Bulls still basking in Michael Jordan’s afterglow
BY JOE COWLEY Staff Reporter October 12, 2013 9:58PM
Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich runs with the ball during a NBA Fan Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013. The Bulls are in Brazil preparing for NBAs first exhibition game in South America against the Washington Wizards on Saturday. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
Updated: November 14, 2013 6:54AM
RIO DE JANEIRO — For a second, Randy Brown didn’t feel like the fifth Beatle.
Walking outside of his hotel in Brazil this week, a young man yelled his name.
He was recognized. That, in itself, was flattering.
A winner of three NBA championship rings as a member of Michael Jordan’s Bulls and an assistant general manager in the organization, Brown admittedly felt good that his place in history still carried weight, and did so 5,300 miles from Chicago.
But there’s a popular saying in Brazil: When something is too good to be true, it usually is.
“Then he asked me if I could get him Scottie [Pippen’s] autograph,’’ Brown said.
It was Brown’s too-good-to-be-true moment on the trip.
“It’s crazy how we’ve been treated down here,’’ center Joakim Noah said.
Spoken like a true rock star. That’s what the Bulls were during their four days in Rio. The fact that they were part of the first NBA game to be played in the country was secondary to the Brazilian people. Representing the brand Michael Jordan wore was everything.
It didn’t hurt that the Bulls share the same red and black as the popular Flamengo soccer team in Rio, but it’s still all about Jordan 15 years later.
“The Bulls brand has been world famous since the ’80s when Michael came over, and we were fortunate to be a part of all that and help create what the Bulls are all about,’’ vice president of basketball operations John Paxson said. “I had one of our players say to me [Saturday] that he’s had a great time down here because everywhere he goes he sees Bulls fans.
“I’m seeing Bulls [gear] all over the place. To be recognized all over the world is pretty special.’’
Considering Wizards center Nene is Brazilian, one would’ve guessed that the HSBC Arena crowd would’ve been split. Not even close. Nene was booed all night for turning his back on the Brazilian national team years ago.
The two loudest ovations came when Brazilian legend Oscar Schmidt and Pippen were introduced, and the decibel level separating the two was minimal.
Nobody seemed to care that hours earlier Pippen, a special adviser to Bulls president Michael Reinsdorf, criticized Brazilian basketball.
“The game has continued to grow globally,’’ Pippen said when asked by a local reporter about the country’s basketball scene. “I don’t know, somehow you guys missed the program. I don’t know what happened to you guys.’’