For the first-ever Clocker Sports roundtable, the guys keep it local and talk the state of the four major sports in Chicago. From the Cubs and Sox hot start, the Bulls and Bears at crossroads, and the Blackhawks making one last push. Be sure to join us every Thursday @ 9p CST to be a part of the show!
There are actual, real-life NBA games taking place today. They’re scrimmages but, at this point, who even cares? When the NBA scrimmages begin, it will mark the first NBA-sanctioned on-court action since March 11; more than four months ago. While these games are just the ramp-up to the ones that count, their significance is no less important.
Actual Live Basketball is Returning
The Morale of the Story
A return of sports in America has been pushed by a great number of people and for many different reasons. Some of those reasons are valid and just while others, not so much. The only thing that has been consistent is the inconsistency. But no one argues against the impact sports have on the overall morale of the country.
In fact, that has been an argument against re-starting for some. They fear sports will serve as a distraction from what they say ails the country. If people can escape into yelling at their favorite sportsball team, they won’t concern themselves with the plight of others. Conversely, the argument has been made (and flexed by several NBA players) that both can be accomplished.
We have already seen the likes of Jerami Grant, Tobias Harris, CJ McCollum, and Josh Hart use their media availability to seek justice for Breonna Taylor and Pamela Turner. The latter was what Hart desired to put on his jersey but can’t due to the NBA creating a list of approved messages.
The imminent return of the NBA has even put that PR flub in the rearview. No one is even talking about how players, including LeBron James, aired their frustrations with the list and the lack of inclusion in the process to come up with it. Instead, aided by the aforementioned players taking it upon themselves, the focus has been on the court and who will or won’t be playing when things tip-off.
For those keeping track, Marvin Bagley won’t, Victor Oladipo might. Regardless, starting with Wednesday’s four-game slate, all of the focus will be on the NBA. Major League Baseball has already begun their season, but the NBA is already the bigger spectacle under normal circumstances. The bubble just puts them that much further out in terms of intrigue.
From The Cheap Seats
The one (MAJOR) negative to all the leagues returning to business? None have plans for the foreseeable future to have fans. The New York Jets and Giants of the NFL sent out a joint statement following notification from the governor of New Jersey about capacity limits. Likewise, social media was rife with screenshots from fans about game cancellations from their favorite teams.
Baseball has pumped in crowd noise and utilized cardboard cutouts of actual fans. They will have to figure out what to do with the Toronto Blue Jays, though. The NBA, being in the bubble, will obviously also be without fans. That means we all get to enjoy our favorite sporting events from the cheap seats of our living rooms.
There is another connotation of that, and it has been swept under the rug. No fans is insurmountable for vendors and hourly employees at stadiums. Most organizations have agreed to pay their hourly employees, even while slashing the earnings of those in executive roles and requesting players to help alleviate some of the financial burdens.
Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the Chicago Bulls and White Sox, recently spoke of facing losses in the nine-figure range (more on the baseball side) with expenses for stadiums and no income. Owners, players, and media alike have also pondered the impact this will all have on future seasons. All of them agree tough times are likely ahead.
The subject of the quality of testing available to athletes while the rest of the country lags is also a reasonable gripe. In other words, like in many aspects of life, the concern is centered around a select few at the upper end. Meanwhile, those on the other end are left to figure things out once the initial plans run their course.
Two Sides, One Coin
There is plenty to pick apart with all of this. The fact remains that when the Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Clippers tip at 3 p.m. EST, all eyes will be on the NBA. We will once again have real-life, NBA basketball to dissect. For all of the flaws with the process, this will be a welcomed thing. Especially if players keep the energy they have brought to social justice early on.
Well, good people, we had our final dance of the 10-part documentary “The Last Dance” last night and what a dance it was. It lived up and surpassed the hype leading up to its early release. For the last five Sunday evenings, we’ve been treated to an intimate inside look into Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls dynasty of the ’90s. Did it leave you wanting more? I know it did for me, it could’ve been 10-20 more and I’m here for it.
The timing of this documentary also added to the aura of Jordan. In typical MJ fashion the light is shining brightest on him like there are 1.1 seconds left in the game, he has the final shot, and the entire world is holding its breath. Same as his first retirement announcement in ‘93 on a Wednesday morning or his first game back in ‘95. What better time to have this series air than during a global pandemic with sports halted and the world salivating for any sports content? Enter Michael Jordan.
Final Dance of The Last Dance
We know the documentaries main focus was Jordan but it’s about the team as well. Chicago definitely had the supporting cast that helped with the six championships Mike led them to. The show did a great job highlighting the diverse characters of the team. It revealed things about some players even die-hard fans didn’t even know. We knew about the star power of arguably the greatest number-two player in history Scottie Pippen and the best rebounder in league history Dennis Rodman aka the Worm. Pippen was also the only other Bull that was with the organization for all six championships so his role was vitally important to the team’s success.
Their backstories were the intriguing part, Scottie coming from very humble beginnings and his fractured relationship with the general manager the late Jerry Krause. The biggest takeaway was that Pip also is probably the most grossly underpaid superstar ever. Rodman was that wild card, the rockstar of the team. His off the court life was legendary within itself! He leaves the team during the season for a 72-hour whirlwind weekend in Las Vegas with Carmen Electra and gets back to play with no problem. If that’s not crazy enough how about right after a finals game getting on a private plane to appear on WCW Nitro and missing practice the next day. Things that NBA players wouldn’t think about doing today.
Steve Kerr was another player that played a key role, hitting big shots (see Game 7 of the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers). His career-defining shot though came in the ‘97 Finals Game 6 when he hit the game-winner to give the Bulls their fifth title, this one over the Utah Jazz. Besides these great moments, Kerr surprisingly was the teammate that could most relate to Jordan with tragedy. Both men’s fathers were murdered. Per Kerr’s account they never spoke about it. But that was their silent connection.
The Jordan brand was birthed back in 1985 when Nike first introduced the Air Jordan. At the time nobody knew it but a trail was blazed. Countless other endorsements derived from MJ’s game. Gatorade, Chevrolet, Hanes. Just like the NBA, anything that was associated with the Jordan name turned to gold. Pre-Jordan, the NBA was in 80 countries. When he retired it was over 200. Not to mention the Chicago Bulls 90’s teams are considered the creme de la creme of NBA franchises.
The success of Jordan has allowed the players of today to be some of the highest-paid athletes in sports. Even guys that sit at the end of the bench averaging about seven minutes a game got it made. It’s also allowed the likes of Lebron James and Steph Curry to be their own brand. There’s no doubt Jordan was the force that started the power change from the owners to the players.
Last Impression of the Dance
Going into the Last Dance docuseries, most people considered Michael Jordan as the greatest basketball player of all time. A recent AP poll has him ranked as the most popular athlete in America, even after being retired for 17 years. After watching it I think it proved he’s head above shoulders of his NBA peers. That’s no knock on the other greats, it’s just that MJ carved out a section in history where only he can stand.
He’s the epitome of taking your skill and sculpting greatness from it. There also was the example of sacrifice. To be successful in any endeavor it takes sacrifice and putting your all into that you wish to succeed in. One of the most profound things that I heard Mike say was at the end of the last episode. That all you need is “hope” to spark that fire within you.
We’re only 3 days away from the start of what will be the GOAT of all sports documentaries, (the ESPN 30 for 30 ’85 Chicago Bears’ currently holds that title). The highly anticipated 10 part “The Last Dance,” which documents the extraordinary career of Michael Jordan with the Chicago Bulls; specifically his final season, ‘97-98.
The program will air on ESPN starting Sunday, April 19th and will run every Sunday, through May 17th. If there are any bright sides to this pandemic this is definitely one for the sports world. This documentary was not slated to be released until early June but ESPN heard our wish and it was granted.
Time for the Last Dance
Oh, the 90s. Hard to believe that decade started over 30 years ago and basketball during that time was some of the best you would ever see, especially if you were from Chicago. It was the decade where Jordan cemented himself as the greatest basketball player of all time, or the GOAT if you will. The decade whereby the turn of it the run of the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics and Detroit Pistons comes to an end. Thus, the Chicago Bulls dynasty was born.
Just like the 90s was the golden era of rap, (now the genre is classified as hip hop), it was also the golden age of basketball with the Chicago leading the way. The Bulls six championships (via two three-peats) and the sheer dominance of MJ, his Airness, gave the sport a meteoric rise in popularity worldwide.
This was also the time a teammate, Scottie Pippen, developed into a bonafide superstar. If you need a reference, see his player card and the 1993-94 season…you’re welcome. In the 1996 campaign, we saw them break the single-season wins record going 72-10, a record that stood pat for 20 years until 2016 when the 73-9 Golden State Warriors broke it. Some, especially Chicagoans, may say the Warriors really didn’t surpass that Bulls team because the deal wasn’t sealed, no championship!
Who can ever forget one of the greatest shots in not only NBA Finals history but NBA history period! Michael Jordan’s final career shot over Bryon Russell to defeat the Utah Jazz in the 1997 Finals giving Chicago their sixth NBA championship. Well, we thought it was his last shot but you’ll have to tune into ‘The Last Dance’ to see.
Reminisce Over You!
Let’s flashback to that 90’s time, think about what you were doing then, (at least those of us that can). For myself, it was the start of those crucial teenage years we all go through. My formidable high school and college years as well. To my fellow Gen X’ers and millennials, who were definitely raised on it, think about the music you were listening to. My goodness, the music! Personally, it was R&B (it’s final hoorah) and rap (it’s golden era as mentioned before).
The artist that laid their foundations during this time, Jodeci, Mary J Blige, NWA, 2PAC, Jay-Z, Diddy and a host of others. Just blow the dust off that CD collection and look through it and watch how those memories flow through your mind. Yes, I said CDs, before the luxury of modern technology that was our Spotify and Pandora. Who else put their phones to the stereo speaker to record your answering machine greeting? We can’t reminisce about the 90s without mentioning the fashion, just google the styles for that decade. You’ll probably see the most popular footwear were Jordans, which is still true to this day. They debuted 35 years ago; yes 35!
What To Know Before the Big Dance
For those that need to brush up on some history of Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, here are a few points you want to know:
- Michael Jordan was drafted 3rd overall in the 1984 NBA draft.
- Phil Jackson and Tex Winter were the head coach and assistant coach, respectively. Winter was the architect of the iconic triangle offense that Jackson implemented to perfection.
- Jerry Reinsdorf is the owner and the late Jerry Krause was the GM.
- Jordan retired after ‘93 season to play baseball for the Chicago White Sox and returned in the middle of ‘95 season.
Now that we have some info to reference it’s time to dance, I’m sure we’re all in for a great one. Those who know the history and those who may be just novice, this will give even more insight into Michael Jordan the man and it will be breathtaking.