For nearly a decade, Nikola Vucevic showed up to work, and put on a jersey with the No. 9 on the back. Blood, sweat, and memories soaked into a jersey that represented who he was every night.
A jersey number may seem insignificant to some, but for Vucevic it means a lot. It meant so much to him that within the next hour of being traded, he was already on the phone with the Bulls' assistant equipment manager Steve Pankow to see if a swap was possible.
Luckily, Bulls rookie Patrick Williams is as gracious as they come, and willing to give up the jersey number free of charge.
Having heard his new teammate express the meaning and value behind the number, it was an easy decision for Williams to make it. And let's be honest, the jersey has way more value to someone who's worn it for over eight-and-a-half seasons compared to just 42 games for a rookie.
Nonetheless, it was an unselfish gesture by Williams. Not every athlete wants to give up their jersey number, and some want a massive payday if they do.
Williams was still able to capitalize on the latter because Vucevic didn't want his new teammate to give up his jersey without fair compensation.
"I was going to give it to him for free. That just shows the guy that he is that he even offered to give him something. Even when I told him I was going to give it to him for free, he was like, ‘Nah, I just want to make sure you’re taken care of.’ That’s just the type of guy he is and speaks to the character that he has," Williams told NBC Sports Chicago.
The public will never know how much they agreed to because the amount is "undisclosed", but looking at Vucevic's $28 million salary this season, it's safe to assume Vucevic made the trade worthwhile.
In his two games with his new team, Vucevic has been as good as advertised. He's still putting up an All-Star stat line by averaging 21 points, nine rebounds, and 4.5 dimes on 62.1% shooting from the field.
The Bulls are currently 19-26, and holding onto the 10th seed for dear life. By pairing Vucevic with first time All-Star Zach Lavine, the Bulls are pushing for their first playoff appearance since 2016-2017.
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