The first class included 13 men and the entire 1995-96 team, which went 72-10 and won the NBA championship.
However, the Bulls were missing a few key members from that team. 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 the late Jerry Krause, who was general manager of the Bulls from 1985 to 2003 and the architect of their six championship teams.
Krause’s name was loudly booed by the United Center crowd, and his widow, Thelma, who represented him at the ceremony, was visibly emotional at the reception.
The situation prompted a statement from Bulls president and CEO Michael Reinsdorf to NBC Sports Chicago, in which he lauded Krause, who died in 2017, as “an important part of our history.”
“Jerry Krause is a six-time NBA champion and two-time NBA Executive of the Year. He was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame for his accomplishments and is an important part of our history,” Reinsdorf said. “His legacy deserves to be celebrated and respected. 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.”
Also among the 13 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 forever loves Phil Jackson ❤️ pic.twitter.com/11YayHVsPy
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) January 13, 2024
Chicago celebrated the inaugural class at a private gala at the United Center on Thursday before recognizing them in front of a packed crowd during an extended halftime session Friday.
Scheduling the ceremony on Friday allowed for Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who played five seasons in Chicago from 1993-98, to attend the ceremonies, which he was grateful for.
“I was very flattered that they put it together around our game so that I could be here,” Kerr said ahead of Friday’s 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.