How the ’85 Chicago Bears are connected to Chicago Bulls Summer League

Summer League for the Chicago Bulls is well underway, and fans may have noticed some interesting numbers worn on the court.

The Chicago Bulls are one game away from wrapping up their 5-game Summer League season. If you have tuned in to any of the games this summer, you may have noticed some unique jersey numbers on several of the Bulls’ summer players.

A recent feature from Darnell Mayberry with the Athletic has the explanation you may have been looking for. Bulls Equipment Manager, Steve Pankow, is the man behind these numbers. Pankow, a Chicago Native, assigned the players numbers based on legendary members of the 1985 Super Bowl Champion Chicago Bears. The skills and success of these former Bears may have become a source of inspiration for the players.

Mayberry pointed out why Makur Maker is wearing #72 and how the rest of the team got their Summer League numbers.

“Maker is playing the role of venerable defensive end Dan Hampton. Sindarius Thornwell is wearing Hall of Fame defensive lineman Richard Dent’s No. 95. Chicago native Javon Freeman-Liberty is sporting Mike Singletary’s No. 50. Sharpshooting guard Ethan Thompson is in quarterback Jim McMahon’s No. 9. Two-way contract forward Justin Lewis has No. 34, representing Pankow and his father’s favorite, Walter Payton”

At one point, Pankow had to explain his numbering system before the start of Summer League. Sindarius Thornwell (assigned Richard Dent’s #95) had asked if any other numbers were available. Pankow explained, “This man was a Super Bowl MVP in ’85, the last team to win a Super Bowl in this city.” That accolade alone was enough to sell Thornwell on the number system. You can view the competed Bulls Summer League Roster and the other uniform numbers here.

Summer League players who aren’t involved in Pankow’s number game include Dalen Terry and Marko Simonović. These two players have a spot on the Bulls’ regular-season roster and already have chosen their numbers. Terry has his own reasons for selecting #25. You can read more about it here

The Chicago Bulls play their fifth and final Summer League game on Saturday, July 16th. They will be looking to build upon their 3-1 record in a matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers at 6 pm CT on NBATV. Fans can view the remaining Summer League Schedule here

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