With Michael Jordan’s induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame, a lot of great memories and thoughts have been flowing through my head this past weekend. Here’s a few memories:
– As a freshman at UNC, you could see talent and explosiveness. Then, as many people know, he broke the hearts of all of us Georgetown Hoyas fans with that game-winning shot in ’82. We were ready to explode onto the streets of Georgetown to celebrate the NCAA Championship, but that didn’t happen that year ’cause of #23. His flair for the dramatic was obvious.
– I’m also a Maryland Terrapin fan. Man, MJ really took it to the Terps, time after time. Who can forget that famous dunk he threw down at the end of that one blow-out victory over the Terps?
– One of my three favorite college basketball players of all-time is the legendary Len Bias (the others are Patrick Ewing and Juan Dixon). It was with great joy to watch MJ and Bias battle it out. It breaks my heart to think back to that day in ’86 when they announced that Lenny had died from cocaine overdose. MJ and Lenny would have been the two most talented NBA players for an entire decade.
– MJ was simply incredible during his first couple of years in the NBA. Wow, his offensive skills were terrific immediately. But, what made him such a great player was his desire to be the best — and to improve the weaknesses in his game during the off-seasons. He became a better shooter and defender over the years. It’s remarkable when great athletes continue to hone their skills to become better and better — versus relying on their natural abilities.
– Of course, who can forget the dunk contest? Taking off from the free throw line. I mean – it was Dr. J-esque. Simply breathtaking. Looking at the faces of the other players that were court-side tells it all. They were in awe.
– After a couple years of battling the Pistons in the play-offs, they finally overcame the hump and started winning championships. It was pure joy to watch Michael and his running mate, Scottie Pippen. What a brilliant tandem. Not many teams have won championships with the types of centers that played on the Bulls. But, then again, how many great teams ever had such a great duo?
– Dream ’92. Greatest collection of basketball talent ever assembled. Enough said.
– I was fortunate to attend a number of games at the Capital Centre when the Bullets (before they changed the name to the Wizards) played the Bulls. I saw MJ score over 50 points twice against the Bullets, including the one time when he dropped over 30 points on LaBradford Smith in the 1st half (the rumor was Smith had trash-talked him the night before during their game in Chicago).
– I also remember the last play-off series between MJ’s Bulls and the Wizards in the mid 90’s — when the Wiz had C-Webb, Juwan Howard, Rasheed Wallace, etc. They battled the Bulls well but came up short. MJ remarked that they were the up-and-coming team in the Eastern Conf. Well, that never happened.
– I was fortunate enough to meet MJ a couple of times in the owner’s suite of the Washington Capitals. MJ was always impeccably dressed — everything fit perfectly on him. And, he was terrific about looking you in the eye when shaking your hand. He also listened and looked you directly in the eye when speaking. Obviously, he also has terrific business skills. Plus, there’s simply an aura around him when you’re in his presence. The looks on the faces of people that meet him is quite something to witness.
– I remember vividly the NBA All-Star Game in SF when MJ walked to his seats with Ted Leonsis and his family. The fans greeted him great applause as he went to his seats — total rock-star treatment. That was also the year that the documentary about him was released.
– Some people were bummed that MJ decided to come back and play for the Wizards for those two years. But, for DC fans, it was a pure joy and honor. Yes, he may have been the electric player he once was, but it was still a great joy to watch him play in front of sold-out arenas for those two years.
Well, he’s now deservedly in the Basketball Hall of Fame. The greatest player ever. One of the greatest sports champions ever. A global icon. A marketing machine. I thought his acceptance speech was terrific — it clearly showed the fire and desire that drove him constantly. We were lucky to witness seeing one of the all-time greats play — and to do it the right way. He has indeed created lifetime memories for us. Congrats, Michael.