Feeling nostalgic for the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls boom years of the '90s?
In a strange and likely unparalleled coincidence, seven North Shore mansions once or currently owned by major figures from the Bulls' juggernaut teams of the 1990s are for sale right now.
The listings range from the lofty — Michael Jordan's nine-bedroom, 32,683-square-foot mansion on 7 acres in Highland Park languishes on the market for $14.855 million after 4-1/2 years on the market and a nearly 50 percent reduction from his original asking price — to the merely upper-middle-class, with legendary coach Phil Jackson's onetime midcentury home in Bannockburn available for $899,000.
In some respects, the spate of listings is a throwback — not just to an era of the Bulls' utter dominance of the NBA, but also to a time when Chicago athletes' homes dotted the northern suburbs, and especially the North Shore. In the nearly two decades since the Bulls reigned supreme, two dynamics have emerged that have led an increasing number of athletes to eschew the North Shore.
In 2014, the Bulls closed their longtime Berto Center practice facility in Deerfield and moved their practices to the 60,000-square-foot Advocate Center facility on Chicago's Near West Side, right by the United Center.
In addition, the city — particularly the North Side — has grown more enticing for athletes in the past decade or more, with Bulls players as well as Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Chicago Blackhawks and even a few Chicago Bears players choosing to buy single-family homes in city neighborhoods. One of the highest-priced examples of such a move was Bulls guard-forward Jimmy Butler paying $4.3 million in September 2015 for a six-bedroom, 10,000-square-foot mansion in River North.
And while some Bulls executives, including John Paxson and Gar Forman, own homes in the northern suburbs, no current players do.
With so many onetime Bulls' homes up north for sale, it's worth asking: Do the homes' associations with the Bulls — and in some cases, the individual imprints left on them by their famous owners — make a difference?
Yes, says Paul Gorney of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices KoenigRubloff, the listing agent for Scottie Pippen's current, five-bedroom, 10,000-square-foot mansion on 2.9 acres in Highland Park, which came on the market in June for just below $3.1 million. He pointed to the home's full-size professional gym, complete with the image of a red Pippen jersey painted on the gym's wood floor.
"Pippen's ownership and the gym are a selling point, and buyers definitely take interest," he said.
Pippen and his wife, Larsa, paid $2.225 million for the mansion in 2004 and subsequently added the gym, as well as a pool and a large addition.
Many years earlier, Pippen custom-built a different house in Highland Park for himself, also with its own basketball court and gym. He sold that seven-bedroom, 8,228-square-foot mansion on Shady Lane for $1.75 million in 1996. Two decades later, the home is available for just under $1.98 million.
"This is two owners removed from Pippen but I think one of the allures of the house is, it's cool, it's neat, and when I show the house and I bring people into the basement where the game room is and where the basketball court is, anyone who is familiar with the Bulls and the dynasty, I say, imagine who played here," said listing agent Alan Meyerowitz, of @properties.
Although some 1990s nostalgia might be in right now, 1990s interior design isn't necessarily — and the current owners of the Shady Lane mansion have removed some of the more dated elements, "such as the black shag carpeting, replacing it with wood," Meyerowitz said.
The Bulls head coach during the 1990s, Phil Jackson, owned a relatively modest — at least, by celebrity standards — four-bedroom, 4,830-square-foot house in Bannockburn, which he purchased in 1988 for $280,000 and sold in 1999 for $692,500. Currently listed for $899,000, the house has several reminders of its basketball past, including extra-tall kitchen counters to accommodate Jackson's height and the signed names of Jackson, his then-wife and his children in the concrete in the garage, said listing agent Linda Bisceglia of Carr Realty, who also is the home's owner.
In addition, the house, which first was listed in June for $975,000, has a basketball hoop in back that is slanted, Bisceglia believes, because of dunks made by Jordan and Pippen.
Although a previous owner who sold the house to Bisceglia in 2005 referred to Jackson's former ownership of the home in listing remarks, Bisceglia has chosen not to do so.
One popular tradition during the Bulls' second "three-peat" was for neighbors of Steve Kerr's onetime Lake Forest house to "TP" his front yard with toilet paper on the night that the Bulls won a title. The tradition even continued in 1999, after Kerr left the Bulls and helped the San Antonio Spurs to win a title.
Kerr sold the five-bedroom, 4,284-square-foot Colonial-style house for $760,000 in September 1999, and it's since had several owners. In May, its current owners listed it for $1.275 million. At the end of July, they lowered the price to $1.225 million.
"When buyers come in, it's a fun fact to say, to tell them, 'By the way, guess who used to live here?'" said listing agent Kristen Esplin of Griffith, Grant & Lackie, who said Kerr left no sports-related imprints on the house. "And some buyers are like, 'Yeah, yeah, I did know that.' I don't know if it's a selling point per se, but I think it's a fun fact."
The onetime homes of several Bulls who were with the team only for its first "three-peat" — from 1991 until 1993 — also are currently for sale. The five-bedroom, 3,074-square-foot house in Deerfield once owned by Horace Grant is available for $679,000, more than six years after Grant sold it for $565,000. And B.J. Armstrong's onetime Highland Park mansion, now owned by former Bears linebacker Julius Peppers, has been on the market for the past year and now has a price tag of $2.399 million.
Peppers' listing agent, Wendy Lee of Exit Strategy Realty, makes no reference to the mansion's double-barreled celebrity ownership history in her listing information.
In the end, despite famous past or present ownership, real estate sales often invariably boil down to one simple element: price. The most famous — and far and away, most expensive — dwelling of this lot is Jordan's behemoth on Point Lane in Highland Park, known as Legend Point. His Airness, who now divides his time between residences in North Carolina and Florida, originally wanted $29 million for the mansion back in 2012.
Jordan's listing has steadily seen its price fall in the ensuing four-plus years, which have included an ill-fated effort on the auction block in 2013. While there has been a flurry of media interest in the property, Jordan hasn't found anyone willing to spend the listing price — now $14.855 million — for it. That's not a huge surprise, given that only a handful of suburban mansions of any kind ever have sold for more than $14 million.
Bob Goldsborough is a freelance reporter.