Since everyone’s enjoying the weekend break between Games 1 & 2 of the NBA Finals, I figured I’d share with you my personal story of an NBA champion who all of us are quite familiar with.
Michael Jordan once said that one of his motivating factors for consistently performing at a high level on the basketball court was his cognizance of that one fan (or fans) who were able to see him play live and in person that one particular time who may never have the opportunity to watch him play in person again. Well, I was one of those folks he referred to, and as a young kid at the time of attending my first Jordan game, I must say that he did indeed put on a show that night.
MJ pulled off this vintage under the layup Dr. J-like reverse in a way that only he could at that time….Oh yeah, and it was a three-point play as well.
The time and date of the game, you ask? Friday, March 27, 1998 at 7:30pm in Atlanta, GA against the Dikembe Mutombo/Steve Smith/Mookie Blaylock-era Hawks. At the time, both teams had much in common, as they were both Central Division rivals (the re-shaping of the NBA’s landscape in 2004 saw the Hawks move to the newly formed Southeast Division) who had faced each other in the previous season’s playoffs. Both teams were in a transitional period. Jordan’s Bulls were uncertain about his playing status beyond that season because of the team’s decision to severe ties with Phil Jackson at the end of that season. The Hawks on the other hand, were literally without a permanent home, as they played their last game in The Omni the previous season, and they took temporary residence in the Georgia Dome and Georgia Tech’s Alexander Memorial Coliseum until the Phillips Arena was completed in time for the 1999-00 season.
Upon my attending the game, I knew that this game would be big in terms of its significance. The Jordan Factor by itself was monumental, but the Bulls-who would go on to win their sixth and last NBA championship later that season–played through an entire season which was nicknamed “The Last Dance” by coach Phil Jackson, so it seemed as if EVERYONE wanted to be there. My gut feeling wouldn’t let me down, as the game itself set an NBA attendance record for a single game of 62,046. True to his reputation, Jordan wouldn’t disappoint, as he scored 34 points to lead his team to an 89-74 victory.
It was cool being a part of history, as I received this memoir which commemorated the NBA’s single-game attendance record.
The program directory for the Bulls/Hawks matchup that night.
My ticket stub for the game.
Needless to say, I had a blast watching the greatest player of all time and his Chicago Bulls go toe-to-toe with a very respectable team in the Atlanta Hawks. I want to give a shout-out to a YouTube user by the name of 79maestro who actually put in the time to go into the archives and upload Jordan’s highlights from this game in the video below. If you appreciate classic NBA highlights, and you’d like to see rare Jordan highlights, subscribe to 79maestro’s channel.
My second “Like Mike” experience took place over three and-a-half years later, on Thursday, November 1, 2001…Same time, new arena (Phillips).
After emerging from retirement for a second time, Jordan decided to take on his biggest on-court opponent yet, Father Time. At 38 years of age, despite mixed feelings from fans about his last go-round in the NBA, Jordan laced up the Nikes yet again to test his basketball might against the young whippersnappers at the time, such as Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, and Tracy McGrady.
Although he aligned himself with new cohorts (the Washington Wizards), Jordan’s game against the Hawks resulted in the same way that it did during the last time he faced the Hawks: another ‘W’. The 38-year-old scored 30 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists in only his second regular season game back. Not bad for an “old man”, huh? Another YouTube uploader, by the name of Swove2204.
Oh yeah, I’ve included a couple of artifacts from this game as well.
My ticket to witness Jordan’s first game back against the Hawks, this time as a Washington Wizard.
Program Directory to the Hawks vs, Wizards matchup of November 1, 2001.
After reading this, you’re probably wondering, “How in the world was B.C. ‘Just Like Mike’? The answer is, we were both in the same building on 3/27/98 & 11/1/01! You didn’t think I was gonna tell you that I could take off from the free throw line, did ya?