Halloween night, the night that fathers, who happen to be NBA fans, everywhere try to speed up the trick or treating process so that they can get home, turn off the outside light to ward off other people’s kids, and watch basketball. Ok, maybe that’s just me, but the Bulls have played on Halloween in recent years, forcing me to do all of the above. The last time the Bulls played on Halloween night Derrick Rose treated fans to a dramatic return to the United Center that ended with his floater in the final 10 seconds to beat the New York Knicks. This Halloween the Bulls will host Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers and Rose will, once again, be making his regular season return to the United Center with both himself and the team surrounded by the highest of expectations. So as Bulls fans await another Halloween party at the United Center, here is a look at the Halloween history of the Chicago Bulls.
Halloween has not always been pretty for the Bulls. The franchise’s first Halloween game was in 1967, and they lost 114-104 to the Supersonics in Seattle. The loss was their 9th in a row to start the 1967-68 season and made them the only NBA team up to that point without a win. The game also pitted Bulls’ coach Johnny Kerr against Al Bianchi who had moved on to coach Seattle’s new NBA team after being Kerr’s assistant coach during the Bulls’ first NBA season. Oddly enough, the next year the Bulls lost on Halloween to a Phoenix Suns team coached by none other than former Bulls’ coach Johnny Kerr. In all, the Bulls have played 18 games on Halloween night with a scary record of 6-12.
The Bulls’ first Halloween victory came at Baltimore in 1969, but on Halloween night 1972 the Bulls beat Kansas City in the first Halloween game played in Chicago. There was nothing special about the win except that it would be their last win on Halloween until 2003 when the Bulls defeated the Atlanta Hawks in the United Center with the help of Scottie Pippen who, oddly enough, was playing in his first Halloween game as a Bull (he was injured in the 1997 game). During the Halloween losing streak from 1978-2003 the Bulls were beaten by the New Orleans Jazz, the Indiana Pacers (twice), the Detroit Pistons, the Los Angeles Clippers, the Boston Celtics, and the Sacramento Kings. In 1981, rookie Isaiah Thomas returned to Chicago with the Pistons and torched the Bulls with 28 points in front of a record crowd in Chicago Stadium, and four years later, Michael Jordan dressed up as an injured businessman in a gray suit and watched Chicago lose to the Clippers 120-112. The Bulls didn’t play again on Halloween until 1997 when they blew a 20 point lead and lost to the Celtics 92-85. In 2000, the first post-Jordan Halloween party, the likes of Marcus Fizer, Khalid El-Amin, Ron Mercer, and Jamal Crawford led a team characterized by Skip Bayless as “kids who looked as if they were dressing up for Halloween as NBA players,” to a 100-81 defeat by the Sacramento Kings. Since breaking the multiple decade losing streak in 2003 things have been better for Bulls, who have won 3 of the 5 Halloween games in the last decade. Probably until 2013, the most notable post-2003 victory was the 42-point drubbing of the Heat in Miami after they received their championship rings, the largest margin of victory for a Bulls opener in franchise history.
For the Bulls, Halloween night wins have been few and far between. At home they are at least at the .500 mark with a 4-4 record while on the road they are a less than stellar 2-8, the two wins being 37 years apart. Chicago has also never been able to win 3 consecutive games on Halloween. In 2007 the Bulls got close after winning in 2003 and 2006 but lost in overtime to the New Jersey Nets, which in 2007 was their 12th straight loss there. Right now, the Bulls are once again on a 2 game Halloween winning streak, which means that, if history is an indicator, some evil spirit will find a way to spoil the party. One can only hope that a healthy Derrick Rose and a rowdy United Center crowd can reverse history and make Halloween night frightening for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Complete List of Bulls Halloween Games 1967-present
1967 L @ Seattle 114-104
1968 L @ Phoenix 112-103
1969 W @ Baltimore 118-109
1970 L @ Seattle 122-119
1972 W vs Kansas City 104-95
1978 L @ New Orleans Jazz 97-92
1980 L vs Pacers 121-114
1981 L vs Detroit 119-106
1985 L @ LA Clippers 120-112
1997 L @ Boston 92-85
2000 L vs Sacramento Kings 100-81
2003 W vs Atlanta 100-94
2006 W @ Miami 108-66
2007 L @ New Jersey Nets 112-103
2008 L @ Boston 96-80
2012 W vs Sacramento Kings 93-87
2013 W vs New York Knicks 82-81
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