Reinsdorf talks Bulls’ global brand, Pistons rivalry originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
PARIS — As Michael Reinsdorf walked into Accor Arena Thursday night, the Chicago Bulls’ president and chief executive officer couldn’t help but think back to 1997.
“It seems like just the other day,” Reinsdorf said in a session with writers who regularly cover the team.
The loud, pro-Bulls crowd reaffirmed for Reinsdorf the global reach of the franchise, which obviously started back when Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Phil Jackson, Jerry Krause and the gang was regularly winning NBA championships in the 1990s.
“As I’ve said before, I really do believe that the Chicago Bulls were the first global franchise in sports. So to have our first real regular-season game in Europe it does get me excited, and I think the players are excited,” Reinsdorf said. “It doesn’t feel like your typical regular-season game in mid-January against the Pistons, that’s for sure.”
Reinsdorf said he noticed the numerous fans wearing Bulls jerseys. And, of course, Joakim Noah, who was partly raised here, was sitting courtside, drawing a huge ovation when introduced.
But Reinsdorf doesn’t simply want to live in the past.
“We don’t want to rest on what happened in the ’90s. We want to win again. That obviously is our goal,” Reinsdorf said. “But we can’t shy away from the fact back in the 90s we won six championships in eight years and we were one of the first global teams in sports. We have to embrace it, but we’d like to get back to the top of the mountain for sure.”
Reinsdorf said executive vice president Artūras Karnišovas, general manager Marc Eversley and coach Billy Donovan all expressed excitement about the rare opportunity of playing an international, regular-season game.
“They felt it was a great bonding experience for the players,” he said.
And Reinsdorf wouldn’t mind if the NBA played more regular-season games overseas.
“We were talking about this on the way in. Could we do something where we had multiple games in different cities throughout the world? Or maybe in Paris you had four teams playing instead of just one game. I think this is a great opportunity for the NBA,” Reinsdorf said. “This started out with the Dream Team in 1992 and the NBA is the second-most popular sport in the world and I think there’s a great opportunity for the NBA to play games all over the world.”
That Dream Team at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics featured Jordan and Pippen and came after the Bulls finally broke through the Detroit Pistons’ Bad Boy-era reign that produced two titles.
When asked, Reinsdorf palpably recalled that rivalry.
“I think anyone who was a Bulls fan back then still has a little bit of angst when they are playing Detroit. Sometimes you’d hear the music they’d play at the beginning of the fourth quarter and it would get you going,” Reinsdorf said of the song “The Final Countdown.” “Even now when I hear it, I like to turn the station off because I don’t want to hear that song.
“The days of Bill Laimbeer and some of the ways he played, the Pistons; they were a physical, tough team. But as MJ said, I don’t think the Bulls could have won those six championships if they didn’t have to go through the Pistons first. We obviously respect the Detroit Pistons.”
The Bulls’ last trip here in 1997 also Karnišovas scoring a team-high 18 points for Olympiacos, the Greek professional team the Bulls featured defeated in the final.
Reinsdorf, of course, had no idea he’d one day hire him to run the Bulls’ basketball operations.
“Like, I had no idea of watching Arthuras playing basketball. My memory of the game was sitting in the stands and people smoking cigarettes during the game, which I couldn’t believe that was still a thing,” Reinsdorf said. “My memory of the game is I was actually nervous. Scottie wasn’t playing. Dennis (Rodman) wasn’t playing. Toni (Kukoc) was injured; he had plantar fasciitis. So I just wanted to win the game, even though it was just a preseason game. You don’t want to be the NBA champions, win the NBA championship and then lose the world championships.”