Just like last year when the Bears visited Wrigley Field, coach Matt Eberflus cancelled the final OTA practice of the offseason Thursday in lieu of a team-bonding event.
This time, players, coaches and staff rode five buses to the United Center, home of the Chicago Bulls and Chicago Blackhawks.
"It's the 10th OTA," Eberflus said. "We bypassed that to come to a team function and to me it's invaluable to do it. We've had great participation this offseason, and we made some big strides in the relationship category.
"Last year we went to Wrigley Field, and we loved the experience. This year I wanted to do a basketball format."
Upon arriving at United Center, the Bears watched a hype video on the video board and then split into 10 teams—all named after a Bears legend. The teams then competed in six events: trivia, shoot the puck, hot shot, knock out, free throws and three-point shooting.
Team Walter Payton won the competition with 122 points, clinching the title when cornerback Jaylon Johnson scored 11 points in the three-point contest. Johnson needed six points to tie for the team championship and seven to win it.
"I wasn't worried about that," Johnson said. "I was trying to hit as many as I could. I was trying to win the three-point contest. Honestly, it started off a little scary, but I caught fire a little bit."
Other members of the winning team were offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, tackle Larry Borom, receiver Thyrick Pitts, tight end Jake Tonges, linebacker DeMarquis Gates, safety Kendall Williamson, long-snapper Patrick Scales, head athletic trainer Andre Tucker, assistant defensive backs coach David Overstreet II and coaching assistant Kenny Norton III.
"Luke Getsy was carrying us for a lot of the shooting games, but a lot of guys played solid," Johnson said. "We killed it in trivia. In the hockey puck, we killed it as well. Overall, we had a really good team performance."
One member from each team participated in the three-point contest, with the top two scorers—receiver Nsimba Webster (18) and punter Ryan Anderson (15)—advancing to the final. Webster and Anderson both tallied 11 points, forcing a tiebreaker consisting of three three-pointers from the top of the key. After Webster made one, Anderson hit his first two shots to claim the crown.
He said his confidence "was a lot higher until I took the first shot."
"It's a little bit different when the lights are dimmed," said Anderson, who won a game of rock, paper, scissors with running back D'Onta Foreman for the chance to represent Team Mike Ditka in the three-point shooting contest.
The Bulls and Blackhawks presented customized No. 23 jerseys to Bears chairman George H. McCaskey, president and CEO Kevin Warren, general manager Ryan Poles and Eberflus.
In terms of building camaraderie, Thursday's event was similar to the half dozen or so "skull sessions" the Bears have held at Halas Hall throughout the offseason program.
"The offseason for me and the coaches and the players is all about building relationships," Eberflus said. "That's why we've had these 30-minute sessions where we would intermix the groups—offense, defense and special teams—and we'd talk to each other, not about football but about life and experiences.
"It's really just getting to know each other, past the 'this is my name, this is where I'm from.' It's a deeper conversation. We really put it in three buckets: it's 'tell me about your hero, tell me about your hardship and tell me about a highlight.'
"There were a lot of great stories, what they learned from their experiences in life and in the NFL. It's invaluable to build relationships in the building, but more importantly outside the building. We're just looking for a deeper, richer environment to grow those relationships."
Bears players and coaches headed to the United Center for a team bonding event which included trivia, shoot the puck, hot shot, knock out, free throws and three-point shooting.