ESPN’s epic 10 part docuseries, The Last Dance, which chronicles Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls 97/98 Championship season comes to its highly anticipated conclusion this Sunday, May 17.
As we watched history being retold, we were reminded of a legendary “Bull” who once graced our stage, as well as the many other athletes and sports icons who donned Dickensian garb for a walk-on role in A Christmas Carol.
Scottie Pippen, Chicago Bulls
In 2012 the retired NBA All-Star joined seven-year-old La’Ren Kimble, a beneficiary of Make-A-Wish Illinois, for a special walk-on role in the 35th annual production of A Christmas Carol.
Scottie Pippen was a member of six NBA championship teams with the Chicago Bulls (1991-93, 1996-98), was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History and is one of four players to have his jersey retired by the Chicago Bulls. Pippen was a seven-time NBA All-Star (1990, 1992-97) and was NBA All-Star MVP in 1994. He was a three-time All-NBA first team honoree and was voted to the NBA All-Defensive first team eight times (1992-99). Pippen won two Olympic gold medals as a member of the 1992 USA Basketball “Dream Team” and returned to help lead the USA to gold at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
Brian Urlacher, Chicago Bears
The set of A Christmas Carol looks smaller when compared to the towering former linebacker who showed off his stage presence in the 2013 production along with Make-A-Wish Illinois beneficiaries.
Urlacher spent his entire 13-year career playing for the Chicago Bears. He played college football at the University of New Mexico where he was recognized as a consensus All-American and became the school’s most decorated athlete. After being named the NFL’s Rookie of the Year in 2000, he was elected to eight Pro Bowls, and won the NFL’s Player of the Year award in 2005. Urlacher joined the Pro Football Hall of Fame on February 3, 2018.
Robin Ventura, Chicago White Sox
Robin Ventura, White Sox General Manager, may have “zero acting experience,” but that didn’t stop him from making his Goodman Theatre debut in 2011 along with 9-year old Emily Beazley of Make-A-Wish Illinois.
Ventura, a former third baseman, played 16 seasons with the Chicago White Sox, New York Mets, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers before returning to Chicago to General Manage the White Sox for five seasons. He is a six-time Rawlings Golden Glove winner, two-time MLB All-Star election and a National College Baseball Hall of Fame inductee.
Emily’s friendship with Robin Venture continued after their appearance at the Goodman, and she even threw out the first pitch at a White Sox game in May 2015. But sadly, a few weeks later Emily lost her battle to cancer. Ventura was quoted on NBC as saying, “It’s sad. It breaks your heart… For me being a parent … with her passing she was a tough kid going through something unimaginable. Her attitude, being upbeat the way she was through it all, you learn things. You get a perspective on what is important.”
To celebrate her memory, on the one-year anniversary of her death, the Goodman Theatre and buildings across the city lit up their marquees in Emily’s honor.
Bobby Hull, Chicago Blackhawks
Top hats and overcoats are quite different than hockey helmets and knee pads, but Bobby Hull wore them gracefully for his 2010 walk-on role.
In 1957, at the age of 18, Bobby Hull began his NHL career with the Chicago Blackhawks. In his first two seasons, he appeared in 70 games each season, but his third season could very well be considered his breakout year. The 1959/1960 season saw “The Golden Jet” increase his goal total to 39 as Hull mastered his game by increasing the curve on his stick and popularizing the slapshot. In the 1960/1961 season Hull’s natural abilities continued to shine when he scored 50 goals, which equaled the NHL record for most goals in a season, led the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup and won his second Art Ross Trophy. In the 1965/1966 season, Hull became the first player in the league to break the 50 goal barrier when he scored 54 goals and added 43 assists. For his effort, Hull was awarded his second Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s Most Valuable Player. When he retired, Hull was second only to hockey legend Gordie Howe in goals and total points. In his 15 NHL seasons, Hull scored 610 goals and 1,170 points making him the highest scoring left wing in history at that time.
Chicago Red Stars
If we’re talking about sports legends and athletes on our stage, we’d be remiss not to mention the Chicago Red Stars soccer team, and their work with the cast of The Wolves (2018).
The Chicago Red Stars is a women’s professional soccer club based who compete in theNWSL (National Women’s Soccer League). From 2015-2019 the Chicago Red Stars have made the playoffs of the NWSL and are the first and only team to do so for five consecutive years.