I was sitting in a bar in Los Angeles last year, watching the NBA finals, and the bartender said to me: "So you're a Bulls fan, eh?"
"How did you know?" I asked.
I mean, I hadn't said one word about the Bulls.
"Oh, I don't know," he said. "Maybe it's your Bulls hat. Or your Jimmy Butler T-shirt. Or the Bulls case you got on your phone."
That's when it hit me—I've turned myself into a walking billboard for the franchise.
It's Michael Jordan's fault. He was so unbelievably great, it made me feel damn near invincible just to know I was rooting for him.
So when I wear my Bulls stuff it's like I'm saying: I wanna be invincible again!
Occasionally I scrape together enough money to actually attend a Bulls game. And I have this irrational feeling when I enter the United Center that I'm walking through a portal that takes me back in time. Suddenly it's 1974 and I'm sitting on the rocks at the lake, smoking a joint and listening to Tower of Power on my boom box.
Wait! Wrong portal.
No, it's more like 1991 and I'm in the second balcony at Chicago Stadium, screaming my lungs out as Jordan blows by Joe Dumars for a dunk and the Bulls finally get past the Pistons. You know, that portal.
I realize it's crazy to think this current team of dysfunctional misfits has anything in common with Jordan's Bulls other than the jersey.
But give me one regular-season win over Cleveland and the Jordan memories return.
If all else fails, I've got tapes of almost every playoff victory from the championship run, as well as the ensuing Grant Park celebrations.
Three of my favorite moments are . . .
Game six at Phoenix, 1993. Down two, a handful of seconds left. Jordan passes to Pippen, who passes to Grant, who passes to Paxson, who shoots for three. Bulls win!
Game five at New York, 1993. Up one, seconds left, Charles Smith under the basket. As he went up for the easy layup, the Doberman defenders swarmed.
Horace blocked a shot. Michael blocked a shot. Pippen blocked two shots. Horace scooped up the loose ball and tossed it to Michael, who threw it to BJ, who went in for a layup as the game ended and Marv Albert proclaimed: "And the Bulls have defeated the Knicks!"
Finally, the last Grant Park celebration. Six championship trophies onstage. The crowd pleading with Jerry Reinsdorf to bring the team back for another run.
Unfortunately, Reinsdorf let Phil Jackson go and hired Tim Floyd—one of the worst personnel moves in the history of sports. Jordan left, and the whole thing fell apart.
Just thinking about it's got me so bummed out I think I'll watch the closing seconds of that 1993 Knicks game for like the 500th time.
I know—you can't live in the past. But sometimes it helps to drop in for a visit. v