Friday, February 27, 2009

Chicago Loses Two Legends

If I were to sculpt a Mt. Rushmore for the Chicago Bulls, it would include Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson, Johnny "Red" Kerr, and Norm Van Lier. There is an argument to be made for Scottie Pippen over Van Lier based on pure talent, but I go with Van Lier on his talent plus his heart and soul belonging to the Bulls.

Losing Kerr and Van Lier on the same day would be like the Cubs losing Billy Williams and Ron Santo on the same day. The only macabre coincidence that overshadows this one that I can think of is John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both dying on the same July 4th.

Yesterday started out poorly enough with the news about Van Lier early in the day. I had always admired his fire and love of the Bulls. I never saw him play, so I have no real appreciation for his on-court skills, but his tenacity and effort has seemed to be what set him apart from other players of equal calibre. In his broadcasts, you could tell his love of Chicago Bulls basketball ran deep and he was unafraid of expressing his opinions about the current incarnation of the team, good or bad.

It was also surprising because he had seemed in good health overall and he was only 61. It was far to soon for us to lose Stormin' Norman.

Late last night, I was about to close up my laptop and a twitter message came across from the Sun Times that Johnny Kerr had reportedly died and they were working to verify the story. Now, the Sun-Times is not usually what I would call journalism at its finest, but it certainly is not a rumor-mongering rag so I was fairly confident that it would prove to be true in the end.

Of course, it was confirmed and I sat transfixed on my couch with my twitter account buzzing with posts of shock and sadness from across the internet. Comcast Sportsnet had a very somber tone as they chronicled the lives and deaths of both Bulls legends.

I was not as surprised by Kerr's passing. He had been battling prostate cancer, and was visibly looking more frail on television broadcasts. Nevertheless, I never thought he was going to pass away quite so soon at the age of 76. Combined with the earlier news about Van Lier, it was extremely shocking and depressing.

I'll remember Norm for expressing the same exuberation or disgust (whichever was applicable at the time) in his post-game broadcasts as mine. All I ever had to do as a fan was yell my approval of his words at the TV.
I'll always hear Johnny's voice screaming above Jim Durham in my mind as Jordan hit "The Shot" over Ehlo, "It's Good! The Bulls win it!"

Bulls basketball will never quite be the same.


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