Jerry Sloan was "the original Bull"

The Utah Jazz honored their longtime coach Jerry Sloan by raising a banner  with his name and number of coaching victories Friday night. Utah Governor Gary Herbert even made January 31st, 2014 Jerry Sloan day across the state. But many of us here in the Midwest prefer to remember Jerry the player.

On February 17, 1998 his number 4 was retired by the Bulls. His banner hangs proudly in the United Center next to fellow Bulls players Bob Love, Scottie Pippen, and Michael Jordan. Pretty good company. Now, he has two banners hanging in the rafters of two different NBA buildings.

Believe it or not, Gerald Eugene Sloan was born and raised in a place called Gobbler's Knob. No not that one. This Gobbler's Knob was located about 15 miles south of McLeansboro, Illinois. He was the youngest of ten children and was raised by his mother after his father died when Jerry was only four years old.

After playing in high school Jerry eventually landed at Evansville College. There he led the Purple Aces in scoring all three years that he played. In 1965 he was drafted by the Baltimore Bullets. However he was only in Baltimore for one year before the Bulls took him as there first player in the 1966 expansion draft. This earned him the title of "the original Bull."

In Chicago Sloan built a name for himself as a relentless offensive and unrelenting defensive player. He played for the Bulls from 1966 until injuries forced him into retirement in 1976. He ended his playing career with a 14 point per game average in 755 games. He also averaged 7.5 rebounds per game. Quite an audacious number for a 6'6" guard. He was twice named to the All-Star team and was an All-Defensive player 6 times as a Bull.

These stats, while very serviceable for anyone in the NBA, do not begin to tell the story of Jerry Sloan's career. He was so tough on defense that opposing players saddled him with the nickname "The Butcher". He led the league in floor burns every year. In fact one player said that when he and fellow guard Norm Van Lier were on the floor no one else ever got a loose ball.

Head Coach Dick Motta once said, "Sloan sets up on defense and dares anyone to run over him." Not many did. This also from Motta, "No body in the league takes more punishment than Jerry. He gets pounded every night under the boards, but he doesn't quit."

That is what Jerry Sloan put on display every game for the city of Chicago. He personified toughness in a city that personifies toughness. And while the people of Utah have every right and reason to celebrate their legendary coach, we in Chicago will always remember and celebrate our legendary player.

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