The life of a Chicago sports fan growing up in the 90s: The reason I began playing basketball

Originally Posted

For those of you who don’t know, I’m originally from the Chicagoland area.  I was born and raised a diehard Chicago fan for the 3 major sports.  I left the hospital in a Chicago Cubs onesie, born into all the heartbreak that comes with bleeding Cubbie Blue.  I was also lucky enough to be born in the same year as the Chicago Bears only Super Bowl victory, back in the days of Refrigerator Perry, Sweetness, Jim McMahon and the rest of the Shufflin’ Crew.  My family’s mood on a daily basis is directly correlated with the results from that day’s game.  Whether it be a Sunday afternoon game watching the Bears take on the Packers, a day game spent at Wrigley in the bleachers, or watching the 2 time 3-peat champion Bulls run all over teams.

There have been some good times, like when the Bulls broke the single season wins record, finishing the 95-96 season with a 72-10 record going on to win the 1st championship of their 2nd Three-Peat.  Or the bad times, like the 2003 Bartman Game when the Cubs blew their chance to take on the Yankees in the World Series, losing to the eventual champion Florida Marlins.  Note:  I do NOT blame Bartman, any fan would have done the same thing.  I blame Alex Gonzalez for booting their tailor made double-play ball in the same inning, I still have nightmares of that play to this day.  Despite all the bad times, I still put on my Ryne Sandberg jersey and wear it from April through September(since the Cubs never seem to play in October).  I still block off my calendar for every Bears game and find a way to watch it despite them never being on TV in Boston.  I still follow the Bulls in their quest for another ring lead by MVP D-Rose.  As good as the Bulls are today, my fandom can be traced back to one man and one man alone:

Mr. Michael Jeffrey Jordan, born February 17th, 1963.

Growing up watching Jordan’s Bulls play was a thing of beauty.  There were some other great players on those teams, Scottie Pippen, Steve Kerr, Bill Cartwright, Dennis Rodman, Toni Kukoc, the list goes on and on.  But no sports analyst, NBA player, executive, or coach will ever deny that Jordan was the reason the Bulls won 6 championships in 8 years.  Being a part of that as a local fan was undeniably amazing.  I still remember to this day my cousin and I arguing over who was the better basketball player and therefore got to wear their Jordan jersey during pick-up games.  I still remember negotiating my bedtime so I could finish watching Bulls games.  He had such a huge impact on my life and those of many other children and adults not only in Chicago but across the nation.

Jordan was a larger than life figure, garnering so much attention on the court from opposing teams but also off the court.  He got so many kids into basketball in the 90s that our local basketball leagues would fill-up within a few days of the sign-ups being posted.  Every kid wanted to be the next Michael Jordan, they wanted to take that game winning shot, jump from the free throw line and dunk.  Hell, we all had those hoops that you could lower and would practice that same dunk while having slam-dunk contests in our front yards.
When talking about the game from the night before most conversations would be centered around the questions:  “How many did Jordan score?” or “Did you see that dunk/fadeaway/lay-up in traffic Jordan had?”  He was a god-like figure in Chicago, omnipotent on the court.  Many events just added to that allure, the MJ Flu Game, the game winning jumper over Bryon Russel, scoring 63 points in a playoff game his rookie season, rejoining the Bulls wearing # 45, the list goes on and on.  The excitement and buzz surrounding MJ was all around mesmerizing, his legend will forever live on, especially for those of us who grew up in the Chicagoland area in the 90s.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the sole reason I ever picked up a basketball:  Michael “Air” Jordan.