Concerts, jokes, parties-- there are certain events in this world classify as "You Had to Be There" times. They go beyond description. You can try and search for the fight words to describe what had happened. Being in Chicagoland during the Michael Jordan Era was certainly one of those times.
His Airness was recently inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. It seems like everywhere you turn in the sports world someone has the "Best 5 Jordan Moments" or some countdown of the greatness of the Jordan Era. All of the hullabaloo got me to take a jog down memory lane to remember how awesome the Jordan era was to be a Bulls fan in Chicago.
Jordan was drafted by the Bulls in June of '84, almost a full two years before I was born. So in all candor, I consciously caught only the last decade or so of the years during which Jordan reigned supreme. But that was enough for me. In fact, some of my earliest childhood memories came from watching and following the Bulls. I can remember watching Jordan clutch the Larry OBrien trophy, crying after the Bulls beat the Lakers in '91. I can remember my first "Wow, he's a badass" thought when I was six, when Jordan was draining threes during his 'shrugging' game against Portland in the Finals. I can also remember jumping off my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles bean bag chair in the '93 Finals, when Jordan hit Horace Grant down low, who then found John Paxson for a go-ahead three late in Game 6. There were moments like these that reinforced the term, "Jordanesque".
Show me a 12 year old who hasn't tried dunking from the free throw line' on an 8-foot hoop, and I'll show you a liar.
I also remember being totally confused about his whole retirement fiasco after the third. Can you imagine, in today's world, the world's most popular sports star retiring and un-retiring (twice)? How well would fly that over well today with the 24/7 sports news cycle? But he did come back late in the '94-95 season, I was pumped. I knew what was coming ahead: three more dominant teams, three more championships, and three more years of Jordanesque basketball. It was a great time to be growing up as a sports fan in Chicago. I was 10 when he came back (the first time).
And it wasn't just Jordan that made the Jordan Era great (or for that matter, it wasn't just Scottie Pippen or Phil Jackson either). If you go up to any Bulls fan older than 20 and bring up names like Toni Kukoc, Bill Wennington, Luc Longley, heck even Jud Buechler, they immediately put on a nostalgic smile and say something to the effect of "Aw, yeah". There was an intangible greatness to those 90's Bulls teams. They seemed invincible to the point where if they lost, it would seem like a total shock. They have Jordan, how can they lose?
Comparing Jordan to any player today seems worthless to me. I don't believe any of today's players can reach that Jordanesque level on or off the court. Its no offense to the players of today-- you can have great players. But to steal a line from Spinal Tap, great players today can be a 10 out of 10. But Jordan was an 11. I mean, it took Kobe, arguably the greatest player today, 13 years to win one championship without Shaq (who many forget during the Lakers' heyday, was the greatest force in basketball). And LeBron? I watch a lot of Cleveland games and I always look to see if I can find any MJ in LBJ. We are entering (believe it or not) Year Eight of the LeBron Era, and it still remains to be seen whether we get anything more than a glimpse of Jordanesque ability every-so-often. So when I see the NBA today and hear comparisons of Kobe or LeBron to Jordan in his prime, I have to scoff. It's hard to pin-point the exact way that Jordan just took over and dominated his games.
I guess you had to be there.