If and when you find yourself talking about Chicago Bulls injuries, there’s a 99 percent chance the conversation was sparked by Derrick Rose.
Rose added ‘orbital fracture’ to his long list of injuries as a Bull earlier this preseason, which essentially locked up Derrick’s title of Most Injured Player in Franchise History. Congrats.
The remarkable fragility of Rose makes it hard to remember other significant Bulls injuries, so we thought it a good time to document them.
Since they became legit Eastern Conference contenders in 2010, the Chicago Bulls injury log is dominated by Rose, but let’s not forget that Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson’s unfortunately timed ailments in the playoffs have left the Bulls searching on the defensive interior.
But what about the past?
Let’s take a dive down the Chicago Bulls injuries rabbit hole — because a history lesson and a dose of perspective never hurt anyone.
Jay Williams, 2003
As a fan at the keen age of 24, the first thought that comes to my mind when I think “Chicago Bulls injuries” is the former Duke standout, Jay Williams. Williams’ case is all about context, as he became a member of the Bulls during one of the worst stretches of basketball the team has ever played.
In June of 2003, Jay Williams wrecked his motorcycle on a street lamp on Chicago’s North Side. He wasn’t legally or contractually allowed to ride a motorcycle yet still chose to do so without a helmet.
The injury left him battered below the waist with a fractured pelvis, dislocations to the ligaments in his knee, and a severed nerve in his leg. It was a devastating injury for Williams and the Bulls team on the court.
Williams wasn’t a superstar, but as the second overall pick, he was rightfully pegged as a savior of a woefully terrible franchise. That obviously never came to fruition. In fact, his reckless breach of contract only aided in the Bulls’ disasters under Tim Floyd and Bill Cartwright until the 2005 season.
Understand that Jay Williams doesn’t get an ounce of my sympathy, or anyone in Chicago’s for that matter. However, he was a good enough player to wonder what the Chicago Bulls could have done as a franchise had he not effectively ended his basketball career that night.
Could the young Williams have sparked a resurgence in Chicago basketball, thus not positioning the Bulls to draft their current injury-riddled point guard in 2008? Who knows. The fact of the matter remains, outside of Derrick Rose, Jay Williams is the most consequential Bulls injury in the franchise’s modern era.
Michael Jordan, 1985
I’m outdating myself a few years here, but Michael Jordan’s injury in 1985 is the second one that comes to mind. Jordan missed 64 games with a broken foot in his second season, but the Bulls still managed to make the playoffs.
You may also recognize this season because it’s the same year Jordan dropped 63 on the Celtics in those playoffs.
That 30-52 regular season campaign led to a lot of “what if?” questions and more importantly – the firing of coach Stan Albeck.
Doug Collins took over before ceding way to a certain Phil Jackson three years later, and the next decade of Bulls basketball turned in some of the most amazing moments this city has ever experienced.
All led by that one guy who wore No. 23 and never suffered another major injury the rest of his career.
Tom Boerwinkle, 1972
Alright, this is the part where we get a legit Bulls history lesson.
Outside of the entire Jordan era and the team’s best season in Derrick Rose’s tenure (2010-2011), the 1971-1972 Chicago Bulls are the winningest team in franchise history – going 57-25 before losing center Tom Boerwinkle to a knee injury in the regular season’s final week.
It would be the first of three consecutive 50-win seasons for coach Dick Motta – the only coach in franchise history besides Phil Jackson to do so – and took the Bulls the closest they had been to an NBA Finals appearance before Jackson got to town.
As you can see, the nonstop medical saga of Derrick Rose has only been amplified by the lack of major injuries in franchise history. In fact, when you include Rose with Williams, Jordan, and Boerwinkle – there’s been one historic Bulls injury for each of the last five decades other than the 90’s.
Pretty much tells the team’s whole story doesn’t it?