I thought I would just write a little thing on what it was like to be in Chicago during the MJ glory days:
Really, those days all seem like a dream now as it was something that came out of nowhere like a comet and left almost as quickly. While us Chicagoans were in it, I think most of us knew that what we were seeing was once in a lifetime, and much more than that. It was almost as if it was known that every moment had to be savored, as they would be gone and nothing would ever come along to rival just how special it was.
I've known, heard, or read about the '20's Yankees, '60's Celtics, '50's Canadiens, '80's Niners, Lakers, or Celts; they were all GREAT, don't get me wrong. But I wouldn't trade for any of them in return for growing up with MJ and going through everything with him. It was truly so special, that everything in sports in SO anticlimactic for me and most of my friends now. I mean I can get excited at a game, dunk, touchdown, etc., but NEVER like how it was. In Chicago, we had IT. If I could choose one era in sports to have ever been around, it would be MJ's era. It is IT to me, as far as coolness and greatness and sheer wonder is concerned in sports.
Hate to think like that because I really believe in living in the present, and looking to the future, not dwelling on the past. But those MJ glory days are the one thing in life that were so amazing, everything now seems drab in comparison.
I think I probably caught his career arc at just the perfect time IMO, as when he was a rookie I was in 6th grade, and just REALLY getting into sports. I had been a Bird/Celtics fan before that, but when Mike came it was like some phantom from another universe. It was like he came from the future, because nobody moved, jumped, body controlled, was violently aggressive, like he was. He was truly a symphony. To this day, still nobody comes close to his incredible grace that I've seen.
I fought against his greatness for longer than I should have, but the 63 point game in the Garden was more than enough to witness and believe what Larry Legend referred to as GOD. I mean, he was playing in the mid-late '80's before Pippen and Grant, with Kyle Macy, Elston Turner, etc.. He had Oakley, and his rooking year O Woolridge, etc.,,but Kevin Loughery gave him the ball and said do whatever you like, and it was this one person storm against some of the greatest teams ever. He usually lost, but his effort was just otherworldly. Those on this board who are too young to remember that Mike really unfortunately missed out. It was to me the greatest spectacle I could ever imagine. Not just night after night, but PLAY AFTER PLAY was just incredible.
As he got further into his career, I saw the city make a transformation. It had always been a Bears town (especially after the '85 Bears), but now it had become Mike's town. I remembered EVERYONE came home to watch games. My Mom who had never watched a game in here life, would sit and scream at the TV at Cartwright, King, Longley, and whoever else she thought sucked or didn't hustle. I worked as a Pizza delivery guy in High School, and the only minutes I ever missed of games was because I hadn't gotten off work yet, because EVERYONE was ordering food out, and I was making a killing.
: And this was for REGULAR SEASON games.
Everywhere you went, the Bulls had restaurants, did interviews, stuff was on buildings; I remember MJ's postgame press conferences. It was like watching the President. He would come out in these huge shouldered suits, with his hands crossed, and you would hang on his every word. When he cracked up, you cracked up. When he got serious, you got serious. Looking back it is insane to think about as I now watch Luol Deng and Ben Gordon.
A lot things made MJ stand out; his combination of the physical and mental. Bob Costas said it best I think; saying 'it's impossible to overrate him, as when has there ever been another player who is physically and mentally unmatched." I mean Mike was like a Master Ninja truly. The Pistons had alot to do in making him that way. By the time he broke thorugh in '91 he had lost 1/2 step, but he was so nails mentally, it was crazy.
You would be watching a game and say, it's Mikes time, and you alway knew he'd come through. He'd just put on the cape, and bam, the W was in the bag.
One of the things that seperates him from a guy like Kobe Bryant (who I think is SPECTACULAR) is the size of Mike's hands. He was able to get so much more control and versatility than anyone (like Dr. J before him). When I watch Kobe I see some similar things to Mike, but just in very slow motion and I seems like such a struggle to him comparatively, whereas Mike so many more physical gifts; but especially the hand size. It has really hurt Kobe as there are just a lot plays Mike could make that Kobe just can't.
Lebron is GREAT as well, but I just don't see him ever having the magic of an MJ. Maybe he'll prove me wrong. But he has a LONG way to go, and quite frankly I just don't see it.
You see, MJ has some of the best stats ever, but he was SO MUCH more than the stats. What he had was a PRESENCE over a game. I saw Bird and Magic at their best and they are the 2nd and 3rd best I have seen; but even they will tell you Mike was definitely the best. To me, in addition to his physical gifts it was this presence that makes him unlike any athlete I have ever seen.
Ali had a similar presence; I would imagine Ruth probably did too, etc.,,but NBA basketball is built for the fans to see the athletes perform.
Fottball players only play 1/2 the game 16 times a year. Baseball players are so much less involved comparatively.
Ali performed on TV less times in his career than MJ did in one season.
That is what made MJ so easy to admire as an athlete, and NBA players in general. They are CENTER stage, there is no hiding. They are playing against the best athletes in the world. And going back and forth 82 times a year.
In Chicago, we would watch all those games with MJ during the regular season, and every game was an event. Denver in December; event. New Jeresey in March; event. Texas Triangle; event. You'd be calling your friends during games, while telling your other friends to keep it down. You'd tape all the games, you'd imitate Jordan speech patterns, you'd say "sure" and "certainly" just like he always did.
The Bulls circus reached crescendo in 96-98. When Rodman got there, he just added another element to the madness and they were EVERYWHERE. Every newscast Rodman was spotted at this club, Pippen here, MJ there. I maintain the first title teams would have beaten the second, for one reason. Younger Mike would have killed on older Mike. But the second title team was just crazy popular. I sure they were big everywhere, but the hurricance in the city was just wild.
When Mike retired the first time, it was like somebody pulled your skeleton out of your body and stepped on your heart. I remember TNT did this special in honor of him. It was really bittersweet. My favorite comment was by Bobby Knight (who I'm not a fan of). He said, "I don't think Michael Jordan is just the greatest basketball player ever, I think he is the greatest player to ever play anything."
I agree; in fact I'll take it a step further. He is the greatest artist I have ever seen. The Beatles were great, Led Zepellin, Ali, Brando, Sinatra all great. But he was IT to me. He was like a great Jazz improviser, when he went up in the air, you had NO idea what was gonna happen. You saw him driving down the lane and thought, "Here it comes", but you didn't know what. You just knew it would be special.
I think he has had more of an effect not just on the NBA, but on all sports than most people realize. Before him, sports looked so much different. Players in all games moved different. Looked different. Now they all do the quick hesitations, the creative leaps, wear the longer shorts, pay attention to their shoes. Like all great artists, Mike was incredibly influential, even if alot of players took just the jumping and flash of his game, and not the fundamentals or mental.
When he retired the second time, it was more like a subdued pain. I just hated Reinsdorf/Krause because they were fools who didn't know what they had. I remember when Reinsdorf said no player was worth the 30 mill. MJ was making. Sorry, MJ was worth 10 times that. And for all the memories and great times he gave 1 million times that.
I wish he never did the Washington thing. But hey it was his life, and he still gave a thrill every now and then. But it was like watching a Mozart symphony played by a 6th grade orchestra.
I prefer to remember him at his peak, just before the titles, doing stuff like going in a dropping 59 on the Pistons at the Silverdome on 21-27 and the two years after that, ridiculous plays where you think he was stopped cold and then would come out the other side, and players would just shkae their heads. He had SO much more explosion and energy than any player I've ever seen. Not just by a little bit either, but by leaps and bounds.
He would just pull off miracles, play after play...I could go on forever...
But it was truly the event of a lifetime. I'm talking almost every game back then.
Scratch that, on almost every play.
I miss it; but am just so thankful for it, all I can do is look back and celebrate his greatness.