NEW YORK -- The Chicago Bulls made some NBA history on Wednesday night in the midst of finishing off one of their most impressive wins of the season, a 122-119 double-overtime thriller over the New York Knicks.
In what is believed to be a league first, the Bulls organized a special trip for the players to take their moms on the team's charter as they traveled to the New York area in advance of Chicago's game at Madison Square Garden. Bulls senior manager of player development and team services Shaun Hickombottom put the trip together, making sure the Bulls' players and mothers could enjoy several activities together.
"It's been very, very special," Robin Lopez's mother, Deborah Ledford, said. "I think it's probably the first time in the history of the NBA that they've had something like this. And I've gotten to know the moms much better and realize that I know now why they have such nice sons and wonderful people, because they're wonderful. So it's been great for mother bonding, but it's also been great for mother-son bonding because we're actually going on the same plane with them, staying in the same hotel with them, eating the same meal. And the boys actually, even though they're grown-up men, I think they're enjoying it."
That was proved true throughout the day as Bulls players smiled almost as brightly as their mothers did while discussing what it means to them to be able to spend some extra time with the special women in their life.
"It's been obviously great," Bulls veteran swingman Justin Holiday said. "A great experience for them, first of all. To be able to travel the way that we do and things like that, be taken care of -- but it's been good for me to be able to spend time with my mom because I don't see her much obviously because of my job."
The moms were treated to a team dinner on Tuesday night and had a spa treatment Wednesday morning that included a manicure, pedicure and facial. The group then had some time to sightsee around New York before making their way to the game. Once at the arena, the mothers served as a high-five line for their sons as they made their way to the floor. The only mothers who were unable to participate were those of Lauri Markkanen, Niko Mirotic and Paul Zipser, all of whom would have had to travel from overseas.
The moms in attendance sat together in the stands wearing their sons' red jerseys, cheering the Bulls to victory.
"Everything has been first-rate, first-class," Quincy Pondexter's mother, Doris, said. "This is one of the highlights of my life because we've never been treated like this before. With my son being in the league for eight years, he's been with a few different teams, no other team has done this. Being able to meet the other mothers and being able to sit back and us all enjoy [each other]. We had a wonderful time this morning, we got facials, we got massages at the spa. So we are loving this."
Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg and team staff members enjoyed watching the interaction between players and mothers throughout the trip. Hoiberg presented each mom with a set of Bulls bracelets during Tuesday's team dinner.
"I thought it was awesome," Hoiberg said after Wednesday's game. "And just to hear the comments from the mothers, how much they appreciate the mothers stepping up and doing this. We've got so many young guys, they were almost giddy getting on the plane [Tuesday], knowing their moms were going to be on this trip. We had a great meal with them last night. Just to get to know them on a personal basis away from there, I know it means a lot, certainly to us and it means a lot to them as well. I give all these moms credit -- they raised wonderful kids. The character for this group is off the charts and the moms deserve a lot of credit for that."
Quincy Pondexter is convinced other teams will organize similar events after seeing the joy from the Bulls' players and their mothers throughout this trip. Not to mention the fact that the trip became a hit on social media.
"Of course other teams are going to steal our idea," Pondexter said. "It's pretty great. But it's something that being a part of the NBA, you get to be a part of special things like this. There's so many memories that I'll have the rest of my life because of this game of basketball and what it's done for me and my family. It's been remarkable."