From NBA.com: “The Chicago Bulls announced today that in remembrance of the late Johnny ‘Red’ Kerr and Norm Van Lier, the team will wear a tribute patch on its jerseys for the remainder of the season. ‘This is the right way to honor the memories of both Johnny and Norm,’ said Bulls Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations John Paxson. ‘Every time our players put on their uniform the rest of the year, they will be reminded of what Johnny and Norm meant to the Chicago Bulls. Johnny and Norm’s inspiration and legacy will forever be a part of our franchise’s fabric.’ The two-inch square patch is bisected into two halves. One half of the square patch is red, with Kerr’s famous nickname ‘Red’ in white block letters. The other half is black, with Van Lier’s number 2, also in white.”
I saw that patch “in action” during last night’s loss to the Bobcats. It looks great and it’s a fine tribute. Of course, an even better tribute would be if the Bulls started playing like a team that actually wants to make the playoffs, especially when they’re on the road. Their passive, apathetic behavior outside of Chicago would have freaked Johnny and Norm out. Big time. (In fact, Mike Imrem of the Daily Herald wrote an imaginary back-and-forth between the two local legends. One particularly amusing “quote” from Van Lier was: “The problem is you could stick their (dang) hearts in the Tin Man and he still wouldn’t have a pulse and their brains in a hummingbird and it still would fly backward.”)
Another fitting honorarium would be retiring Norm’s number. As the Sun-Time’s Carol Slezak said, it’s better late than never. Of course, some people — like the Sun-Time’s Roman Modrowskion — don’t believe that Norm’s stats merit a retirement. In fact, Modrowskion went so far as to say retiring Norm’s number posthumously would be meaningless, and that: “I’m sure if we could ask Norm at this point, he’d say don’t bother.”
That’s bunk. Norm would have wanted his number retired regardless of the circumstances. And stats be damned: He was one of the best all-around guards in the NBA — not to mention one of the greatest defensive players on the planet — for almost the entire decade of the 1970s. He deserves to have his number 2 hanging in the rafters of the United Center.