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NBA AM: The Chicago Bulls Raised Kaminsky

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Every NBA player gets his love for basketball from somewhere, and most grew up watching players that inspire them to someday become professional ballers themselves. Not every player got to get quite so close to their childhood idols as Charlotte Hornets big man Frank Kaminsky III, however, as he spent a considerable amount of time as a kid around the dynasty-era Chicago Bulls.

“When I was growing up, when I was real little, both my aunt and my uncle worked for the Bulls. I was always around here, always at games, always at the practice facility, always watching their stuff,” Kaminsky told Basketball Insiders. “I was a huge Bulls fan growing up just because I had that family connection. I had access to stuff that many other people don’t have access to, and I just fell in love with the United Center. To this day, playing in that building, it means a lot.”

Kaminsky’s aunt, Karen Stack Umlauf, is still the team’s Senior Director of Basketball Administration, while his uncle, Jim Stack, had a role in the team’s front office back in the 1990s. To this day, he remembers being given access to the old Berto Center practice facility, where he’d share gym space with the likes of Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan.

Even after those guys retired and the Bulls entered the most dismal era in the franchise’s history, Kaminsky continued to hang around the team’s practice facility.

“As I got older and older and got into high school and college, when I came here it was easier to interact with people. I remember seeing Randy [Brown] a lot,” he said. “I have specific memories of seeing practices, walking in on guys, coming in to shoot or whatever. It’s just weird to think that, now, I’m on an opposing NBA team playing in that same arena.’

After suffering through some truly awful Chicago Bulls basketball teams in the early aughts, Kaminsky got to join in with the rest of the city and watch the city fall in love with the team all over again.

“I remember the Ben Gordon, Ben Wallace, that kind of era,” he said. “But once Derrick Rose got here, I think that was when I was still in high school, it got people excited again. Then Luol Deng, obviously, then Joakim Noah started playing well. It was all so fun to see.”

It’s hard for him to quantify just how much it meant for him to be around an NBA team so much, from the time he was a tike all the way through high school. Now, even though he’s a member of the Charlotte franchise, the Chicago Bulls remain a huge part of his identity as a player.

“I still can remember how big the Bulls were in Chicago, how big Michael Jordan was,” he said. “I had posters of him all over my wall. We used to go to the practice arena and see the six trophies. I’ve got pictures, family photos, we used to have legitimate family birthday parties at the practice facility. My parents loved it because me and all of my cousins were so little at the time. They just let us loose in the gym and run around and then go in the pool and then sleep the whole ride home. It was awesome.”

All kids should be so lucky. All young players also should be so lucky to be drafted by the player they idolized growing up. The fact that Jordan gave the green light to draft Kaminsky was one of the most humbling aspects of finding his way into the NBA.

“It meant a lot, it meant a lot more than people realize,” he said. “Like I said, I had posters of him all over my walls when I was a kid, and, to have that level of greatness want me on his team, it’s something you can’t really put into words.”

Now, of course, Kaminsky is a Hornets fan. He admits that it’s odd to play against Chicago, to see those uniforms, essentially unchanged stylistically from when Jordan was wearing one of them, as the opposition, but once you find your way onto an NBA team, any old allegiances fly away.

“I was a huge Bulls fan until I realized that it would be a reality for me to play in the NBA,” Kaminsky said. “You’ve kind of got to drop that fandom once you make it to the league.”

And in a lot of ways, he has. He still loves the White Sox, having thrown out the first pitch at a game the summer after getting drafted, he still detests the Cubs—having worn a Steve Bartman jersey to troll fans during this year’s World Series—and he still feels at home at the United Center.

He probably always will.

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About Joel Brigham

Joel Brigham

Joel Brigham is a senior writer for Basketball Insiders, covering the Central Division and fantasy basketball.