I was lucky enough to spend most of the 90’s going to Bulls games at both the Stadium and United Center during the Jordan Era, witnessing amazing feats that transcended sports and space and time. Six championships and a million other moments of pure poetry. Then Jordan retired and it was gone. I could add up the time I’ve spent watching basketball since then and it wouldn’t last for a beer.
Last week an opportunity arrived to sit courtside at a Bulls game with my dad, and so I went. I’ve sat in good seats before, but nothing like this. Just to the left of the basket, first row behind the rotating advertisement thing and a few sweat drops away from the visiting bench. The press sits in the same spot to the right of the basket. Pretty awesome.
The game began and there was confusion from the start. We thought that the Bulls were playing the Hornets, but the scoreboard said NO/OK, not Charlotte. NO/OK, we found out, means New Orleans/Oklahoma City. I didn’t know New Orleans had a team, much less Oklahoma City, and as we found out later, it’s the Bobcats that play in Charlotte. Jordan has something to do with that team. I guess Hurricane Katrina forced the Hornets out of NO and they now share with OK. I think. Very confusing.
When I went to games in the 90’s I knew a lot more. I probably knew the starting lineups for many other teams, or at least the good ones. I was into it. Now, sitting courtside, I had become the very fan that we had scorned from our seats high up in the 100 or 300 sections: a know-nothing boozehound sitting pretty, waiting for the waiter to come and take my order again. Yeah, they have waiters. It’s ridiculous.
Anyway, the game was alright and the Bulls ended up winning with some last-minute scores, but it wasn’t the same. Ben Wallace had his hair up, so there was no ‘fro; Kirk Hinrich looked impossibly small and white; and I didn’t know who any of the players were that came off the bench, but they all seemed like they were stick-legged and timid. The entire team, perhaps the entire league for all I know, needs a charisma-injection. There’s no Rodman, no Barkley, no Ewing or Magic or Bird. There’s no Jordan, and that really is what makes all the difference, to me at least.
I checked my old ticket stubs out of curiosity, and I found a couple from 1989 at the old Stadium. Price? $22 (I wasn’t kidding about going to games, I found three game stubs from Dec. 16, 19 and 26 of that year). Tickets went up to $40 in 1992, after they won their first championship, and $90 in 1997 (at the UC), when I went to three playoff games. The courtside seats we sat in last week were face-valued at $750 each.