Basketball and football might be different sports, but there has always been a strong connection between the Chicago Bulls and Chicago Bears. They both represent the same city. Players who wore jerseys for each team often befriended each other. Walter Payton and Michael Jordan became friends. The two teams were never too far away from each. So it seems rather fitting the new generation of Bulls players decided to pay tribute to an old generation of Bears.
According to Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic, equipment manager Steve Pankow decided to mix things up for the 2022 Summer League. Rather than ask players what jersey numbers they wanted to wear, he instead opted for a theme. GM Marc Eversley was quick to pick up on it.
Marc Eversley went three games before he registered Makur Maker’s jersey number and started asking questions.
The Bulls general manager inquired with the team’s equipment manager whether Maker, the skilled 6-foot-11 center, chose No. 99. Steve Pankow informed his boss the choice was not Maker’s but his. When Eversley asked about the backstory, Pankow proudly provided it.
“‘Well,’” Pankow started, “‘it’s the ’85 Bears. It’s the last team to win a Super Bowl in Chicago.’”
Pankow then pointed out Bulls players wearing other unconventional numbers: 72, 76, 83, 95. Eversley shook his head, laughed and responded, according to Pankow, with three words — “I love it.”
The inspiration for this idea wasn’t hard to find. It came in the form of former undrafted free agent Perrion Callandret. That first name triggered some in Pankow’s brain, immediately setting him on the path.
Everything after that was easy.
“How could I resist Refrigerator Perrion?” Pankow said of guard Perrion Callandret, wearing No. 72 in honor of William “The Refrigerator” Perry.
Maker is playing the role of venerable defensive end Dan Hampton. Sindarius Thornwell is wearing Hall of Fame defensive lineman Richard Dent’s No. 95. Chicago native Javon Freeman-Liberty is sporting Mike Singletary’s No. 50. Sharpshooting guard Ethan Thompson is in quarterback Jim McMahon’s No. 9. Two-way contract forward Justin Lewis has No. 34, representing Pankow and his father’s favorite, Walter Payton.
Only two players, Dalen Terry and Marko Simonovic weren’t participants in the fun. It wasn’t because of unwillingness but more due to their likelihood of ending up on the Bulls’ regular season roster. That isn’t the extent of Pankow’s ambitions, though. He is hoping to take it a step further depending on what the team does during the rest of the Summer League action.
“I just wanted us to start rattling off wins out here and then get the guys to do the Summer League Shuffle,” Pankow said. “If we got hot out here, this could be great. Let’s make a music video or something.”
Chicago Bulls youngsters may grant him his wish.
Four games into a five-game regular season, the Bulls are tied for first place with a 3-1 record. One more win guarantees them a spot in the playoff tournament. It would give them a chance to become only the second team since the league’s inception in 2013 to win two championships. The first came in 2016. Pankow hopes the team can pull off a win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday, July 16th. Their odds are favorable. The 76ers are 1-2 so far this season. It would be so fun to see the Summer League Shuffle.
It is nice to see the Chicago Bulls keep things loose if nothing else. They’re letting the future of their franchise enjoy themselves while paying tribute to one of the greatest teams in the city’s sporting history. Considering the 1985 Bears lost only one game on their way to the Super Bowl title, it would be fitting if the 2022 Summer League Bulls did the same. Fans should tune into NBA TV Canada to see how things play out this weekend.