A look back at one of the bright spots in the 2000s era of Chicago Bulls basketball: Shooting Guard Ben Gordon
We are doing segments here on ChiCitySports.com, remembering players who contributed to their respective teams that may have been overlooked and/or underappreciated during their time in Chicago.
I’m the first to write about former Bulls players, and the first one that came to my head was Ben Gordon, with clear bias. He was my favorite player to use in NBA Live 08. He was pretty darn good in real life too.
Coming into the 2004 NBA draft, Chicago was looking for ANYTHING to re-invigorate the excitement left behind in the post-Michael Jordan and 90s dynasty. Up to that point, the Bulls were a combined 119-341 in the five seasons since the 1998 Championship season.
Ben Gordon was coming off a National Championship season with the UCONN Huskies, where he averaged 18.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game. Drafting Gordon and pairing him with point guard Kirk Hinrich, who they drafted the previous year with the 7th overall pick, gave hope that those two were their backcourt of the future.
Ben Gordon’s Success
Gordon, along with Hinrich, fellow rookie forward Luol Deng, whom the Bulls traded for, and new coach Scott Skiles, brought immediate success to the city. Chicago finished with a 47-35 record and made the playoffs for the first time since the Bulls dynasty.
Gordon averaged 15.6 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 2.0 assists, playing all 82 games and starting three games. Those numbers and team success led to first-team all-rookie honors, along with the sixth man of the year award, the first time a rookie had ever won the award.
Gordon and the Bulls also made the playoffs in the next two seasons, with a conference semi-finals appearance against the Detroit Pistons, where they eventually lost in six games.
Ben Gordon’s memorable moment
Gordon broke out in the 2008-09 season, where he averaged 20.7 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 3.4 assists, playing all 82 games and starting 78. Hometown star and number one overall pick Derrick Rose was in his rookie season, and while he was showing off his skills that led to him winning the Rookie of the Year award, Gordon was their go-to scoring option and most consistent shooter.
Chicago just snuck-in to the playoffs, finishing the season 41-41 and squeezing into the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference. They matched up with the defending champions, the Boston Celtics, minus Kevin Garnett, who hurt his knee in March of that season and ended up missing the rest of the season. This created an all-time first round matchup which is still highly spoken of to this day.
Game 2, in the Boston Garden, with Chicago shockingly up 1-0, Gordon dropped 42 points on 14-24 FGs, including 6-11 from three. Ray Allen hit a three with two seconds left to break the hearts of Bulls fans everywhere, with the Celtics winning 118-115. The Bulls ended up losing to the Celtics in seven games. There’s always the 3OT game six though.
Gordon left after the ’09 season, signing a 5 year, 55 million dollar contract with the Detroit Pistons. Gordon never reached the same individual success with the Pistons, with his high being 13.8 points per game in 2009-10. After leaving Detroit in 2012, he played two seasons in Charlotte and a additonal year in Orlando.
Gordon retired in 2015 with per game averages of 14.9 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists a game for a career that lasted 11 seasons.
While Ben Gordon never reached the levels of superstardom, he was a consistent scorer who was fun to watch and he helped bring success back to Chicago Bulls basketball, and he left a positive footnote on the history of the team.
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