You may have noticed that this website is dedicated to one-time Cincinnati Royal, Norm Van Lier (1947-2009). Known mostly for his starring role in the tour-de-force “Barber Shop 2: Back in Business”, “Stormin’ Norman” was also a three-time all-star for the Chicago Bulls. After sweating, bleeding and relentlessly toking for his team, Norm was unceremoniously cut in 1978. He was estranged from the Bulls (but not from the LuvaBulls) for years until returning as a postgame commentator in the early 90’s. In the mid-90’s, I worked with him at WMVP radio, where he hosted a mid-day sports show. To say I worked with him meant that he knew me as “my man”. Our exchanges were brief, but powerful. It was the way he said “What’s shakin’ my man?” that let me know he was really saying, “You are one talented cat who has great potential and cracks my ass up to no end”. Subtext, dear readers. He was all about subtext.
What made Norm beloved by Chicagoans was that as a player, he was a scrappy bastard. Known for his tenacity and passing ability, the 6’1 guard never backed down. He once chased 6’9 Sidney Wicks with a chair. He locked down prolific scorers from Gail Goodrich to Pete Marovich to Sweet River Baines. Imagine a player with the passing ability of John Stockton, the defense of Scottie Pippen, and the package of Dirk Diggler. Off the court, he was a Quaalude-loving spiral of delirium. Norm was a man-about-town who rocked out to the Stones while partying on Rush Street, well before Le Passage revolutionized “Douche-Step” techno.
Most folks of my generation and younger knew him as the only reason to watch the Bulls postgame show after a loss. Norm hated, in some particular order: Eddy Curry, Chris Duhon, Tyrus Thomas, Marcus Fizer, Lawrence Funderburke, Jennero Pargo (twice), Dalibor Bagaric and “Simmering” Tim Floyd. If he felt that there was a lack of butt busting on the floor, he would rattle off a legendary rant about “softness” and the team having the heart of a mustard seed. The best part of each rant is that after questioning the manhood, desire and testicular fortitude embodied by the twelve man collective, he would soften the blow by saying, “But, hey, that’s just me”.
With a historic season on the horizon, Norm must be looking down from heaven smiling like Eazy E in the “Crossroads” video. Norm would have approved of the off-season editions including the low-post presence he always wanted in Carlos “Stay Thirsty My Friends” Boozer, all-world defender Ronnie “My Last Name Also Refers to Partying” Brewer and revered ladies’ man Kyle Korver. And if C.J. Watson chases Chris Bosh with a chair this season, a rattle of thunder will reign down from the sky sounding something like “That’s what I’m talking about!”