One of our youngest baby boomers turns 50 Sunday and I hear he’s not taking it well. Seems superstar Michael Jordan’s camp is cracking the AARP jokes and M.J. is not having it. ESPN Sports writer, Wright Thompson, said the conversation is going a little like this, “Hey Mike have you heard of AARP?” Mike’s response, “No. Have you heard of pink slips?”
It is only fitting that I, as an older Baby Boomer, stop to pay tribute to His Airness, Michael Jordan, for what he did for the city of Chicago and for basketball.
Of course I was a Chicago Bulls fan long before Jordan. I worshipped at the alter of Norm Van Lier, Chet Walker, Bob Love, and Tom Boerwinkle. The Bulls had never been world champions or even contenders, but they had swagger.
Then, in the summer of 1984, after Hakeem Olajuwon and Sam Bowie (who?) had been selected numbers one and two, the Bulls received the third draft pick and they selected shooting guard, Michael Jordan. New owner, Jerry Reinsdorf and new general manager, Jerry Krause, came on that year and they decided to rebuild the organization and restructure it around Michael Jordan. They weren’t disappointed for Jordan was named Rookie of the Year that first season.
For much of Jordan’s early years, he wasn’t surrounded by the right players, and in his second season, Jordan suffered a broken foot. Still he returned to compete in the 1985 playoffs against doctors’ orders. The Bulls were up against the Boston Celtics, led by Larry Bird, and with a healing foot, Jordan scored 63 points in that game. The record still stands as a single-game record, today. This prompted Larry Bird to call him “God disguised as Michael Jordan”.
Jordan continued to amass records, recognition, and popularity, and in 1987 he was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player. By the 1989-90 season, Michael Jordan led the league in scoring for the fourth straight year, but he still had no ring. This was the year, however, that the Bulls acquired Coach Phil Jackson as a replacement for Doug Collins. Now they had Stacey King and B. J. Armstrong joining Scottie Pippin, Bill Cartwright, Craig Hodges, and John Paxson to give His Airness the supporting cast he needed.
It took some time for this new mix to gel, but by the 1990-91 season, they had racked up a franchise record of 61 wins, and swept their arch-rivals and NBA champions, the Detroit Pistons in the Conference Finals.
Jordan’s first ring came in 1991 in five straight wins over Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers. Jordan also scored his fifth straight scoring title. The Chicago Bulls, led by Michael Jordan, was the first team since the 60’s Boston Celtics to win three championship games in a row.
Michael shocked the world in 1993 when he retired from basketball to play baseball for the Birmingham Barons, an affiliate of the Chicago White Sox.
Again the team transitioned trying to rebuild without Michael Jordan. The task was up to Scottie Pippin but he had also lost Horace Grant, Bill Cartwright, and John Paxson. By 1995 Jordan was back and the Bulls had acquired their Detroit nemesis, bad boy, Dennis Rodman. Jordan, Pippin, and Rodman, joined by Randy Brown, Ron Harper, Kerr, Kukoc and Longley went on to a second three-peat.
Many have written about MJ’s attitude, referring to the teams as “Jordan and the Jordanaires”, but in a public survey, the public was asked to choose three people they’d like most to meet. Their responses were Jordan, Oprah, and Jesus! Michael Jordan is the only retired player in 2013 to still gross 80 million dollars thanks to his deals with Nike, Gatorade, Hanes, and other venues.
During the years that I commuted down Madison Street every morning, driving past the statue and the United Center (The House that Michael Built) I didn’t really appreciate the history or the significance of what I was ignoring. It wasn’t until I discovered how many visitors to this country, this state, and this city included The United Center amongst the places they have to see.