I’m a Chicago Bulls fan. I love my team, even if they have been in “rebuilding” for a rather long time.
The Chicago Bulls have not made the NBA Playoffs since 2017. As such, I typically have only a passive interest in the playoffs. Without the Bulls involved, I’m just not emotionally invested.
This year has been different. In the opening round of the NBA Playoffs, my friend and co-Bulls fanatic Eric and I decided to watch the New York Knicks v. Atlanta Hawks matchup because one of our favorite former Bulls coaches Tom Thibodeau is now the head coach of New York. Further, two of our former favorite Bulls players, Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson, were now playing for Thibs. (See The Time I Rooted for the New York Knicks)
It was pure delightful nostalgia watching Rose show flashes of his former MVP-self. Gibson was still the same old “hard hat and lunch pail” guy who crashes the boards and plays tough defense. Yes, they have some more miles on them, but they are both still elite basketball players.
And Thibs? You gotta love the guy. He pushes his players to be better, and they respond. Thibs and Scott Skiles are my two favorite Bulls coaches of all time. They did more with less.
One surprise in that first round matchup was how much I enjoyed watching the Atlanta Hawks play. In particular, I fell in love with the play of young, brash point guard Trae Young. I haven’t seen an NBA villain that charismatic since Reggie Miller was sticking daggers in the hearts of opponents.
So, when the Hawks beat the Knicks to advance to the Conference Semifinals, I found myself rooting for Trae Young and the Hawks as they took on the top seeded Philadelphia 76ers. We also added the Milwaukee Bucks v. Brooklyn Nets matchup to our watching schedule – with our enthusiasm squarely behind Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks (Chicago’s neighbor to the North).
When the Hawks and Bucks both beat the odds and defeated their higher seeded opponents to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, I found myself in the unfortunate situation of having to choose between my two favorite 2021 Playoff contenders.
I have to admit, I seesawed back and forth a bit. And while I ultimately put my allegiance behind the Bucks, I am looking forward to watching Young and the Hawks next season. I also think it is very just that Atlanta interim coach Nate McMillan was rewarded with a nice head coaching contract for taking the team so far.
While Giannis is the star of the show, the Bucks also feature journeyman Bobby “Crazy Eyes” Portis, another favorite former Chicago Bulls. It’s great seeing Portis making a huge impact on the games. I also have a soft spot for Thanasis Antetokounmpo, older brother of Giannis. He doesn’t have the natural skills of his brother, but he is ready to play every second of the game.
I see nothing wrong with the Milwaukee Bucks keeping Thanasis on the team as a kindness to Giannis. The Chicago Bulls kept players on the roster who were lesser talents but provided friendship to key stars like Michael Jordan and Dennis Rodman. There’s no harm letting Giannis’s brother be his support system on the team.
Now that we are firmly intrenched in the NBA Finals, I have to reflect what a positive experience the playoffs have been this year.
The Milwaukee Bucks and the Phoenix Suns aren’t super teams amassed from stealing high profile free agents. Both teams have been built primarily through the draft.
Both the Suns and the Bucks are likeable teams. There is not villain. No matter who wins, this is a “feel-good” series. Let’s face it, Chris Paul making the finals for the first time at age 36 is definitely a feel-good story.
With stars like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Trae Young, Deandre Ayton, Devin Booker, Joel Embiid, Zion Williamson, and Luka Doncic coming into the spotlight, the NBA is in fine shape.
Hopefully when it comes time to watch the 2022 NBA Playoffs, the Chicago Bulls will be in the mix. However, even if they’re not, I now know there will still be plenty of reasons to watch.
Now bring on the champion!
Peace. Love. Trust.
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Ah Rikke, you have caught the spirit of this years playoffs. I am in agreement with you, it has been super fun to watch some new players and new teams make an impact. It has been hard for me me to choose between the Bucks and the Suns too. I like the way both teams play and the players are fun to watch individually. I’m staying Midwestern too and rooting for the Bucks but if Phoenix wins, I’ll be happy for them too.