And so it ends. No more basketball. No more games. No more 2013 Chicago Bulls.
The season started with fans talking about who wasn't there. It ended with fans talking about who was. It started with hope for The Return. It ended with the return of hope. It started with us thinking we'd go as far as No. 1 took us. It ended with us knowing that the team is number one.
For that, Chicago should have but one thing to say: thank you.
Thank you, Joakim Noah for producing a masterful season from start to finish. Better offensively than you've ever been, but better defensively too. Thank you Luol Deng, for leading the league in minutes played – again – while redefining the meaning of "gutting it out." Thank you Kirk Hinrich, for making it feel like you'd never left. You weren't the return fans were hoping for, but you became the return they needed.
Thank you Jimmy Butler, for becoming Jimmy Buckets, and teaching Chicago a lesson in believing in your own value. Thank you Nate Robinson, for giving us more memories than fans ever thought you would. Thank you Marco Belinelli, for doing the same.
Thank you to Butler for 144 straight minutes, to Belinelli for becoming Mr. Game-Winner, and to Robinson for winning Game 4.
Thank you Thibs, for whom another Coach of the Year award would hardly suffice anyhow.
Thank you for each of your hard-fought, 45 regular-season wins. Thank you for making Bulls fans say all season, "Hot damn, they're right in this thing!" Thank you for somehow getting people to notice you, even while your United Center housemates were making the whole country notice them. Thank you for three of the greatest Bulls playoff victories ever.
It didn’t end in a championship, but when Bulls fans look back on this season, for the rest of our lives, it will make us smile.
And that's something for which we can all be thankful.
Jack M Silverstein is a RedEye special contributor. Say hey @readjack.Want more? Discuss this article and others on RedEye Sports' Facebook page.