America watched the Michael Jordan docu-series “The Last Dance” in droves. One of the players who was part of the Bills championship run was former St. John’s center Bill Wennington.
When people think of St. John’s University basketball stars that have gone on to success in the NBA, they typically think of Chris Mullin, Mark Jackson, and Metta World Peace (formerly Ron Artest). While the above trio has seven All-Star appearances, an NBA championship, and a Rookie of the Year honor between them, one former ‘Johnny’ has a far more impressive resume.
I’m talking about center Bill Wennington and his three rings earned during the second Chicago Bulls championship three-peat. After seeing him on the critically-acclaimed 10-part ESPN/Netflix documentary titled “The Last Dance,” I had to dive into Wennington’s career.
Before Wennington joined the Bulls as a quintessential role player for Phil Jackson, the Montreal native began his career with the Mavericks. Dallas selected the former Long Island Lutheran and St. John’s center with the 16th overall pick in the 1985 Draft.
Patrick Ewing, Wayman Tisdale, Xavier McDaniels, Mullin, Charles Oakley, and Karl Malone were taken ahead of him. Wennington had the last laugh as his Bulls squad had great playoff battles against these players in the 1990s and came out victorious.
Wennington’s four years playing for Hall of Fame coach Lou Carnesecca in college set him up for his time with the “Zen Master.” In 124 games for the Redmen (SJU wasn’t the Red Storm until 1994), Wennington started in 26 of them. He averaged 8.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game. One might say being a role player was always in the cards for the seven-footer.
Just like Mike, Wennington took his age 28 and 29 seasons off from the NBA. Big Bill played in Italy after spending the first six years of his career in Dallas and Sacramento. Clearly his time away from the league served him well.
Wennington returned to The Association with Chicago for the 1993-94 season, the year Jordan left to pursue his professional baseball aspirations. With the MLB strike the next season, Jordan returned to a Bulls team that had many new faces including Wennington. The big man had to gain MJ’s trust.
"“As a team, it might be one of the best team chemistry’s I’ve ever been on,” Wennington said on his SportsCenter appearance. “I rate that with the St. John’s team I was on back in college. Every single guy liked everyone and we all got along well. Really that helped us play a lot better.”"
Of course, it worked. Wennington went on to win three rings with the Bulls. In his six seasons in the Windy City, Wennington averaged 5.1 points and 2.7 rebounds.
While he isn’t the most glamorous name to come out of St. John’s, Wennington enjoyed a successful NBA career spanning 720 games. He averaged 4.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, 0.6 assists, and 0.3 blocks during his 13 years.