Thursday, April 12, 2018

The 45 Most Important Players to the Chicago Bulls Dynasty - #5 Ron Harper

Ron Harper
Ron Harper is always a guy who perplexed me. Drafted eighth overall in the 1986 NBA Draft, he was a great player back in his day for both the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Clippers. The numbers don't lie. He had three years of averaging over 20 points per game and four other years of over 18 points per game. On top of that, he added five rebounds, five assists, two steals, and a block through his first eight seasons. Despite all of that production, he was never once named to an All-Star team.

I wanted to touch on those first eight seasons, because he went to the Bulls during his ninth season, and it is baffling what happened when he did. Joining the Bulls before the 1994-95 season, Harper was brought in to be another scoring option to help out Scottie Pippen, especially with Horace Grant leaving in the offseason. The year before he averaged over 20 points per game, so he appeared to be a great fit for a Bulls team that was in desperate need of a shooting guard with Michael Jordan leaving the team after that first threepeat.

But for some reason, it just didn't happen for Ron Harper. He managed to eclipse 20 points just three times throughout the entire season. His reduced role turned into a completely diminished role when Michael Jordan returned as he didn't move to backup shooting guard; he moved to the end of the bench and barely played in the playoffs. For the season, he ended up averaging less points than Will Perdue, averaging a very nice 6.9 points per game.

The following year would start the Bulls second threepeat, and even though Harper was no longer filling up the box score, he was still an incredibly valuable part of those Bulls championship teams. He started alongside Jordan in the backcourt, and he was the guy who was willing to do the dirty work. He freed up Jordan to take on a less demanding defensive assignment in order to fully focus on carrying the offense. He was a guy who was in the right place at the right time on offense to keep the Triangle working. He never had any standout performances, but that was no longer his job, and maybe the thing that stood out the most was how happily he accepted his new role.

Harper would hang around the Bulls for the strike-shortened 19999 season, but then sign with the Los Angeles Lakers to rejoin Phil Jackson and win an additional two championship rings before retiring in 2001. Despite taking a backseat later in his career, Harper reflects fondly on his time as he was finally on a winning team. Considering he has enough rings to fill a whole hand, it didn't work out too bad for him.

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