Volume 3, Number 7
Let me begin by saying that if Michael Jordan doesn't retire after this season, I'm going to kill him myself.
Ok, so maybe that's a bit harsh. I know, I know, Michael Jordan (or Mike, as he has become known) is a rare and unique talent and we should cherish every moment we have left to bask in the glory of his talent blah, blah, blah.
Truly the man is gifted and, certainly we may never see another player like him and, undoubtedly his absence will be sorely felt when finally he departs the league (or shuffles off this mortal coil altogether, if need be), no one can dispute this. But enough is enough already! In the past eight years the man has won six NBA Championships, missing out only during the two seasons he sacrificed to the Baseball Gods. He has won two Olympic gold medals. He has either won or been robbed of every League MVP award this decade. He has won everything from scoring titles to slam dunk competitions. He has won MVP awards for regular season play, Championship Series play, and the NBA All-Star team. He is Wayne Gretzky. He is Joe Montana. He is Babe Ruth. And most recently, at an age when most men consider golf an aerobic activity and most athletes are clinging to their jobs by reputation and sentimentality, resting on the laurels of their previous accomplishments, Mike went out and actually managed to overshadow everything he had ever done in his career to date.
Playing on the road, against a desperate and very talented veteran team, in a game with Championship implications, Mike and the Bulls found themselves against the wall. Scottie Pippen was hurt, Dennis Rodman was ineffective, Tony Kukoc was nowhere to be found, and Karl Malone was going to town. Thus, for most of the first half and virtually all of the second Mike was unable to come off the floor. Without Pippen the Bulls vaunted "Triangle Offense" became "Just Get The Ball To Mike". Utah smelled blood and did everything in their power to exploit it, using Hornacek, Stockton, and Eisley to drive on Mike in the hope that they could make him leg-weary and less effective in the fourth quarter. For a time it appeared to work, Jordan began to struggle at the free throw line and his jumpers started to bang harmlessly off the front of the rim. Utah, it seemed, was on their way to a victory which would force a game seven on their home court against an aging, injured, leg-weary team.
Then, with Utah only 30 seconds from victory, Mike simply said "No". Just four seconds after Stockton had hit a three pointer to put the Jazz up by three, Mike knifed through the lane and cut the lead back to a point with 28.1 seconds remaining. A huge factor considering it meant the shot clock would still be a factor and Chicago would not have to foul. Then Mike struck again, stripping the ball from Karl Malone's hands in the low post and gobbling up the turnover. As the clock slowly ground down, every fan in the Delta Center, every fan watching on TV seemed to sense that it was over. Mike had the ball in his hands with under 10 seconds to play and the game on the line. Before the defender even slipped, before Mike pulled up, and before he calmly sank the 18-footer, everyone in the world, I think, knew deep down that it was a done deal.
If there were ever a doubt in anyone's mind as to Mike's standing among the all-time greats of the sport, (and really, I don't think there ever was), this 30 seconds silenced all arguments. All hail Mike, the greatest basketball player who ever lived.
That being said, of course, I would like to once again state for the record that I am sick to my stomach of the guy. Like most sports fans in America, I tend to pull for the underdog and quickly grow weary of seeing the same faces hoisting trophies and smoking cigars year after year. This is why teams like the Yankees, Cowboys, Lakers, and Celtics of old are as likely to be hated as loved by the average fan. Likewise, today's perennial winners like the Braves, Bulls, and Niners are rapidly cultivating animosity among the populace. Winning is good, winning is wonderful, but these teams win all the F*ing time! After a while it just becomes pointless. If, by some miracle the Bulls were to keep their winning formula of Pippen, Mike, and Any Ten Stiffs You Like together for another season, I have no doubt that they would find a way to win a fourth consecutive title, particularly in the talent-diluted, fresh-from-high school, gangsta-game NBA of today. (Sure I'm bitter, but that don't make it any less true.)
So enough, Mike. You win. I, and the rest of the non-Chicago Bulls fans concede that, so long as you continue to play, you will continue to win titles. So why not just walk away now, and let someone else win for a change.
And no one has to get hurt.