At one point as the program, titled Against the Odds, was being taped at Theus' suburban Chicago town house, he said, "My father was the kind of man who could go out in the parking lot of a supermarket and talk for an hour to a perfect stranger. I know this because many times I would be sitting in the car waiting for him." Bulls fans know what that can be like. Until Theus blossomed, they had been mostly out in the cold for years, waiting for something or someone to cheer.
With new Coach Paul Westhead opening up the Bulls' offense, the unfettered Theus has averaged 27.1 points a game this season, nine higher than his career average. In his four previous seasons, he had scored more than 30 points only 13 times; so far this year he has gotten 30 or more 10 times in 30 games, with five games of 40 points or more.
And beyond just scoring, Theus is finally having fun, whipping about the court with long-legged strides, his arms flailing, seemingly able to do anything he likes anytime he wants.
"I don't know what he did against New Jersey or Detroit, but he always exploded against us," says Westhead, who formerly coached the Los Angeles Lakers. "He could do so many things with the ball."
Since coming to Chicago, Westhead has instituted a running game that is similar to the Lakers' and seems custom-made for Theus, though the coach doth protest. "I don't think the running game revolves about him, because it's based on spraying the ball around," Westhead says. "Ironically, if a team wanted to showcase a player, the best way to do it would be in a set game—giving him double screens and picks to free him."
Theus and Chicago fans don't care who gets the showcase so long as there's a show. Ever since the early 70s when the Dick Motta-coached Bulls teams featured Chet Walker, Jerry Sloan, Norm Van Lier, Butterbean Love and Tom Boerwinkle, there had seemed to be a Chicago Stadium ordinance against running. Though those teams perennially won 50-plus games a season, they were hardly a joy to watch.
Now, though the transformed Bulls have gotten off to a shaky start (10-20 in the Central Division, 10½ games behind the division-leading Milwaukee Bucks), Theus is thriving. He leads the team and is fourth in the league in scoring, is third in the league in three-point goals (14 of 40) and tops the Bulls in steals (56). And a Theus no-look pass through the legs or whirling-dervish spin through the lane brings the Stadium crowd to its feet, chanting, "Reg-gie! Reg-gie!" as if his name were Jackson.
Perhaps it's manifest destiny. The implications of being a Reggie aside, Theus is aptly named. Reginald is from the Old English Regenweald, meaning "power, force, might."
Theus comes from the Greek theos, meaning god-like. No dissent there from the scores of women who have an eye for Reggie.
However, says Cindy Walker, "I really don't think that I could have a relationship with him. My grandmother told me never to go out with any man that's prettier than me."