Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
When Bulls forward Brian Scalabrine comes off the bench, it’s party time for two reasons.
‘‘That usually means we’re winning the game, which is great,’’ Scalabrine, a 10-year veteran, said of the first reason.
The second reason is because fans get a kick out of the redhead. They chant for him to play, cheer each time he gets a touch and erupt when he scores.
‘‘It’s that way on the road,’’ Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said jokingly. ‘‘I think he pays for fans to travel with him. I’m so tired of that chant.’’
So what’s up with this?
‘‘We love him,’’ longtime Bulls fan Rachel Greenfeld said. ‘‘He’s the team’s liveliest player on the bench, even though he seldom plays. So it’s great when he gets a chance to play.’’
Perhaps no 12th man in the NBA is more popular than Scalabrine. Few, if any, 12th men have lasted as long or pocketed the $18.4 million Scalabrine has earned during his years in the league. And he’s worth every penny.
After all, what other 12th man can be seen dancing the moonwalk and the pop-and-lock on YouTube? What other 12th man brought down the house when he sang ‘‘Santa Claus Is Coming to Town’’ at a Boston Celtics Christmas outing three years ago? What other 12th man has become revered as a pop-culture icon? What other 12th man took the interview stand after the Celtics won the NBA championship in 2008, made an opening statement and fielded questions even though he didn’t play in the clinching game?
The answer to each of those questions is none.
And Scalabrine is the only Bulls player with an NBA championship ring, so operations chief John Paxson didn’t sign him for nothing.
‘‘You need guys like Brian on your team because he works hard and he’s got a personality that everybody loves,’’ Paxson said.
Thibodeau loves Scalabrine’s ‘‘great team spirit and how he is always willing and ready to do whatever we ask of him.’’
Star guard Derrick Rose paid Scalabrine the highest compliment.
‘‘He’s the perfect teammate,’’ Rose said. ‘‘It’s not easy being the 12th man — unless you’re Brian. But he is so active on the bench and brings so much enthusiasm when he plays that you’d think he’s a starter.’’
Scalabrine said he’s just being himself.
‘‘I love the game, I give it my best effort on and off the court and I love to win and entertain,’’ he said.