistency, illustrated his value on the basketball court. We obviously missed him greatly during the Miami series, but his health and well-being come first.
And I could tell you countless stories about the toughness of Carlos Boozer, a warrior who has essentially played in every game for the last two seasons, and the heart of Taj Gibson, a grinder who battled through injuries and illness to play with passion for this team and our fans.
Did I have my doubts after going down 22-4 in the first quarter of Game 5? Yes, but I should have known better. No way was this team going to quit. Instead, they played a gutsy game and were a shot or two from a victory and bringing it back to Chicago for a Game 6.
Our future is bright, no doubt about it. We have two guys at the top of the organization in John Paxson and Gar Forman, who both know what they are doing and deserve the trust of every Chicago Bulls fan. Like our players, they refused to give up. Remember when there were questions about their offseason moves and the departures of some of our role players? They brought in Nate Robinson, Marco Belinelli, Kirk Hinrich and Nazr Mohammed. And the year before that, they selected little-known Jimmy Butler with the 30th pick in the draft! John and Gar are a great team. Enough said.
We have one of the best coaches in the NBA. Tom Thibodeau gets the most out of our players. He makes sure the team is prepared and that they compete the entire game, every game.
Next year, not only will our core be back, but Derrick Rose will return stronger than ever. He did the right thing not to rush back to the court — he simply was not ready. Derrick is a great guy, and as an organization, we’ve never wavered — nor will we — in our support of Derrick. We can all look forward to the time when he is back in the mix, along with the rest of his talented, committed and dedicated teammates.
Can you tell I am excited for next season? Go Bulls!