To this day, the summer of 2010 still resonates with basketball fans around the world. In Chicago, it still stings.
This was the summer where burning jerseys became cool, and LeBron James' Cavaliers jersey was burned a lot in the city of Cleveland. For Chicagoans, fans thought if the Bulls could get just one of James, Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh, they'd be in contention for a NBA tittle. What leaves most Bulls fans upset is the fact that the Bulls didn't get any of the three, and they all went to one place.
South Beach. A place known for warm weather and beautiful beaches. A place known for passionate sports fans? Well, not so much.
Looking back on the summer of 2010, the Bulls were entering an important offseason following back-to-back playoff appearances. Talk on where James was going to sign during free agency shadowed the NBA world the entire 2009-2010 campaign.
The Bulls lost in five games to LeBron's Cleveland Cavaliers in the playoffs as an eight seed and entered the offseason with enough cap space to offer two max contracts. To fans and the organization, the Bulls were a superstar or two away from entering tittle contention and many thought they were prime contenders for James with the young core they had.
Other top free agents Wade and Bosh were also on the market and together were considered the top three free agents.
In a recent piece by ESPN's Brian Windhorst, the insider discusses the summer of 2010 and the events prior leading to LeBron's decision to take his talents to South Beach.
The Bulls were considered an up and coming squad with a ton of young talent. Derrick Rose had already won Rookie of the Year and was selected to the All-Star team for the first time in just his second season in the NBA. The dunk on Goran Dragic in January of 2010 still electrifies fans to this day.
Joakim Noah averaged a double-double for the first time in his career during the '09-'10 campaign. Luol Deng was a less talented millennial generation version of Scottie Pippen. However, he always guarded the other team's best offensive threat while also giving you solid production in the scoring column, always made an impact rebounding and helped make plays for others as a point forward at times.
That was the Bulls core the organization hoped would attract guys like James, Wade and Bosh heading into the 2010 summer.
"The Bulls had prepared for this pitch for more than a year. They had a terrific, young core and so many possibilities. A lineup with Rose, Wade, James, Bosh and Noah was one of them. There was a possibility of losing Bosh and Wade but getting James. There was the idea of losing James but getting Wade and Bosh. As they went through the meeting with James, it was clear to the Bulls that the 25-year-old had a comprehensive plan, but they still weren't sure if it included them."
ESPN's Brian Windhorst on the Bulls' pitch to LeBron James
The New York Knicks, New Jersey Nets and the Bulls were seen as the top contenders for one or two of the trio. The Miami Heat were the only team who had enough cap space to take on all three.
Bosh told Windhorst Pat Riley gave him one of his championship rings in his pitch to lure him to Miami.
"Oh, yeah, Pat brought his rings out. It looked just like a Crown Royal bag," Bosh said. "He puts it down, like boom. Big boy talk. When he ended the meeting, Pat gave me a 2006 Heat championship ring."
"Take it. Keep it. Give it back to me when you win one," Riley said to Bosh.
"I still haven't given it back," Bosh said. "I wonder if he even remembers that? I think I mentioned it once, like, 'Yo, do you want that ring back?' And he said, 'What are you talking about?' And I kept it moving."
Chris Bosh on Pat Riley's pitch to him to sign with Miami in the summer of 2010.
When Wade met with Riley, he pitched the idea of bringing both James and Bosh to Miami to join him.
Wade had two meetings with the Bulls. It was a pitch they were most hopeful for since Wade was a hometown kid.
Windhorst explains that if the Bulls were going to land all three stars, they would have had to trade Deng, who had four years, $48 million left on his contract. The Bulls tried moving Deng to the Los Angeles Clippers, Windhorst source said. They talked about a sign-and-trade with Toronto for Bosh.
As we know, nothing ever came to fruition. It was the second time, a trade involving Deng to potentially bring a superstar player to Chicago fell short. The first was when Kobe Bryant was rumored in trade talks to Chicago a few years prior. However, it was rumored that Bryant would veto any trade that would had involved Deng.
Windhorst points out Rose's role in the recruiting process to help lure James, Wade and Bosh to Chicago was basically nonexistent. Noah was the voice from a players stand point for the Bulls. At the time, Noah wasn't a star player and his relationship with James was far from perfect.
"He also had an acrimonious relationship with James. Underscoring that, Noah called James that week, and James never called him back.
Rose declined to be part of the pitch to James, instead recording a video. Being an active recruiter wasn't part of Rose's personality, and at age 21, he didn't have the mindset of an empire-builder."
Brian Windhorst on Derrick Rose's role as a recruiter for the Bulls offseason in 2010.
Rose's little enthusiasm and the fact Miami had the cap space for three max contracts was what hurt the Bulls.
The Knicks were no different, taking what Mike D'Antoni called a "two-star approach."
"We'd all been pitching LeBron a two-star approach," D'Antoni said. "All these teams had figured we could get him another star. The Heat walked in there with a three-pronged attack.
Former Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni on the how New York recruited LeBron James
In the end, it came down to the Bulls and the Heat. The trio wanted to play together, so they chose Miami. It really is as simple as that.
Windhorst makes some good points, but I must point out the Bulls now previous regime failed to ever sign a top tier free agent. Pau Gasol and Carlos Boozer are the best free agent acquisitions during the Gar Forman and John Paxson era. Unfortunately, that is not much to brag about considering Gasol was past his prime and Boozer was a consolation prize because they couldn't land Bosh.
Why couldn't the front office pull off a sign-and trade for Bosh with Toronto? Why couldn't they move Deng to the Clippers?
I look forward to the day ESPN makes a 30 for 30 on LeBron's tenure with the Heat. They could do a whole episode on the events leading up to that memorable day when he announced he was going to Miami on national television.
As a teenager fresh out of high school, I remember being livid at how it was delivered to fans. I remember how upset I was hearing the news that James didn't choose the Bulls. There's no doubt it was one of the most controversial moves in NBA history. However, it has led to how players treat free agency today.
I'll always wonder if the Bulls would have ever been able to get past those Heat teams. When they battled in the playoffs, it was no holds barred, more so when Rose was hurt because the rest of the team had a chip on their shoulder. The Bulls hated Miami and the Heat hated Chicago.
Noah was interviewed on Barstool Sports podcast Pardon My Take in February and he discussed his battles against LeBron and how he still thinks the Bulls would have won a NBA tittle if Rose could have remained healthy.
Hopefully the new Bulls front office changes the culture soon because the fans deserve better and more fun times like when Rose was throwing lobs to Noah on the fast break.