To Brandon Henderson, the 2017 NBA draft was more than a massive disappointment; it was the last straw. And as it turns out, he was far from the only Chicago Bulls fan who felt that way … or who was willing to fork over some cash to let the Bulls’ brass know in no uncertain terms just how angry he was.
At June’s draft, the Bulls first decided to trade All-NBA swingman Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen. Then, they chose to sell their second-round pick, No. 38 overall — the last piece of the haul from the 2014 deal that sent Luol Deng to Cleveland — to the Golden State Warriors for $3.8 million in cash, rather than just taking the guy the defending champs wanted: Oregon power forward Jordan Bell.
It angered Henderson that general manager Gar Forman and vice president of basketball operations John Paxson — the front-office collective frequently referred to as “GarPax” — would kickstart a rebuild by trading a franchise centerpiece for a restricted-free-agent-to-be coming off an ACL tear, a 23-year-old second-year point guard who struggled mightily on offense as a rookie, and a 7-foot shooter whose rebounding and defensive work have frequently been described as uninspiring and/or concerning. It really angered him that they’d compound that by punting a shot at a player some have described as a low-cost Draymond Green starter kit in exchange for cold hard cash.
The draft-night moves led Henderson’s simmering frustration with the Bulls to boil over. As he surveyed the latest letdown to come from a front office that has presided over Chicago’s descent from title contention to “barely capable of a .500 record and the East’s No. 8 seed” status, Henderson decided to do something about it. From Madeline Kenney of the Chicago Sun-Times:
He created a GoFundMe page Friday, hoping to raise enough money to purchase a billboard that would call for the firing of Gar-Pax after their controversial draft [dealings].
News of Henderson’s GoFundMe campaign soon began to circulate, thanks in part to the fans spreading the word through the r/ChicagoBulls subreddit community. Bulls legend and team ambassador Scottie Pippen wasn’t a supporter of the effort; many fans were, though, and the donations kept rolling in. More from Kenney:
The page surpassed its original goal of $2,000 within a day and has raised nearly $7,000 in three days.
“I didn’t imagine that we would be able to get to that much and I didn’t think it’d be that quickly,” said Henderson, who has been a Bulls fan his entire life. “It’s definitely been something that I tried to keep pace with.”
All told, Henderson’s campaign raised $8,327 — more than enough to get the billboard designed, produced and placed. And on Wednesday, it finally saw the light of day, on the corner of Lake Street and North Racine Avenue in Chicago’s West Loop:
— Madeline Kenney (@madkenney) July 19, 2017
“See Red” has been a Bulls slogan (and, with the advent of Twitter, accompanying hashtag) for years. After watching the franchise’s on-court product deteriorate over the years, from the peak of the Derrick Rose MVP heyday to last year’s aborted “Three Alphas” experiment, it’s hard to blame fans for seeing things a little bit differently these days than the Bulls might prefer they did.
Henderson told the Sun-Times that the billboard cost about $7,000, and that he plans to use the extra money raised for “a digital billboard” placed “near the United Center for the Bulls’ home opener” in October, before donating whatever’s left to the Boys and Girls Club of Chicago. (I might suggest cutting out the middle part and focusing on the latter, now that you’ve made your point, but hey, whatever floats your boat.)
The history of NBA billboard propositions is spotty, at best, with more failures than relative successes (and even those successes more likely due to other factors than those in charge feeling public pressure). Even so, when you’re looking to clearly communicate a message of discontent with the way things are going, it’s tough to beat a giant billboard a mile away from the United Center that pleads for ownership to fire the two dudes in charge.
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