On June 14, 1998, Michael Jordan sank a twenty-footer in Salt Lake City surrounded by thousands of hopeful Utah Jazz fanatics, every one of them clinging to the hope a foul would be called.
The basket was allowed and John Stockton's potential buzzer-beating three rattled off the rim ending his and Karl Malone's quest for the NBA title they had long coveted, side-by-side.
Led by Jordan and coach Phil Jackson, who had both acknowledged their pending departure following the conclusion of the season, the Chicago Bulls clinched their sixth NBA title in just 8 years. The successful 1998 run for the title was their most emotional of the six, and to the date, their last.
Both Jackson and Jordan "retired" that year, even though everyone knows of their later comebacks, one more successful than the other, and the Bulls were left with a shell of the franchise that is now known as one of the greatest in all-time professional sports.
The Bulls had no other choice; they had to rebuild. In the twelve seasons since, Chicago has only broke .500 once ('04-'05) and made the NBA playoffs only five times, losing in the first round four times and the second once.
Jackson drew up plays on the sidelines for nine seasons with the Bulls. Since his "retirement" and eventual choice to return to coaching with the L.A. Lakers, the Chicago Bulls have fired five coaches, all of which had amassed losing records through their stint as coach.
Tom Thibodeau, named coach on June 23, hopes to fare better. They have also seen their fair share of star players come and go. Through the last ten years Ron Artest, Elton Brand, Tyson Chandler, Eddy Curry, Jamal Crawford, Scottie Pippen, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Ben Gordon have all been traded, many times for lesser talent, or ventured elsewhere as free agents.
While the 1990s were a nearly unbelievable dream following the lackluster 1980s, for the Bulls the 2000s have been a nightmare.
There is hope, though.
With the drafting of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah in 2008 and the investment in six-year veteran Luol Deng, the Chicago Bulls have establish a stable and promising core.
With the addition of one or, if all proves well, two star players, the Chicago Bulls could potentially approach the realm of the Orlando Magic and the Boston Celtics—and what other teams may emerge this summer—in the Eastern Conference.
So who would fit best in the Windy City?
As with most teams vying for free agents at 12:01 A.M. on Thursday, July 1, the options are seemingly endless.
The most enviable option for most fans would of course be any combination involving league star Lebron James. With the acquisition of #23, soon to be #6, many offensive deficiencies, the Bulls' primary complication over the last two seasons, would be mended.
Derrick Rose, too often forced to bear the whole of the offensive burden, would no longer be depended on to post 20-plus points per game.
Rose, teamed with James, could solely become the team's facilitator, a role that is the most efficient at and most comfortable for Rose.
Also, one of the burdens that plagued Lebron James in Cleveland would be solved. When defensively challenged and playing in the later round of the playoffs, the Cavaliers offense would struggle at times due to stagnation caused by Lebron having to bear the weight of being the team's primary scorer and playmaker.
Lebron doesn't have to bring the ball down the court every play. With Derrick Rose in place, the offense could easily be created for James, not created by James.
So with Lebron in place, who else should top the list for Jerry Reinsdorf, Gar Forman, and John Paxson?
Is it CB4? Dirk? Boozer?
Joe Johnson? Wade? Lee?
As aforementioned, the options are virtually endless, but many can be ruled out. Dwayne Wade, in my opinion, doesn't seem to eager to leave the Heat franchise and its monarch Pat Riley.
D-Wade would much prefer the addition of a pair of summer free agents along with Riley's return to the bench. David Lee will most likely wind up on either side of the Hudson River with the Knicks or Nets, judging by his rumored preference of retaining his residence in the Big Apple.
As for Joe Johnson, his services may not be required in Chicago if James can be secured and Rose and Deng remain on the roster.
Johnson, as is now being reported, will most likely remain an Atlanta Hawk for the foreseeable future or could wind up with the Knickerbockers along with Amar'e Stoudamire. That move would rule the big man out of joining the Bulls roster, and coach Mike D'Antoni, who were all assembled in Phoenix from 2003 to 2004.
That leaves only three options: Bosh, Nowitzki, or Boozer.
The three meld best with the King James and the supporting cast in Chicago because of their length and physical presence, which is somewhat absent from Thibodeau's squad heading into the crucial 2010-2011 season.
Carlos Boozer once played beside James at the Quicken Loans Arena for a season, Lebron's rookie campaign. While they may be past acquaintances, there was some controversy surrounding Boozer's untimely decision to leave Cleveland after it was widely believed he had signed a contract extension past the '03-'04 season.
While it has since been revealed that Boozer never agreed to an extension, any animosity between James and Boozer is unknown.
Boozer's intense inside game, ability to finish strongly, rebounding strength, and capability to fit in with a pick-and-roll offense would boost the Bull's floundering offense and further strengthen their flourishing defense.
The only real problem that could be fathomed when adding Boozer would be the possible clogging of the lane. If both Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer occupy space in the paint, less room is available for Lebron to execute his bread and butter offensively, driving to the basket.
With James, Rose, Deng, and Nowitizki, all favoring mid-range and long-range positions and shots on the floor, only Noah would be left inside, and the Florida-alum is certainly not a great offensive threat.
Chris Bosh, more than likely passing on resigning with the only international NBA team, the Toronto Raptors, is head and shoulders who the Chicago fans would desire to join Lebron James, but according to widely circulating rumors.
If James would be joining Bosh who seems to, at the moment, be the Bulls' first target. For any team, Chris Bosh is a truly unique and diverse scoring option and defensive asset.
Similar to Lebron James, CB4 prefers to get a firm grasp on the ball, take a few extra steps toward the basket, and drive it home with ferocity or a smooth touch. However, he is not uncomfortable with getting the rock kicked back to him and draining an 18-footer, which has become one of his trademarks.
Two more great features to Bosh's game is his selflessness and level demeanor which improve both team morale and create numerous scoring opportunities. It should also be noted that following the U.S. Men's Gold medal run in Beijing in 2008, Bosh was able to sharpen his defensive abilities.
With the Bosh's presence inside the paint and in the middle of the floor, favorable attitude, and size, I believe Bosh is overall the best available accent for the Bulls roster and Lebron James, that is if the King agrees to a deal with Reinsdorf and Forman.
Furthermore if Bosh does see it best for his future to sign with Chicago, a sign-and-trade may be required which could mean the end of Luol Deng in Chicago. Boozer would be the number two choice with David Lee third, if he could be lured away from New York/Jersey.
As of right now, most of the names mentioned in this article have sit-downs scheduled with Bulls management on Friday; they are as follows: Chris Bosh, David Lee, Lebron James and possibly Joe Johnson and Carlos Boozer.
They weren't the first to be hear Reinsdorf and Co.'s pitch though; Dwayne Wade was the first to be interviewed on the Thursday, the first official day of free agency. Lebron has announced his decision will be made public by July 5.
Who will go where? Will the Bulls get James? Will the Bulls ever return to their Dynasty days of the 1990s?
The wait is almost over, but the suspense is awful.