Archive 75

Michael Jordan

By Shaun Powell·

Scientists and historians will always be curious about the origin of Air. How was it created? Where did it come from? And why did so many humans, in hindsight, crave and demand it? Well, truth is, Air can be traced to Chicago. That’s where arguably the greatest basketball player -- and perhaps the greatest athlete, period -- was launched.

Michael Jordan first soared through the NBA at Chicago Stadium in October 1984, when he made his rookie debut and then returned to Chicago a few nights later following a road pit stop in Milwaukee. What you will witness in this opening week is history, when Air had hair, when there was a noticeable stir in the building, when the NBA abruptly changed, and when the glee in the voices of the TV announcers indicated that this was the beginning of something truly special.

 

After quickly convincing the basketball populace of Second City that he was indeed a star in the making, Jordan was greeted with high expectations and curiosity in his first trip to New York, the Mecca of basketball. Here’s the thing about Madison Square Garden: The fans are for the Knicks. But they’re basketball fans, too, and they appreciate and respect talent in any uniform. And Jordan didn’t disappoint. He won over the sophisticated and demanding crowd in a matter of minutes, first during warmups, then with a 33-point game, and finally in the postgame interview.

Somewhere between Cleveland and Akron sits a sparse and vacant field. There is nothing especially distinctive about it, and if you didn’t know the history, you could mistake it for just another plot of land in the middle of nowhere. And yet: It once was the site of the Richfield Coliseum, the former home of the Cavaliers and also the personal playground of Michael Jordan. This is where he scored a career-high 69 points and enjoyed many other memorable nights against the Cavs, a team he punished and spooked to no end.

Amazingly, the empty field doesn’t have a single marker about its previous life. Maybe, if you sift through the weeds, you’ll find pieces of broken hearts, scattered by Jordan.

Is it possible to say Jordan was … underrated?

Perhaps. That’s because his scoring managed to conceal and overshadow his tenacious defense. Jordan was a tremendous defender on and off the ball, able to close the passing lanes, sneak in for a blindside block, and make a defensive play that triggered fast breaks and transitional baskets.

He won a Defensive Player of the Year award and was named first team All-Defense nine times. Jordan took plenty of pride on that end of the court, and it showed, more than many realized. And as Jordan himself explains in this video, his goal on defense was to break down the opposing team, physically and mentally.

He never left, did he? When Michael Jordan used two words that shook the sports world -- “I’m back” -- the euphoria was thick and loud. After a brief hiatus on the baseball diamond, Jordan returned to the Bulls and to basketball with a new number -- 45 -- and an old desire to be the best. Other than a small detection of rust, it was as if Jordan had merely taken a few days off. It culminated when the player wearing 45 delivered another number, heretofore known in history as the double-nickel.

 

Spin moves, dunks, glides, layups, jumpers. Jordan was at his best when he improvised, when he executed moves and plays seldom seen before, when he didn’t even know himself what he was about to do.

This only made him the biggest entertainment force in basketball, and even better, Jordan didn’t reserve his best for a particular team or city. Anyone who attended a game where Jordan played or turned the channel to the Bulls had an equal opportunity to witness the spectacular.

The greats accept the burden that comes with being great and deliver on a nightly basis. Therefore: A Jordan highlight package? We’ve got you covered.

Jordan’s reign over the NBA was significant and massive. He took the popularity of the game to the next level and influenced the next generation of stars. It was not a stretch to suggest he was the Babe Ruth of his time, an athlete whose fame and brand went beyond his sport, to the point where Jordan became one of the world’s most recognizable people. It all stemmed from winning, of course, but also how he won. Jordan lifted trophies, lifted a league, lifted a sport, and lifted the imagination of those who witnessed him.