Bulls Lead

No. 12 Bulls Jersey Is an Honor to Live up To

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A split second featuring a mere glimpse of a photo illustration. That’s all it took for me to panic.

Last Saturday afternoon while out for lunch, I opened Instagram and then quickly decided to go to a different app, so I closed the app. But, in the split second Instagram was open, I saw the Chicago Bulls’ then-latest Instagram post: a picture of their second-round draft pick Daniel Gafford with a white No. 12 Bulls jersey photoshopped onto him. I was in disbelief but wanted to make sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me. So I opened the app again and saw the same thing. I was not okay.

 

Aside from the lone time Michael Jordan wore a No. 12 jersey when his jersey was stolen, that number is synonymous with former two-time Bull, Kirk Hinrich. It’s why I and many other Bulls fans are disappointed by Gafford’s choice in number.

https://twitter.com/sbhatia01/status/1142495121348411393

The number 12 in the Bulls franchise should be for only Hinrich, and we want it to remain that way ― no offense to Gafford.

Historic Hinrich

Hinrich, by no means, was a superstar player. He may have been the lone rookie in the 2003-04 season to post a triple-double, and he may have made the 2007 all-defensive second team, but he was never an All-Star or a franchise player.

So why get worked up over Gafford wearing 12? Because, for some like myself, that number is more than just that; it’s a representation of a beloved Bull who will go down as one of the greatest players in franchise history.

Hinrich was drafted by the Bulls in 2003 as the seventh overall pick and became a key player in their rebuild. One of the faces of the Baby Bulls, he, Ben Gordon, and Luol Deng helped make the Bulls a playoff team again. He remained in Chicago until being traded during the 2010 offseason in the midst of the LeBron James free agency sweepstakes.

After stops in Washington D.C. and Atlanta, Captain Kirk returned to the Bulls for another stint ― this time with athletics glasses! ― signing as a free agent to back up Derrick Rose. Because of Rose’s injuries, he wasn’t much of a backup point guard as was expected and often started instead.

After two seasons, Hinrich eventually found himself in the typical veteran role: a backup who is a mentor and leader. And then the Bulls traded him again in 2016, ending his career in Chicago.

During both stints, Hinrich was a reliable defender, leader, and teammate whose grit and hustle often earned him praise. After all, who else can say they’ve stopped LeBron James on a fast break by tackling him? Fans never questioned whether he was going to leave his heart on the hardwood, and that’s something to remember. Not to mention he even worked his way up into the top 10 of multiple all-time franchise lists:

  • No. 1 in made 3-point field goals
  • No. 3 in games played, assists, and steals
  • No. 4 in minutes played
  • No. 8 in points
  • No. 9 in made field goals

The only two Bulls above him in games played? Jordan and Scottie Pippen.

Fans value the time, effort, commitment, loyalty, and heart Hinrich gave to the Bulls during his 10 and a half seasons there, and we want to commemorate that by making 12 his.

I, someone who has claimed the title of Hinrich’s number one fan, will always view him as one of the players who helped me fall in love with basketball. I developed a legitimate interest in basketball around the same time Hinrich was a rookie in 2003-04, so I didn’t know basketball, the NBA, or the Bulls that well until then. Then it took a couple years to truly fall in love with the game. Eventually, I’d sit in front of the television in the family room and yell “Hinrich maneuver” every time he made a 3-pointer.

For myself and other Bulls fans, there’s an innate emotional connection between Hinrich and the No. 12 Bulls jersey. But do I actually think 12 should be retired for Hinrich? No, because numbers aren’t retired simply for heart and hustle ― especially not for a storied franchise like the Bulls whose retired jersey numbers include Jordan, Pippen, Bob Love and Jerry Sloan.

Humble Hinrich

Hinrich himself doesn’t even think he belongs among those names, and I respect that. But I want and would love it if his jersey was up in the United Center rafters.

I’m happy that Gafford’s dream has come true with the Bulls, but every time I see his No. 12 Bulls jersey, it stings. I’m not mad at him for choosing the number, though. If I were to be mad at anyone, it’s at whomever at the Bulls organization is allowing 12 to still be an option.

But it’s one thing to wear 12 well, and it’s another to make 12 his own. Until Gafford can do that, it’ll still be Hinrich’s number.

The 38th pick of this year’s draft, Gafford is a 6-foot-11-inch center with a 7-foot-2.5-inch wingspan out of Arkansas. He’s an athletic big who takes pride in his defensive ability, so he’ll be a nice addition in that manner.

Gafford does well in the paint ― as evidenced by his explosive dunking ability ― but has a limited offense. Not yet 21, he has time to grow and further develop his game, so there’s hope and time for him to do well. But it’ll take a lot of work to make 12 his own, making it all the more important he honors Hinrich in wearing that jersey.

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About Ashley Wijangco

Ashley is a writer based in the Chicago suburbs who has over seven years of sports writing experience. She writes about the Bulls and general NBA content for TLSM. Twitter: @wijangco12

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