I was born in 1992, in the middle of Michael Jordan mania. I grew up with Jordan and Chicago Bulls memorabilia all throughout my house.
My mom and dad aren’t diehard sports fans, but there was something about Jordan that sucked them in. In fact, my mom was so obsessed that when she was about to give birth to me, she refused to go to the hospital until the Bulls had beaten the Portland Trailblazers in game six to clinch their second championship. Jordan had 33 points in that game. I was born around 8 a.m. the next morning.
By the time I started paying attention to basketball (you might be shocked to learn I wasn’t much of a sports fan as a kid; a switch flipped when I was 12 or 13), the Bulls dynasty was over. I had only the stories from my parents and the ever present reminders of what I had missed throughout the house—posters in our basement, a “Repeat 3-Peat” shirt my dad used to wear, a Bulls lamp. Oh, and I had Space Jam, of course.
I didn’t get the opportunity to sit down and watch Jordan play with my parents. Their interest in the NBA died out as the Bulls dynasty came to an end, and I didn’t start following the NBA until later on. When I was 13, my parents got divorced, so we didn’t really have many opportunities to do anything together as a family after that.
However, at 8 p.m. CT on Sunday night, my mom, my dad, my brother and I were all planted on the same couch to watch The Last Dance together. And we weren’t alone. According to The Athletic’s Richard Deitsch, ESPN and ESPN2 averaged 6.1 million viewers for the first two episodes of the network’s 10-part documentary on the 1996 Chicago Bulls.
In a world of streaming and binging, appointment television is rare thing. But it seemed like the whole world was glued to their TVs on Sunday night. Typically, I have my laptop up with Tweetdeck displayed when I’m watching something I know will have Twitter buzzing—like a big game or Game of Thrones. But Sunday was all about MJ and family as I put my laptop away, listened to my mom’s memories and enjoyed the show (though I still checked Twitter on my phone during commercials; can’t unplug entirely).
Props to ESPN and the filmmakers. The hype for this series was immense and two episodes in you can tell it is absolutely going to deliver. As an avid NBA fan, I’m well aware of everything Michael Jordan accomplished in his career. Like I mentioned above, I was raised with the Jordan mythology and I also read his autobiography, “For the Love of the Game: My Story,” so I was familiar with the general story and of Jordan’s disdain for Jerry Krause. Seeing it all played out on the screen like this is a completely different experience, though.
We’re living in a world without sports and have been for some time now; we needed this. Sitting here writing this column has me feeling extra nostalgic—perhaps it’s the double-dose of the Jordan memories and the 2006 Phoenix Suns playoff game playing out on my TV as I write. That Suns team is the one that drew me fully into the NBA and made me a Suns fan (I had merely dabbled before that point). This year in sports might have been cut short, but it was a good one for me.
I’m about seven-and-a-half years older than my brother. His name is Jordan (you can probably guess where that name came from). I coached him in basketball from third grade all the way through high school, and now he’s a sophomore at Midland in Fremont. He’s played on the JV team the last two years, and I’ve been to every game but one both seasons. Outside of the home games in Fremont, road trips have taken me to Crete and York and Seward and Lincoln and Sioux City to watch him play, and our dad has tagged along for most of those games.
Outside of Husker football and those Jordan Bulls, my dad didn’t really have any teams that he followed closely. As I grew into a massive sports fan, he adopted my favorite teams as his own, including the Green Bay Packers. This season, I spent most Sundays at one sports bar or another with my dad, watching the Packers make a run to the NFC Championship Game.
The Suns played a huge part in making me the basketball fan I am today, but it was Creighton basketball that planted the seeds. Starting in the 2004-05 season, my mom would occasionally get tickets to Creighton games (she worked at a law firm that received corporate tickets to hand out), and it only took a few games before I became a full-fledged fan. Eventually, we got our own season tickets, which we held onto up until I graduated from high school and enrolled at Creighton.
My mom and I haven’t gone to many Creighton games together since we let our tickets go after the 2011 season, but we got that chance this year and had a blast. She’s a racing fan (not my thing at all), so Creighton basketball is the one team (besides my brother’s) that really brings us together and I’m glad we were able to share that experience during what turned out to be a historic year for the Jays.
I’ve gotten lost down memory lane a bit, so I’ll wrap it up here by saying that it’s amazing the way the sports can bring people together, and having them ripped away is a harsh reminder of how much they mean to so many of us.
Thank you to ESPN for moving up the release of the The Last Dance. As a nation of sports fans, we needed this. As a family, we’re already planning to gather together again for episodes three and four on Sunday.
Jacob Padilla has been writing for Hail Varsity since 2015. He covers football, volleyball men’s basketball and prep sports. He also co-hosts the Nebraska Preps Postgame and Nebraska Shootaround podcasts for the Hurrdat Media and Hail Varsity podcast networks. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.