Nothing is more quintessential in Chicago for a sports fan than attending a game. Between the Bears, Cubs, White Sox, Blackhawks and Bulls, avid sports fanatics have their pick. But during basketball season, the United Center is where the action is at. Radio broadcaster and three-time NBA Champion Bill Wennington is the voice of the Chicago Bulls now, but his basketball career began back on Long Island.
“Growing up in Montreal I was a hockey player and fan, and the Montreal Canadiens were my favorite team. In 1979, I moved to Long Island and started following the Knicks, and basketball became more prevalent in my life as I started playing only basketball,” said Wennington, who attended Long Island Lutheran Middle and High School and St. John’s University and played basketball for both. “Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] was a big man who was amazing in the low post with his hook shot, and every big guy wanted to be like him. Dr J, [Julius Erving] was fun to watch with his high flying acrobatics. I could only dream of jumping like that.”
Wennington’s NBA career began in 1985, when he was drafted to the Dallas Mavericks. He then spent one year with the Sacramento Kings and played for two years in Italy with Virtus Bologna, before signing with the Bulls for six years. A final stint in Sacramento was Wennington’s last time on the court as a player. Now, his role is with the Bulls as a Radio Color Analyst, and an ambassador to the team at sponsored and charity functions.
“Some of the things that the Bulls have done over the years is to stay really involved with the communities of Chicago. Chicago Bulls Charities has raised millions of dollars for various charities in Chicago, with an emphasis on youth education, youth health and wellness, violence prevention, and military and first responder support,” said Wennington, noting the team’s world-renowned moment in the ’90s, when they won six championships in eight years with an iconic star in Michael Jordan. “It’s not just a basketball game at the United Center—it is a night of entertainment.”
And speaking of that entertainment, according to Wennington, the Bulls in-game entertainment has always been an the forefront in the NBA, featuring Benny the Bull, the Luvabulls cheerleaders, Incredibulls, Stampede Drumline, Bulls DJ, and 312 Crew. There is something going on from the moment the doors open.
“There are bands in the concourses, excellent culinary choices, shopping in the [Bull Market and Madhouse Team Store], family-friendly interactive experiences, and, of course, the in-game entertainment,” said Wennington of the multitude of experiences one will receive at a Bulls basketball game. “Our team always plays hard; we have young, exciting talent so the games are fast-paced.”
As for the rivalry with the New York Knicks, it has been going on for years and came to a head in the ‘90s. Wennington said both teams were very good—and truly wanted to beat each other—and coaches Phil Jackson and Pat Riley “stoked the rivalry back and forth in the papers.”
But a sports team isn’t anything without the support and adoration of the fans that keep the ball moving. While he may be a bit biased, Wennington said that the Bulls fans have always been excellent, even during trying times, but they are ultimately “behind the team 100 percent.”
Whether you are a sports junkie or just want to immerse yourself in everything Chicago has to offer, a Bulls game should be on every traveler’s list to the Windy City. For tickets and schedules, call 312-455-4000 or visit www.nba.com/bulls/tickets.