When I hit junior high, I got obsessed with sports because that’s what awkward kids with no athletic talent do at age 12. I even made pretend news articles, and printed them out for nobody in particular. One of them ended with, “He is now back” sitting all by itself at the bottom of the page, like Jack Torrance’s empty typewriter in “The Shining.” (Hey look! A reference about how we are all secluded and losing our minds.)
Let’s jump into the Delorean
That day was March 19th 1995, and that player was Michael Jordan, returning from his nearly two yearlong exile from pro basketball for illicit sports gambling. Ope! I MEAN…”to play baseball”. Yeah, that’s the ticket! The Comcast SportsNet or NBC Sports or whatever the hell it is now, dug out some very dope and very fresh archival footage the other night, and of course, I’m on that old stuff like a sound cloud rapper is to a trash can. This old footage is a literal time warp, and I have vivid memories of all of the news broadcasts, and water cooler gossip, because of course, every school room had a water cooler.
The question begs though, how would have Jordan’s comeback gone down in 2020 from a media perspective? We all would have known months ahead of time, but in 1995, you couldn’t do Hardy Boys esque sleuth work on your own, actual reporters whose job it was to disseminate such info, did that for you. You just had to wait…and wait…and wait some more! Now you just need Adam Schefter to be like “my sources say”, off goes the Twitter to blow itself up.
Here’s another good analogy. I was super into the WWF era circa 1997-1999 and now apparently, there’s an app for 10 dollars a month that has every, episode, ever. One show I’ve been watching is Monday Night Wars, and the show discusses how back in 1996, both of WWF’s two biggest stars jumped to WCW, but the fans had no idea about why it was happening. It created immense ratings for WCW through sheer curiosity. Jordan coming back and the media circus it created, is almost akin to this, because BECAUSE THE INTERNET COULDN’T RUIN IT. Now today, the average fan would be like…”um actuallyyyy, both of Kevin Nash and Scott Hall’s contracts expired 6 days apart, uh, per se”
Anyway, back to March 1995. Jordan would show up to practice or whatever venue at the time, and news journalists and camera guys by the dozens would be waiting outside the practice arena. The main protagonist in all of this was NBC News anchor Marc Giangreco, who to my knowledge still looks 30 years old. He would somehow be the one to get to Jordan first, among the others, with the standard lines such as, “Michael, can you tell us anything!? Why are you here!?” The best part is Michael would just jack with everyone, shut his windows on them, and laugh. If I were the most famous person on the planet at the time, I would do the same thing.
Gee. I hope he isn’t rusty or anything like that
Think about Jordan’s attitude right there for second. According to the program, apparently Jordan started working out like two weeks before joining the Bulls. To quote my man Dr. Evil…..”Riiiiight”. Former All-Star and Chicago Native Tim Hardaway mentioned on the Comcast/NBC Sports episode how Jordan asked if he could work out with the Warriors when Hardaway played for them. this was around February or so, and Hardaway said Jordan absolutely annihilated them. So obviously, the GOAT was working out for weeks, if not months ahead of time, or at least until David Stern let him come back.
SIDE NOTE: This is an old conspiracy theory from basketball historian/sports media luminary Bill Simmons of ESPN. (It’s not like I’m trying to emulate him or anything, even though blogs are so 2013 because people have the attention span of gnats.) I’m just spreading more of the Jordan forced retirement conspiracy around, because much like “those in the know”, I get MY news from unsubstantiated and little known websites, because they KNOW what’s goin’ on. (Do I though?)
The triumphant return!
So Jordan comes back that day in the awkward #45 jersey to play the Indiana Pacers at Market Square Arena, and obviously, he’s totally rusty from not touching a basketball for 17 months. Cue up that NBA on NBC in your mind and let the music fade. Now, you see a blimp shot of the arena, and Bob Costas would blather on in the opening monologue about what legendary legendness was happening. Meanwhile, they couldn’t get Marv Albert for the game, because he was possibly biting a woman in a hotel room somewhere. “YESSSS!!!” (Use the Google. It’s fun.)
I remember this day because I attempted to VHS tape the game, but my parents had no interest in sports, so I recall we were like a Sears, or Montgomery Ward of some sorts, and I watched part of the game in the TV area, with like 18 different sized TV’s with other random onlookers. Anywho, the Pacers had Cheryl Miller’s brother Reggie, seemingly 19 different Davis brothers, Dutchboy in the paint Rik Smits, and they would vanquish the Bulls that day. It wouldn’t matter that year at least. The up and coming Magic knocked out the Bulls in the 95 semi finals and zipped to the Finals against Hakeem’s Rockets. Nick Anderson missed those free throws, Shaq left, Penny blew out his knee, and now the Magic have the like the 7th best 30 for 30 ever. As for the Bulls, they won some more games in the next few seasons. Just a couple.