An appreciation of DeMar DeRozan's Bulls stint


An appreciation of DeMar DeRozan’s Bulls stint originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

The loud, on-the-court highlights were bountiful and will stand the test of time.

Whenever DeMar DeRozan is enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, surely that one-legged, 28-foot 3-pointer he sank to beat the buzzer and the Indiana Pacers on 2021 New Year’s Eve will be played.

Or maybe the difficult pump fake and corner 3-pointer to beat the buzzer and the Washington Wizards the next night will be, given that it marked the first time in NBA history a player sank buzzer-beating 3-pointers for victories on consecutive days.

DeRozan offered other worthy on-court moments during his three seasons with the Chicago Bulls, posting 12 40-point games, averaging 25.5 points and steadily climbing the all-time scoring ranks to pass names like Larry Bird or Elgin Baylor or Dwyane Wade.

But it’s the quieter moments where DeRozan truly made his greatest impact as a Bull.

From driving to the University of Illinois to attend Ayo Dosunmu’s jersey retirement to inviting Patrick Williams and Dalen Terry to his early offseason workouts in Los Angeles, DeRozan treated younger players with respect and plied them with confidence.

His consistent demeanor and quiet leadership drew praise from organizational members as varied as basketball decision-makers to business operations staffers.

His love for basketball showed in everything from leading the NBA in minutes played at age 34 to attending Windy City Bulls games on off nights to his appreciation for old-school moves and the sport’s history.

DeRozan used to love being told what legend of the game he was about to pass on the all-time scoring list. Not so much for bragging rights, although he loved hearing about Wade, who is his neighbor in southern California. But more because DeRozan long has been a student of the game.

“I mean, that’s Larry Bird,” DeRozan said early last season in Indianapolis. “From a fan perspective, it’s amazing. It’s an honor. . . . Listen, that’s a player who I watched a whole bunch of film of over the years. And he was a bad man.”

This may be a small thing, but about that talking: In this day and age of more restricted access, DeRozan was always available, whenever you needed him. It’s no wonder that he’s a winner of the 2018 Magic Johnson award, awarded annually by the Professional Basketball Writers Association to the player who best combines on-court excellence with cooperation with the media and fans.

DeRozan also continued his commitment to raising mental health awareness, a mission he began unexpectedly while a member of the Toronto Raptors, another organization where he’s widely respected. DeRozan seemed to gain confidence in this commitment, releasing a podcast series on his YouTube channel called “Dinners with DeMar” in which he talked mental health issues with superstars like Damian Lillard, Draymond Green and Wade.

The Bulls won only one playoff game during DeRozan’s three-year tenure, a fact that stung the proud player deeply. But DeRozan not only made two All-Star games but also earned second-team All-NBA status in 2021-22 and was a finalist for Clutch Player of the Year the last two seasons.

The Bulls’ lack of success wasn’t for lack of DeRozan’s efforts.

And he showed up. He led the NBA in minutes played at age 34 and appeared in 93 percent of his potential games in Chicago. He played often and he played hurt.

DeRozan likes to say he doesn’t get involved in the business of basketball. But that business is what helped push him from Chicago to Sacramento, where the Kings franchise began a love affair on Saturday night.

That’s when the Kings introduced DeRozan at a summer league game to a raucous reception. Those seem to follow DeRozan wherever he plays, whether it be Toronto, San Antonio or Chicago. The Bulls should be planning that video tribute for next season already.



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