Taj Gibson is just a Chicago Bull. Sure, there are some teams around the league who would love to have him on their team because of what he brings to the court, but he's not what you would conventionally consider a star.
There is a lot to love about the player, though. He's become a fan favorite in Chicago, and by the end of the season, he may very well be even bigger.
Gibson will never be a superstar. He'll never take over the leadership of the team from Derrick Rose.
However, Gibson has enough "stardom" qualities to talk about.
Some point to Taj Gibson's three years of playing experience and say that it's deceptive—that Gibson is actually older than his experience would indicate since he's actually already 27 years old.
Since he's 27, they argue, there's not a lot of room for improvement.
There's precedent. David Robinson, in his fifth season at 28, had his biggest jump when he went form 23.4 points per game to 29.8. Marc Gasol jumped four points per game and two rebounds last year in his fourth year at 27.
Former Bull Bob Love had a huge jump going from 5.1 points to 21.0 in his fourth year.
It's not unheard of, and it's not uncommon for 27-year-olds to break out in their fourth season. Sure, the physical maturity helps, but experience helps more.
Reggie Miller says it all in the video above, "It's the Eastern Conference finals, and you expect to see plays like this at the rim, but not from Taj Gibson!"
That's all you need to know about Taj Gibson. He's not a great offensive player. He's not even a good offensive player.
But every once in a while he is an awe-inspiring offensive player.
Last year he did have a career-high 13.6 points per 36 minutes. When Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah went down, Gibson stepped up and averaged 15.0 points per 36 minutes.
Those aren't massive numbers, but they are indicative of an improving offense.
If he could keep his numbers around 15 points per 36 minutes, that would be enough to validate star status with the rest of his game—particularly if he takes over as the starter in the next season or two (pending an amnesty of Boozer) when that would translate to 15 points per game.
There was a time when, in order to be a star, you needed to have an offensive game. Occasionally you would have someone who would buck the trend, such as Dennis Rodman or Ben Wallace, but stardom was rare for a defensive player.
In today's game, though, it's becoming less difficult to get a name for outstanding play on the other side of the ball. Players such as Tony Allen, Serge Ibaka and others are all becoming stars based almost exclusively on their defensive talents.
Gibson has every bit the talent to become a defensive star. His synergy numbers, opponent's PER from 82games.com and his NBA.com advanced stats are consistent in establishing Gibson as an elite defender.
The only thing keeping Gibson from being a perennial All-Defense candidate is cracking the starting lineup. He could be a star on his defensive potential alone.
Tom Thibodeau, the Bulls head coach, is mostly known for his ability to coach defense. That's understandable since his defenses are among the best in the league every year.
Below the radar, though, is his effectiveness with player development. He spent a summer with Yao Ming, and then Ming became an MVP candidate. He spent a summer with Derrick Rose, and Rose became an MVP winner.
So it's worth mentioning that Thibodeau is spending time with Gibson this summer. And, according to Gibson,—as revealed by Scott Powers of ESPN—Thibodeau wants him to have more of a role.
"Thibs already told me he wants my role to change, be more of a leader now," Gibson said. "I worked out with him a lot during the summer. I worked out with him before the (Team) USA camp. He just wanted me to work out this whole year, build confidence and get better. He thinks I can do a lot more on and off the court. I'm ready to take that next step."
With Thibodeau not only backing his development but also facilitating it and desiring it, it's not a great leap to expect more offense to go through Gibson next year than in the past.
"Heart" can be a cop-out, but not when you're talking about Taj Gibson.
You don't measure heart when a player is up—you measure it when his back against the wall.
When the Bulls were coming completely unglued last year after Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose were lost to injury, it was Gibson who rose up and carried the team.
That's nothing compared to what he overcame in his personal life two years ago, though.
Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated tells Gibson's story here, and it's one of the most compelling stories you'll ever read.
Gibson fits the expression, "When the going gets tough the tough get going" to a tee. He might not be big enough, quick enough or fast enough, but his heart believes enough, and for Gibson, that's enough to make it happen.
He'll be a star because he's the kind of player fans love. He's identifiable; he overcame adversity to get where he is, and he continues to overcome it.