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The Embraceable Replace-a-Bulls
Rick Reilly
February 15, 1999
Many of you have been kind enough to suggest that if I don't climb off the Chicago Bulls' butts, you will come to my home, rip my head off my shoulders and bowl with it.
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February 15, 1999

The Embraceable Replace-a-bulls

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Many of you have been kind enough to suggest that if I don't climb off the Chicago Bulls' butts, you will come to my home, rip my head off my shoulders and bowl with it.

O.K., how's this: I like the Bulls now. In fact, I'm rooting for the Bulls.

I feel sorry for them. What they're up against you wouldn't wish on a discount gum surgeon. Michael Jordan is driving the kids' carpool (wink, wink). Scottie Pippen is hunting ring number 7 in Houston. Dennis Rodman is missing, presumed dead. Phil Jackson is at his home near Woodstock, N.Y., wondering when Country Joe and the Fish are coming back on stage. Even the trainer left. Playing for the Replace-a-Bulls is like sweeping up after the Lindbergh parade or opening Studio 55. How would you like to finally get invited to the party of your dreams, only to arrive there and find half an egg roll on the carpet, some flat beer in the dog dish and a pair of panty hose hanging from the chandelier?

Half the Bulls have never worn a Chicago uniform before this season, and four have never played in the NBA before, including, of course, Kornel David, the league's first Hungarian player.

Actual question by me to the league's first Hungarian player: "Can you believe you're playing on Michael Jordan's old team?"

Actual answer by the league's first Hungarian player: "The food, not so much. But then, excellent."

Change is everywhere. The other night at United Center, somebody named Matt Steigenga had Pippen's locker and Rusty LaRue had Jordan's. Half of Winetka got a facial tic. "Am I used to it yet?" asked guard Ron Harper, the one starter the stars left behind. "I go to the gym, they're not there. I go home, they're not there. I come to the game, they're not there. Believe me, I have to get used to it."

The other day Harper was out with Jordan when a fan came up to them. "The guy goes, 'Hey, Michael, do you miss the game?' " Harper says. " 'Miss the game?' Michael said. 'The game misses me!' "

Yeah, well, it's not easy to miss somebody when he won't go away. In Chicago's opener of this 50-game Cliffs Notes of a season last Friday night against the Utah Jazz, most of the Replace-a-Bulls were made to wear Jordan's new line of Nikes "in honor" of Jordan, becoming the first athletes in history asked literally to fill someone's shoes. "Toni [Kukoc, who scored 32 in the opener] keeps coming into the locker room singing Glory Days," says Brent Barry, the poor kid signed to take Jordan's place. Tex Winter, the Bulls' longtime assistant coach, keeps yelling in practice, "No, no, no! Scottie would've stepped up, and Michael would've popped out there!" ("I need to stop doing that," Winter says. "It's not fair. I don't see a lot of Scotties and Michaels out there.")

The Old Bulls were like a Swifty Lazar party on wheels, with three paparazzi per player. Even scrubs had to check into the hotel under assumed names. None of the Replace-a-Bulls do now, but maybe they should, given the kind of year they're about to have.

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