As the first decade in the 21st century comes to a close, let's take a moment to reminisce about the best and worst moments and athletes of the past ten years in Chicago Sports.
Best Team: 2005 Chicago White Sox
Only one Chicago team could call itself champions in the first decade of the 2000s, and that team plays at 35th and the Dan Ryan. The White Sox magical run to a world championship in 2005 erased an 88-year drought of glory on the south side. Everything went right for Ozzie Guillen's club that year, as his starting staff of Mark Buehrle, Jose Contreras, Jon Garland and Freddy Garcia each won 14 or more games in the regular season, leading the club to a 99 win campaign. Playing "Ozzie Ball", the Palehose used speed and timely hitting to scratch across runs with Scott Podsednik changing the team's offensive strategy. The White Sox stormed through the playoffs, going 11-1 in October, which included a sweep of the then-defending champion Red Sox, and the Astros in the World Series. Their bullpen was rock solid all year, as Bobby Jenks burst onto the scene as a bona fide closer, and earned the save on October 26, 2005 to earn the Sox a ring.
Worst Team: 2000-2001 Chicago Bulls
After a historic run of six world championships in the previous decade with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, things went very bad and very fast for the Bulls after the nucleus of the team left the Windy City. The team did have Elton Brand, who averaged 20 points per game, Ron Mercer, who could still contribute, and Ron Artest--who by his own admission--was drinking on the job. The team went 15-67, bad enough for a miserable .183 winning percentage, and ranked dead last in the NBA in points per game (87.6). Need any further proof this team was a disaster? This team only had three players average double-digit scoring, and Ron Artest barely qualified in double-digits with just over 11 points per game. Also, how about these names that contributed minutes to Tim Floyd's club that year: Dragan Tarlac, Khalid El-Amin, Dalibor Bagaric, A.J. Guyton, Jake Voskuhl. Need I say more?
Best Athlete: Brian Urlacher, Chicago Bears
Say what you want about Urlacher's attitude, or problematic character at times. It's no question this city could have embraced him far more than they did over this past decade. But when it comes to the best athlete in Chicago sports over the last ten years, Urlacher takes the cake. After being drafted in the first round out of New Mexico in 2000, Urlacher immediately emerged as a standout linebacker for the Bears and quickly vaulted to the top of the NFL. He had more than 800 tackles in the decade, 37.5 sacks, and 17 interceptions. He was one of the most feared defensive players in the league for the majority of the decade, and led his team to multiple playoff appearances including a Super Bowl berth in 2006. Note: Honorable Mention goes to White Sox ace Mark Buehrle, for a consistent and successful decade.
Worst Athlete: Corey Patterson, Chicago Cubs
Corey Patterson had a three good months as a Chicago Cub. That's it. Otherwise, his career as a Cub could really only be described as a debacle. The 3rd overall pick in the 1998 draft figured to solve the Cubs center field problem for the long haul. All we read and heard about him coming up was that he had great speed, great power, and could be a five-tool superstar type player to anchor the Cubs outfield. Instead, he was a free-swinging, undisciplined, stubborn liability for the Cubs for parts of five seasons. Other than the 83 games in 2003 in which he hit .298 with 13 homers and 55 RBIs, he was detracting from the team's success. (And funnily enough, when Patterson got hurt the Cubs acquired Kenny Lofton, who was a catalyst and a big reason why the Cubs nearly reached the world series that season.) In 2004, he was a microcosm of the team's shortcomings, and his 2005 season was one of the worst statistical seasons put forth by an everyday player in history. He's still toiling around baseball, last seen with the Brewers this past season. The Cubs traded him to Baltimore before the 2006 year, and the Cubs have still not found a long term solution for center field.