Bulls honor first championship team

Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were together again for another championship celebration, this time to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Chicago Bulls’ first title.

The two Hall of Famers, along with former teammates and coaches, were on hand for a halftime ceremony during Saturday’s game against the Utah Jazz, reliving their past glory.

There was Jordan dunking over Patrick Ewing again. Pippen was wreaking havoc on both ends. John Paxson was nailing jumpers. The Pistons were hurrying off the court and the Bulls were hoisting the trophy, drenched in champagne after knocking off the Lakers.

It was all there during a video set to Tom Petty’s ”Learning to Fly” that kicked off the festivities.

Former Bulls broadcaster Jim Durham served as the master of ceremonies, and there were loud cheers as each player was introduced, starting with Dennis Hopson. Horace Grant and John Paxson each received a nice ovation, and fans just about came unglued when Pippen was introduced.

And when Jordan was called? Well, the roar was what anyone would expect.

In his address to the crowd, Pippen thanked the organization for bringing ”back a memory that we all want to live again just one more time.”

”This is very special for us,” he said.

Jordan, grinning ear-to-ear, thanked the Bulls for ”allowing us to reunite.”

He added: ”You guys are in store for a lot of other championships. You look at this team tonight, don’t be surprised if you have six more coming.”

The current team with Derrick Rose leading the way is stirring memories of a championship era that kicked into gear 20 years ago. The 1990-91 team went 61-21 and finally beat Detroit after losing to the Pistons in the Eastern Conference finals the previous two years, then took out Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers in five games to start the first of Chicago’s two three-peats.

”I was just talking to Paxson,” Jordan said after the ceremony. ”I said, ‘You guys could be the best team in the East if you play the type of basketball you guys have been playing. I don’t think it’s going to take them seven years.”

That’s how long it took for Jordan, who endorsed Rose for league MVP.

”That kid has come into his own,” Jordan said. ”He’s matured quite a bit. When he came into the league, everybody said he had speed and can get to the rim, but he can’t shoot. Now, he can shoot the three as well as pull-up shots. He has very few flaws. I’m pretty sure the next thing they’re going to say is he doesn’t play good defense or can’t handle the double team. Time will tell.

”I think he’s a great piece for this franchise to rebuild with. They’ve got some other pieces that helped them quite a bit. Everybody’s talking about Boston, everybody’s talking about Miami and Orlando, you tend to forget about Chicago.”

Several key members of the first championship team were absent on Saturday, most notably Phil Jackson and Jerry Krause. In a taped message, Jackson said the clinching win was ”truly an exciting moment for all of us” and was ”just the start of something big.”