Taj Gibson, a very lovable Bull

Taj Gibson’s name has once again come up in trade rumors, and his future in Chicago is unclear. Now, let’s take some time to appreciate him, while he is still here.

Gibson was drafted by the Bulls in 2009. Born and raised in Brooklyn, Gibson went on to attend the University of Southern California. As one of the oldest players in college basketball, he was a standout at USC, earning Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year honors in his last season in Los Angeles.

Since his arrival in Chicago, Gibson has worn his heart on his sleeve, in the best way possible. Fans at the United Center feed off of his energy and effort. And his teammates and coaches love him for it.

Gibson has dealt with a lot of heartache away from basketball. He has lost many friends to gun violence, a fact which he does not enjoy sharing. But they do help him put his position as an NBA player into greater perspectivethis past winter he brought the issue of gun violence to light on ESPN. It was truly eye-opening and inspiring.

As a rookie Gibson started in 70 games, and was selected to the All-Rookie First Team. Since then, he has started in a combined 104 games, after he was asked to take a backseat to Carlos Boozer, and then Pau Gasol. When others would have sulked, Gibson made the most of his role, earning a 4-year, $33 million contract extension in 2013.

His aggression on defense helped earn the trust of Tom Thibodeau. His superb play in a reserve role lifted him to second place in Sixth Man of the Year voting in 2014.

This past season, Gibson started in the most games since his rookie year. Despite his overall production going down from the previous two seasons, his impact was felt far beyond the box score.

In a season full of turmoil and embarrassing defeats, Gibson was the first to own up to the lack of effort. He was also the first player to have his coach’s back.

Slender 6-foot-9 power forwards who don’t even attempt to shoot 3-pointers are very rare in today’s NBA. But Gibson has not made it here because of his size or skill. He is playing at the highest level because of sheer will.

Gibson has never scored more than 30 points in an NBA game, but Chicago still loves him. Second-effort plays can help determine wins and losses. Gibson makes third and fourth-effort plays. Will over skill can go a long way.

The United Center was dead all season long despite the lofty attendance numbers. Gibson’s heart was the lone bright spot on some nights.

His experiences have allowed him to understand: the worst days playing basketball for a living, aren’t bad at all.

Gibson’s name came up in trade rumors again this year, as it does seemingly every season. He might not be a part of the Bulls plans going forward, which is understandable. He will be in the last year of his contract next season, and is about to turn 31.

Fans in Chicago should savor every moment Gibson has left in a Bulls’ uniform.

People complain about millionaire athletes not caring enough; this is never the case with Gibson. And because of this, the Brooklyn native has become one of Chicago’s most beloved athletes.

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