You know B.J. Armstrong as a three-time NBA Champion with the Chicago Bulls – the guard who played with Michael Jordan during that 1990s run. You know who I’m talking about: Jordan’s teammate who looked like he was 12-years-old, had this baby-faced grin and, was lucky enough to get to play with Jordan, Pippen, Kukoc, etc.
B.J. Armstrong knew how to play, and he took advantage of what he did best about as well as anyone I’ve been around. He was smart and reliable, made all the big shots that ever mattered, and knew what he had to excel at: knocking down open jumpers, playing conscientious defense, and being the ultimate professional.
Armstrong had three championship rings by the time he was 27. During those years, Armstrong was at his best … humble and earnest, honest and respectful, just a multitude of positive adjectives. But like I said, that was B.J. Armstrong at his best.
I saw B.J. Armstrong at his worst.
I saw him the year after that third title, when the Bulls’ left him off their expansion roster, and he wound up in Golden State. He found himself in a mess of a situation with a new coach and first-year GM. It was the year after Don Nelson and Chris Webber, figuratively, blew up the organization. The Warriors went 36-46 that season, and missed the playoffs. They would get worse down the line.
Armstrong was brought into Golden State that year to be a leader and example for a young team. He was also brought in so the veterans could get a real up-close look-see at an NBA champion.
But like I said, I was covering the team back then, and I saw B.J. Armstrong at his worst.
And he was the exact same person in Golden State that he was in Chicago. B.J. Amstrong was one of the earliest players I got to cover, and he taught me so much about the NBA. He was a pillar of class at the start of what would become maybe the most chaotic and disorganized runs the NBA ever saw.
The details of what made and makes B.J. Armstrong a special man, hopefully, will come down the line. But this guy pretty much took me under his wing at a time when I “didn’t even know what I didn’t know,” as Mike Montgomery once said. Armstrong is the essence of a pro’s pro.
Here’s to B.J. Armstrong. He’s one of the names that always comes to mind when I hear the word “Class.”