Bulls' dynasty brought the stars out in full force, from Boris Becker to Eddie Vedder


Boris Becker is the one who made me pause.

Back in 1996, before social media shared every highlight instantaneously, Becker represented some German god who dominated the plush green lawns of Wimbledon every June. Even with the 1989 U.S. Open title on his resume, he seemed more a faraway figure than flesh-and-blood creature.

And yet there he stood in a Madison Square Garden tunnel, hoping for a quick conversation with Michael Jordan.

Yes, celebrities, from the world of sports and otherwise, were as much a part of the Bulls’ title runs as Dennis Rodman’s changing hairstyles. We’re not talking the regulars, the hardcore, longtime season-ticket holders sitting courtside — like Spike Lee in New York or movie critic Gene Siskel at the United Center.

We’re talking Oprah Winfrey coming out for her first game all season and Rodman gifting her with his gameworn jersey in his customary postgame routine. We’re talking Jesse Jackson huddling with Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson in a postgame hallway. We’re talking Jay Leno, in town to film The Tonight Show at Chicago Theatre, suddenly appearing courtside.

Seemingly every A-list name wanted to catch a glimpse of one of the most powerful dynasties in sports history.

Some of these interactions extended off the court. Rodman ventured into the music world even before his brief romantic dalliance with Madonna, befriending Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan.

As a huge live music goer, I remember sidling up to Vedder before Game 3 of the 1996 NBA Finals at Seattle’s Key Arena to ask him to corroborate if he and Rodman had gone out for sushi the night before.

“All he had was iced tea,” Vedder said then.

As for the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Bulls played back-to-back games in New York with the Knicks prevailing in overtime in a Game 3 played on a Saturday. So that limited the Bulls’ possibilities for off-the-court cavorting with stars in The City That Never Sleeps.

Or maybe it didn’t.

Whether they did or not was immaterial. Especially since it was noted late-night cavorter Rodman who helped close out Game 4 for a commanding 3-1 series lead with two unlikely late assists to two even more unlikely late buckets from Bill Wennington.

Wennington, who had starred at Madison Square Garden while at St. John’s and in Michael Jordan’s “double-nickel” game, wasn’t an A-lister. But he got the job done nonetheless.

Every other night through April 15, NBC Sports Chicago is airing the entirety of the Bulls' 1996 NBA championship run. Find the full schedule here.

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