With February being Black History Month, Pippen Aint Easy will be circulating historical documentaries of African-American players that made an impact on the Chicago Bulls. The NBA has a “Dream Big” campaign going on throughout the month celebrating the moments of black history. I feel that we all can’t make progress into the future without remembering and paying homage to the people that paved the way and provided the blueprint to do so. Pippen Peoples I present to you, Bob Love.
Bob Love aka “Butterbean” played for the Chicago Bulls from 1968 through the 1976 season. What I found interesting before his tenure in Chicago was that he was cut from the Cincinnati Royals after being selected in the 4th round of the 1965 NBA draft. After playing that season in the Eastern Basketball League and practically destroying it averaging 25 points per game, he won EBL’s Rookie of the Year Award. Bob Love parlayed his success into making the Royals squad the next year. After playing a couple of years on the bench in Cincinnati, he was picked up by the Milwaukee Bucks in the expansion draft and traded to the Chicago Bulls. When “Butterbean” showed up to the “Windy City”, business as they say….picked up!
Bob Love found a home playing for Dick Motta’s system. In his first year as a full-time starter in 1969-70, Love averaged 21 points and 8.7 rebounds. The next two years he netted up 25. 2 and 25.8 points a game schooling heavy hitters like Oscar Robertson, “The Logo” Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell. What does this tell us Pippen Peoples? Bob Love was a bad boy back in those days. Do you think he’d be on this website if he wasn’t? Bob Love ended up leading the Bulls in scoring seven straight years. He was a three-time all-star and made three-second team all defense squads. That means he can play both sides of the court Pippen Peoples. He finished third all time in scoring in franchise history with 12,623 points. He’s third behind some guy named Jordan and the man this website is coined after Scottie Pippen. His jersey #10 was the second number ever to be retired (Jerry Sloan’s #4 was the first) in Chicago Bulls history. Back issues forced Bob to retire in 1977.
Looking at these numbers and looking at old video of Bob Love you would think that Love had it all. But he didn’t. He suffered from a severe stuttering condition. It cost him a lot. He could never get an endorsement deal because of his inability to speak. Reporters couldn’t interview him because of deadlines and didn’t have time to wait for Love to articulate his feelings. Bob Love’s dream was to be able to speak to large crowds like his hero, Martin Luther King. When his playing career ended, things turned for the worst. His first wife took everything of value, cleared out the bank account and left. With no job and no prospects, Love had to take a job as a dishwasher and busboy in a restaurant in a Nordstrom’s department store for 4.45 an hour. Look folks, that’s a major pay cut from a NBA salary of 105,000 dollars a year. He would hear whispers from people who recognized him. You have to know that hurt him deeply. Fortunately, the owner of the restaurant offered to pay for speech therapy classes. Bob Love went through about a year and a half of intense therapy to exorcise a demon that had haunted him his whole life. After therapy, things began to get better for Bob Love. He even ran for Alderman of the 15th ward of Chicago in 2002. He did not win the election, but he is living out his dream today.
In 1993, the Chicago Bulls made him their Director of Community Relations. What’s one of his duties? To make 300 to 400 speeches a year in schools, churches, hospitals and community centers. He has also branched out to be a motivational speaker. He focuses on his life, his struggles and his battle back to where he is today. I cannot lie, I have been critical of Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and how he deals with the Bulls basketball-wise. However, he has been an angel on earth the way he looked out for a former player in need. He even opened up the United Center for Bob Love to be married in 1995 in a wedding ceremony to Rachel Dixon. That’s class Pippen Peoples!
Bob Love was quoted as saying…”All my life I dreamed and prayed to be able to communicate normally with people.” “I would have given up everything else in my life to do it.” Well the saying goes, watch what you say because it might happen. Bob Love almost LOST everything, but he does get the chance to do what his hero Martin Luther King used to do…speak to crowds!