Jan 12, 2024; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bulls class of 2024 Ring of Honor inductees from left to right, (Back Row) Jim Cleamons, Erik Heiland, Ivika Duran, Clarence Gaines, Jr., John Ligmanowski, Chip Schaefer, Jim Stack, Al Vermeil
(Middle Row) Randy Brown, Jud Buechler, Jason Coffey, James Edwards, Jack Haley, Jr., Ron Harper, Bill Wennington, Luc Longley, John Salley, Steve Kerr
(Front Row) Artis Gilmore, Matt Kerr, Greg Klein, Bob Love, JJ Parrish, Thelma Krause, Chris Winter, Phil Jackson, Toni Kukoc are honored during the inaugural ceremony at halftime of a game between the Bulls and Golden State Warriors at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
It was shaping up to be a special night.
During halftime of their 140-131 loss to the Golden State Warriors, the Chicago Bulls held their inaugural Ring of Honor. From Thursday night’s red carpet event and gala leading up to Friday’s halftime ceremony, the organization brought old friends back together to celebrate past success.
Thirteen individuals and the entire 1995-96 team were inducted into the inaugural Ring of Honor, including Artis Gilmore, Phil Jackson, Michael Jordan, Johnny “Red” Kerr, Dick Klein, Jerry Krause, Toni Kukoc, Bob Love, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Jerry Sloan, Chet Walker and Tex Winter.
Unfortunately, Jordan, Pippen and Rodman were not in attendance.
Conducted by former play-by-play broadcaster Neil Funk, members of the inaugural class were acknowledged to loud ovations. Legends Gilmore and Love were there to soak in their applause. Family members of former assistant coach Winter, Sloan and former owner Klein accepted the honor on their behalf. Jackson drew an enormous roar as he bowed his head in appreciation.
Then came controversial former GM Krause. Boos rained down when his name appeared on the jumbotron. His widow, Thelma Krause, who was on the court to accept the honor on his behalf, appeared on the big screen visibly distraught and crying.
Thankfully, former guard Ron Harper was there to console her in the moment.
“I hurt for that lady,” King said. “It brought her to tears. And whoever booed her in this arena should be ashamed of themselves. That’s not Chicago.”
Bulls president and CEO Michael Reinsdorf shared a message of appreciation for Jerry and Thelma, saying, “his legacy deserves to be respected.”
“It’s shameful, it’s absolutely shameful,” current Warriors coach and former Bulls guard Steve Kerr said of the booing postgame. “I cannot believe it. I’m devastated for Thelma and for the Krause family. What can we possibly be thinking? I can not believe that the fans – and you have to understand, when you hear boos, it’s not all of them, right. So the fans who booed, they know who they are. And that, to me, is absolutely shameful. I’m devastated by that. Because what are we doing?”
“Whether people liked Jerry or not, whether they disagreed the decision to move on, we’re here to celebrate that team,” he continued. “Jerry did an amazing job building that team. Tonight and last night was all about the joy and the love that that team shared with the city. I’m so disappointed in the fans, and I want to be specific – because there were lots of fans, I’m sure, who did not boo. But those who booed, they should be ashamed.”
DeMar DeRozan shared that sentiment.
“That man has family, friends that are here, that ought to be appreciated and shouldn’t be disrespected in no type of way by hearing boos,” DeRozan said following the game. “It just sucks that their family had to endure something like that. You can never take away what he created. Without Jerry, there wouldn’t be a historic Chicago Bulls history.”
Say what you will about the ceremony on the whole. It’s probably true that the organization overplays the nostalgia card to drum up interest in the team when they are struggling. The fact that the two most important figures in the franchise’s history, Jordan and Pippen weren’t there unfortunately diminished the excitement around the event even further.
Still, the franchise put a lot of effort into bringing as many faces back to celebrate the past. It truly is a shame that the ceremony of the inaugural class will now forever be tarnished by that distasteful, classless and embarrassing reaction.
The irony is, fans wanted Jordan and Pippen to put their egos aside and be present for the celebration for the history they made. They wanted those two to let go of the hard feelings to enjoy one night together in celebration of greatness. But yet they wouldn’t do the same for Krause.
Whatever animosity there is left towards Krause, for whatever reason, it’s time to let it go and appreciate his integral role in making the Bulls organization what it is today.
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