CHICAGO — The Bulls celebrated their inaugural class for the organization’s new Ring of Honor during halftime of Friday night’s game against the Golden State Warriors, but the ceremony took a turn when some fans loudly booed Jerry Krause, the former Chicago general manager who died in 2017.
The first Ring of Honor class included 13 men and the entire 1995-96 team, which went 72-10 and won the NBA championship.
The Bulls were missing a few key members from that team, as Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman were absent from the festivities. Rodman was scheduled to appear but had his travel plans canceled because of inclement weather. Both he and Jordan submitted video messages acknowledging the honor.
“I am so bummed that I can’t be there tonight,” Jordan said in a taped video message to fans. “But I don’t want that to stop the fun that you guys are going to have.”
In addition to Jordan, Pippen and Rodman, the 13-member inaugural class included Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson, who received the loudest cheers of the attendees, and Krause, who was general manager of the Bulls from 1985 to 2003.
Krause’s name was booed by the United Center crowd, and his widow, Thelma, who represented him at the ceremony, was visibly emotional at the reception. Krause was the architect of the Bulls’ six championship teams but also was often blamed for the disintegration of the dynasty that he had been such a big part of building.
READ MORE FROM 2017 | Jerry Krause, former Bulls GM, dies
Former Bulls forward Stacey King, now an analyst for NBC Sports Chicago, said when play resumed in the third quarter that he was disappointed in the fans who booed, calling them classless.
“I’m telling you what, Chicago is a sports town, and what we witnessed today when Jerry Krause’s name was called and the people that booed Jerry Krause and his widow, who was accepting this honor for him, it was the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” King said. “I hurt for that lady. Brought her to tears and whoever booed her in this arena should be ashamed of themselves.”
Bulls president and CEO Michael Reinsdorf addressed the situation in a statement to NBC Sports Chicago in which he lauded Krause as “an important part of our history.”
“His legacy deserves to be celebrated and respected,” Reinsdorf’s statement read in part. “We were incredibly honored to have Thelma with us this evening to recognize Jerry as a member of the inaugural Chicago Bulls Ring of Honor.”
Warriors coach Steve Kerr — who played five seasons in Chicago from 1993 to 1998 and was grateful that the Bulls’ scheduling allowed for him to be in attendance Friday — said he was in the locker room at the time but heard about the booing, which he decried as “absolutely shameful.”
“I’m devastated for Thelma and for the Krause family,” Kerr said. “I cannot believe that the fans — and you have to understand, when you hear boos, it’s not all of them. The fans who booed, they know who they are. To me, it’s absolutely shameful and I’m devastated by that.
“Whether people liked Jerry or not … we’re here to celebrate that team. Jerry did an amazing job building that team. … And I’m so disappointed in the fans — and I want to be specific because there were lots of fans who I’m sure did not boo. But those who booed, they should be ashamed.”
Jordan, Pippen and Jackson were at odds at times with Krause, one of the themes of “The Last Dance” documentary about the 1997-98 season, the final one of the Bulls dynasty Krause helped build.
“You can never take away what he created,” Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan said of Krause. “Without Jerry, there wouldn’t be a historic Chicago Bulls history.”
Added DeRozan: “Family, friends that are still here ought to be appreciated and shouldn’t be disrespected.”
Also among the 13 Ring of Honor inductees were Artis Gilmore, Johnny “Red” Kerr, Dick Klein, Toni Kukoc, Bob Love, Jerry Sloan, Chet Walker and Tex Winter, in addition to the 1995-96 team, which was referred to as “the greatest team in NBA history.”
Chicago celebrated the inaugural class at a private gala at the United Center on Thursday before recognizing it in front of a packed crowd during an extended halftime session Friday against Kerr’s Warriors.
“I was very flattered that they put it together around our game so that I could be here,” Kerr said before the game, which the Warriors came back to win 140-131 thanks to a big second-half turnaround. “We had a wonderful night, not only at the gala, but afterwards, connecting with the team. A lot of stories, a lot of fun. It was just a great, great night.
“In terms of everybody getting together, it’s probably been since a few days after the ’98 Finals, when the team broke up, and we knew it. We all got together one night back then and smoked cigars and drank a few cocktails and told stories.”
The Bulls will add to the Ring of Honor every two years, with the next class being revealed in 2026.
Information from The Associated Press was included in this report.
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