CHICAGO — Every time Karen Wessel tunes into a Bulls home game from her Alaska home, she can see her father's spirit right at center court.
Wessel's father, Dean, is the man who designed the Bulls' logo 50 years ago. His "payment" was some free tickets to the new franchise's games, but he never received any royalties.
"He never saw a dime, and he kicked himself in his older age and wished he would have done something to make his life easier, but really when it gets right down to what one's legacy is — if you've lived a good life and have been a good man, it's a lot better than to make a lot of money," said Karen Wessel, whose dad died in 2004 at age 84.
"It's why I love watching the games at the United Center — there he is, right in the middle of the court. I love it," she added. "Just seeing that Bull and watching those guys play, I really can feel him."
Dean Wessel, a professional advertising designer, created the iconic logo — a red face with red-tipped horns — as a favor to his friend and fellow Little League coach, Bulls founder Dick Klein.
"Sometimes I say to myself, 'If I had a nickel, no, if I had a hundredth of a penny for each hat or cup or banner with the Bulls head on it, it would be a different story.' But remember, in those days this was a poor excuse for a basketball team, a bunch of castoffs," Dean Wessel told the Tribune in 1993.
A special logo honoring the team's 50 years was made this season. The logo includes six golden stars representing the Bulls' titles in the 1990s. The Bulls will celebrate the team's 50th birthday Wednesday at home against the Golden State Warriors.
Karen Wessel certainly will be watching the national ESPN telecast that night. At 66, she remains a rabid Bulls fan, even though she's resided in Alaska for more than 40 years. Her house in Homer is filled with what she calls a "shrine" to her dad and Chicago's NBA team featuring Bulls books, hats, jerseys, shirts, cards, key chains and other pictures. She doesn't have any tattoos, but Wessel hasn't ruled out getting a Bulls logo permanently inked on her ankle.
Wessel recently retired as principal at Homer Flex High School, an alternative school for at-risk students. She frequently would tell the students about her dad.
"It was a big deal when I told the kids that my dad drew the logo for the Chicago Bulls because it helped me relate to them, especially the ones who played basketball," she said. "And, at an alternative school, I would tell students to believe in themselves and that they could do anything they wanted to do because that was my dad's story."
Dean Wessel's obituary in the Tribune noted he first picked up a crayon when he was 2 years old and "was thrilled with art" the rest of his life.
Money, his daughter said, was never his main priority.
"The story of him doing the logo as a favor to his friend he coached Little League with and getting nothing in return was who he was," Karen Wessel said.
The logo has been a winner, appearing at or near the top of NBA logo rankings over the years.
"This thing is perfect, right down to the red tips of the horns," wrote Zach Lowe, who named the Bulls logo best in the league in a ranking for grantland.com. "Look at that glare and those flaring nostrils!"
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