Think about how lucky you are, if you lived in Chicago or a suburb of it, and were born before say 1988. You got to see arguably the greatest basketball team over the stretch of nearly a decade. Probably 97% of the country today, regardless of where you live now, cannot say that. Isn’t that neat?! What was unknowing to me in grade school and high school during these times, was how much the rest of the country probably could not stand the Bulls, much like the Patriots today. Nonetheless, that concept is totally out of your orbit at that age? Everyone like’s Michael right? Gatorade. McDonald’s! “Ya better eat your Wheaties, damnit!” Surprisingly, I’m gonna go out on a ledge and say America liked charming Michael, but couldn’t stand the Bulls.
Here’s why we like things
Your first elementary aged memories, whether it for music or sports, or art, or whatever shapes the fringes of your personality. I like the Cubs because they were on WGN when I was 8 and 9. I love Notre Dame for some reason, probably related to Rudy around circa 1993, boom, that’s all she wrote. Look at Cowboys fans if you have to. About 30% of elder millennial’s are obsessed with them still because those guys were great when those same kids were like…10. Weird right? It’s the same with Packers blowing up in the 90’s. If you’re 30-45 years old, Brett Favre is your hero. Some kid in high school in Boston doesn’t know any different that the Patriots basically owned the 2000’s.
But I was just young enough to miss some important sports/social aspects. I remember the Dream Team, but not what a massive worldwide sensation they were. I was a shade too young to really understand the ethos of Duke and why people still hate Christian Laettner. I remember kids talking about the Fab Five, but I never watched them on TV. Hell, if I was 11 instead of 5 when Bo Jackson ran over Brian Bosworth, how great would that have been? If only there was someway to chronicle all of these important sports (and societal related) events that happened over a course of time…
“What if I told you……”
But guess what? All is saved, because around 2010, ESPN started making 30 for 30 documentaries, and I watch the hell outta those. I’m sure everyone has their top 5 they watch over and over again. They have amazing footage, great social commentary, getting into racial topics, socioeconomic divide, really such a reflection of America. I think you should spend 5 bucks and get the ESPN app on your Roku or whatnot. (No, I wasn’t paid to say that.) What is so unique is that you have these solid but rough memories, and these docs go right deep with precision and detail every fine point, almost re-sculpting your memory. Well this 10 part series for the Bulls, is like a massive 30 for 30. It’s gonna get in there (yeah yeah!), with the nitty gritty and your long term memory is gonna be like, wait, did that happen?
“I love this game!”
Jordan and the Bulls’ popularity goes hand in hand with the league at the time. The culture that was the NBA took America by storm at the turn of the decade. Football hadn’t exploded into the 24/7 news vulture cycle, and yeah it was popular, but shit, it wasn’t the NBA. We love that the 90’s with NBA Inside stuff, NBA jerseys were a thing you could wear, Shaq was cool when you could understand what he said, Barkley was a loudmouth, Shawn Kemp dunked on people then got really fat and had 9 kids, and Larry Johnson was really “Grand mama”. Even hip hop was becoming a bigger influence, but it wasn’t quite gangster rap yet, but that coming right down the chute.
How Times Change
That first three peat happened for me from 3rd to 5th grade. I didn’t know Jordan was racking up MVP’s, except in ’93 when Barkley stole it, so Jordan proceeded to drop 41.3 a game on him in the ’93 Finals, but I digress. The Lakers of the 80’s finally aged out, and though the Pistons weren’t creaky yet, the Bulls as a team were too damn good. The league had so many up and coming players that similar to today. It was flush with superstars like David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Dominque Wilkins, you name it. The league hadn’t turned into an iso ground it out nightmare it became in the late 90s and 2000’s….yet.
I made an earlier piece on this site about his comeback, and seemingly the league had changed overnight in just 2-3 years. A lot of those previous superstars were hitting their 30’s, and bigger names at the time didn’t carry the same cache’. Pundits say the league was a bit watered down compared to earlier in the decade, and I don’t disagree. Were the Indiana Pacers and Utah Jazz comparable to slaying the ’86 Celtics? No, not exactly, but they were still pretty damn good. Did I know watching an 87-85 slug fest against the Cavs and those garish black and baby blue uniforms was “pure basketball?” Maybe, in my mind I do.
Like Chappelle’s Show said….”Wrap it up!”
There is so much else to the Bulls that the 10-part series will cover that I will actually bullet point this out like a power point that we just could have had in an E-mail instead:
-How Jerry Krause cleverly built that team, but had such an abrasive personality, that no one liked him. Weird.
-Why only Phil Jackson could coach them because apparently only he could be responsible for all those egos.
-How amazing Scottie Pippen was (I got his jersey for Christmas, not Jordan, because I felt he was underappreciated. It was the black one too).
-How goddamn famous Michael Jordan was, and thanks in part to the Dream Team, the whole world was obsessed. He was arguably the most famous person on the planet at one point.
-The focus and the grind of that team to go night in and night out for three straight years and run rampant during the second three peat. Their intimidation factor on a nightly basis was almost an outlier.
-Lastly, if you didn’t know Jordan was secretly bordering on if not was a full blown sociopath, then man, you’re in for a treat!