In the latest SBNation NBA themed post for the dregs of this offseason, we look at NBA Rivalries. You can see everyone else's entry here at ClipsNation. -yfbb
When people hear the words "Bulls" and "rivals," many automatically think back to the battles against the Bad Boy Pistons or the Knicks in the late 80s/early 90s. I was too young to fully appreciate the nastiness of those rivalries, but I've read and seen enough to at least get an idea for the vitriol between those squads.
However, times have changed, and those rivalries have died down a bit. The Pistons have been just about worthless since 2008, while the Knicks...well...Isiah happened. With Melo and other real talent back in NYC, the rivalry has heated back up again, but it's nowhere near where it used to be in the 90s.
So just who is the Bulls' biggest rival? We polled BaBers yesterday to voice their opinion on the matter, and unsurprisingly to this blogger, the Heat were the choice by a rather wide margin. As of last night, the Heat had garnered about 57% of the votes. Lagging way behind were the Knicks, Celtics and Pacers in that order. We also received a few humorous responses, including Jerry Reinsdorf, GarPax and "the bottom line." In that vein, I guess the luxury tax would be a fitting answer as well, but I digress.
So yeah, the Heat. It's a pretty fitting choice, and the one I personally settled on after debating it with myself for a few minutes. There has been history between the two teams going back to the dynasty years, when the Bulls dispatched the Heat in the first round in 1991-92 and 1995-96, and then also took them out in the 1997 Eastern Conference Finals.
As we all know, the Bulls sucked horribly for countless years after the dynasty before returning to the playoff picture in the mid 2000s. It was then that the Bulls and Heat renewed their rivalry, facing off in two consecutive postseasons. In 2005-06, a .500 Bulls team fought valiantly before finally bowing out in six games to a Heat team that would eventually go on to win the title thanks to
Dwyane Wade the officials. The following season, the Bulls stunned the defending champs by sweeping them in the first round. It was during these series, and especially that second one, where BaB favorite Kirk Hinrich got the rep as a bit of a "Wade Stopper." Looking back at the numbers, it actually was somewhat deserved. Wade's worst series of the 2006 postseason was against the Bulls, and he struggled in 2007, shooting just 42.9% in the four-game sweep. Of course, that was back when Hinrich was actually worth a damn. While Wade has declined as well, I'm not sure ole Kurt would be able to check him now like he did back then.
The rivalry certainly ratcheted up several notches after the summer of 2010, when Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh spurned the Bulls to form the Big Three down in South Beach. They immediately became public enemy number one not just because of how they joined forces (The Decision and The Welcome Party were simply loathsome), but because they were the team that would stand in the way of a Bulls title run. Their actions on the court soon became insufferable as well, with plenty of flopping and whining to go around. I mean, who can forget this:
The Bulls would win all three regular season matchups that year, with each of them coming in dramatic fashion. They then famously destroyed the Heat in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, which led to plenty of fan overconfidence and omnipresent Heat jokes. Four gut-wrenching losses later, including an epic collapse in Game 5 on the West Side, and Bulls fans would have to settle for watching LeBron piss himself against the Mavericks in the Finals.
Everybody figured that 2011 ECF would be the first of many between the Bulls and Heat, and the two teams were on a collision course once again last season. The rematch was derailed once Derrick Rose tore his ACL, and to the chagrin of many, LeBron would redeem himself with a postseason for the ages. With the uncertainty surrounding both Rose and the rest of the Bulls roster, who knows when that ECF rematch will be staged. Nevertheless, the Heat will always be an easy team to dislike (although my boiling hatred for them has subsided somewhat), and considering their talent situation, will be a natural rival for Rose and Co. for years to come.
Now while the Heat may be the Bulls' biggest rival to myself and the majority of BaBers, I also have to give a special mention to the Boston Celtics and our dear friend Rajon Rondo. Ever since that infamous 2009 seven-gamer, I've pretty much hated almost everything Celtic, whether it was Kevin Garnett's sneer, Paul Pierce's old man game or Eddie House just being a buffoon.
But most of that pales in comparison to the hatred for Rondo. I know that he's a really talented player and arguably the best passer in the league, but seriously, fuck Rondo. Rose has kicked his ass in almost every recent head-to-head matchup, and I don't know if I could ever forgive that alien-looking dude for what he did to Brad Miller in 2009:
And oh yeah, also can't forgive him for what he did to Hinrich in that same series. Get 'em Kurt! :
If there's one good thing about Hinrich coming back, it's that maybe we'll see some fireworks between him and Rondo when the Bulls and Celtics get together.
Anyway, to cap this thing off, I'll give you my personal top five current Bulls rivalries (no, there will not be a slideshow):
5. Pistons...with the Cavs close behind (Rose vs. Irving should be dynamite for a long time)