- Nick Friedell, Chicago Bulls beat reporter
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CHICAGO -- Carlos Boozer still remembers the knock on his door that set the craziest summer of his basketball life into motion.
"I was in L.A. meeting with [Miami Heat president Pat Riley]," Boozer recalled recently. "I think it had to be like midnight Eastern time or whatever that day, so it was like 9 West Coast time or something. I was going to have dinner with [the Heat], and right at 9 o'clock at night, a dude knocks on my door and I'm like, 'What's poppin'?'"
That dude at Boozer's doorstep was Bulls senior director of game operations Jeff Wohlschlaeger. He presented to Boozer the newest and most cutting-edge recruitment tool that the Bulls, and several other NBA teams, had used: a decked-out iPad with a personalized app for the newly minted free agent, detailing how he would fit in with the Bulls if he would sign.
"He gave me a briefcase," Boozer said. "I pop open the briefcase, and it's an iPad with an intro to the team and the players that they had. The history, showing the championships that they had won in the past. Showing how good we can be if I came."
Boozer was impressed.
"On the briefcase, there was a big Bulls logo," Boozer said. "It was like a titanium briefcase, and you opened it up and it had the iPad sitting there, and it had a big picture of me in a Bulls uniform."
The Bulls' gift, and the timing of it, left a lasting impact on the sought-after power forward.
"It was good because I was planning on meeting them the next day, the second day, to come here to Chicago," Boozer said. "And they wanted to make an impression the first day. It was cool."
The Bulls worked with Silver Chalice, a Chicago-based company, to coordinate the specialized apps for each of the free agents they targeted during the summer. According to the company's website, it "specializes in building a digital strategy from scratch and bringing top-tier execution capabilities into the mix."
Silver Chalice, which is backed by another Jerry Reinsdorf-owned team, the White Sox, reached out to a Chicago-based company called The Material Group to create individualized iPad apps for players the Bulls coveted. Besides Boozer, the team created apps for LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Joe Johnson.
"It was the latest and the greatest in terms of technology and sizzle and cool," Bulls executive vice president of business operations Steve Schanwald said.
Each iPad app was filled with videos and history about the franchise. Prospective free agents could skim through a host of different areas and view profiles about a number of topics related to the team, the city and how they could grow their own individual brand. There were interviews with Bulls general manager Gar Forman and profiles on the players whom Boozer and the other free agents might play with.
Boozer said the presentation made an impact on him.
"It was the kickoff to free agency, so it was pretty dope," he said. "I enjoyed watching it. I watched every aspect of it."
Boozer wound up having a stack full of iPads by the end of free agency.
"All the teams ended up doing the same thing," he said. "I got them from every free-agent team. I think all the top guys probably got that. But for me, that was the first one, so I was excited about that. It was the first one I saw. And then a lot followed after that."
Boozer ended up signing with the Bulls about a week later, and now he's one of the leaders of a team that sits atop the Eastern Conference. For Schanwald and the rest of the Bulls personnel, they couldn't be happier with the way things turned out. A lot of time, effort and money went into the planning and execution of the most grandiose free-agent spree of all time. They know how important technology has become in all of this, and Schanwald said the Bulls wouldn't hesitate to use the iPad apps again.
"The last time we went through this, the free-agent presentations were all printed in books," Schanwald said. "The books were creatively done, but nothing like this. So technology has become very important as players have become more and more tech-savvy, and it reflects positively on the organization to be as cutting edge as possible."
The entire recruitment process reminded Boozer of what he went through coming out of high school before making his college choice of Duke.
"One hundred percent just like college," he said. "One hundred percent. It was one of them crazy buildups [to the process] because of who was a free agent, all the free agents that we had, so the notoriety was way bigger than college, but it was awesome. It was a great experience."
A great experience that began with a knock on his door he will never forget.
"I still have it," Boozer said of the specialized Bulls iPad. "I have it at my crib here in Chicago. I still have the briefcase and everything."
Now he's just looking for a championship ring to go with it.
Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.
The Chicago Bulls went high-tech in their free-agent recruitment this past summer, handing out personalized iPads to the elite players in the class.