Do You Remember? is a new series from PIPPEN AIN’T EASY that highlights former Chicago Bulls who didn’t ever make headlines or legendary stints with the Bulls, but nevertheless gave their sweat and blood to be a part of Bulls Nation.
The Chicago Bulls have found something special in Derrick Rose. Not only is an extremely talented athlete who is the face of their franchise, but he’s a hometown kid who is deeply rooted in the South Side of Chicago.
But he’s not the first attempt of the decade the Bulls made at trying to secure someone of his nature and roots. There was a phase after the Jordan era I deem ‘The Lost Years’. These are the seasons between 1999-2007 when Ben Wallace was traded and Chicago finally began to assemble the young team they had spent said years trying to build.
Chicago’s first attempt to get a local face of the franchise was in a 7 foot center who hailed from Harvey, Illinois named Eddy Curry.
The story of Eddy Curry is one of many potential success stories the Bulls had in the 2000’s that never panned out. However, at the time of drafting him hopes where sky high that Chicago could strike gold so soon after their dynasty.
Curry attended Thornwood High School in South Holland, Illinois where he became one of the country’s best basketball players. He didn’t start out to be a basketball megastar; instead Curry aspired to by a gymnast. It wasn’t until he reluctantly tried out for the school team in the seventh grade that Curry’s basketball skills were realized.
As a Freshman at Thornwood, Curry stood out and was named to the State Farm Holiday Classic all-tournament team, an honor in which he received his Sophomore and Junior seasons as well. But it was Curry’s Senior year at Thornwood that brought him all the attention. After three very successful years at the high school, Curry helped lead his team to the IHSA State Playoffs where he fell short of a State title. However, although the team trophy wasn’t in the picture, the personal awards and attention was all on Curry who was receiving offers from D-I schools all over the country.
At the end of his 2001 Senior season, Curry was named Illinois Mr. Basketball and was ranked at the top of High School players nationally.
Curry initially signed a Letter of Intent to play his college ball at DePaul University in downtown Chicago, but decided to use the hype around him to skip college and move directly to the NBA Draft.
In Chicago’s third full year without Michael Jordan, the effects of losing were starting to sink in. It had been almost four full years of rebuilding and Chicago had failed to finish above last place for three consecutive years. The bright side of Chicago’s Jordan-less woes, was the fact they would be, for yet another straight year, picking atop the NBA Draft. Having already drafted three forwards in two years that they felt satisfied with, Chicago moved on to fill another gaping hole in their lineup: the center position.
The Bulls sought after four centers entering that year’s draft: Kwame Brown, Tyson Chandler, Pao Gasol and the high school kid Curry. The lottery saw the Bulls draw fourth and their scouted players went as described. However with Curry falling to them at the fourth overall pick they felt they had something in a local boy who could become the next face of the franchise.
Or so it would have seemed. Eddy Curry’s troubles as a Bull could arguably have their origin on Draft night. Some may say that Chicago management led to Curry’s problems and others point to Curry’s character as a problem however both are guilty of not helping each other out. Minutes after drafting Curry fourth overall, the Bulls traded stand out sophomore year player Elton Brand to the Los Angeles Clipper for their second overall selection that night, Tyson Chandler.
Right off the bat, Curry had to compete for minutes with the Chandler. There was no college experience incentive of trading for Chandler, who was (along with No. 1 overall pick Kwame Brown) also just days out of high school at the time of being drafted. However, hopes in Chicago were high as Chandler and Curry were met on the court with Jalen Rose and Eddie Robinson. The hope quickly dwindled as the Bulls were blown out by 53 points against the Timberwolves to open the season.
This would be the story of Curry’s rookie campaign, as he felt slighted by the fact Chicago traded a centerpiece to get the guy they really had wanted. He struggled with the limited minutes he received and ultimately never made a rookie impact as the Bulls finished in the gutter for a fourth straight year. However in Curry’s second season, he improved his field goal percentage and became the first Bull since Jordan to lead the league in a statistical category that wasn’t negative.
Curry’s third year in 2003-04 was another letdown and led many to believe he was a draft bust as Kwame Brown had been deemed. In Curry’s fourth season the Bulls had seemingly rose from the bottom and made the playoffs for the first time that decade. Eddy Curry and his shooting ability was actually a major factor in Chicago’s playoff run as he led the team in scoring before being hospitalized with an irregular heartbeat. Curry didn’t return for the BUlls final 13 regular season games and missed all of the playoffs. This was the beginning of the end for Curry in Chicago.
On June 24, 2005 Curry was cleared to return to practice by doctors. However the Bulls weren’t going to take any chances on Curry who had just started to light up prior to the hospitalization. Curry refused to cooperate with Bulls management on DNA tests to check out his heart and repeatedly cited privacy grounds as the reason for his refusal to submit DNA. Chicago went as far as to offer Curry $20 million immunity if he was diagnosed with a heart condition. Curry still refused to submit to testing.
The Bulls wasted no time in taking care of the problem; on October 3, 2005, before Eddy Curry’s sixth season as a Bull was to begin, they shipped the hometown kid to the New York Knicks for draft picks. The deal ended up working out in the Bulls favor as they drafted a new center, Joakim Noah, with on e of the picks from the Knicks. Curry had one more good season as a member of the Knicks in 2006-07, but much like his one good year in Chicago, it was a false pretense. Curry spent the next few seasons bumming it for the Knicks and was eventually traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves as part of the blockbuster Carmelo Anthony trade in 2011. He had made a name for himself as a lazy and obnoxious off-court player. He was known for showing up to training camps overweight and having a sexual harassment suit filed against him by a former chauffeur who claimed Curry attempted to force homosexual favors from him. Curry had become such a shell of his potential former self, that the Timberwolves bought out his contract and cut him before he even landed in Minnesota.
Eddy Curry’s story is not unlike that of Jay Williams. Both player had incredible potential to be top players at their positions but let poor judgment take that all away. What makes Curry an even more tragic tale is he didn’t ruin his body in a single accident like Williams, rather he just never tried hard enough to be as good as he could be. Eddy Curry is a good definition of the term ‘wasted potential’ and his time with the Bulls will be preceded by the statement; “Do you remember?…”