A trek down memory lane…the NBA made us this way.

Posted: February 3, 2012 by captaingonzo in Nightlife, Uncategorized
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The main guys at Chicago, A Drinking Town With a Sports Problem have been preparing for their Michael Jordan party for some time now, and in lieu of that cultural event designed to celebrate “His Airness'” birthday two weeks from now, I thought that we take a trek down memory lane to a time when many of us were still in our teens, to a time when some of us became die-hard Bulls fans despite some juvenile obstacles.

Yeah, I’m talking about the motherfucking 90s.

“Come on and slam and welcome to the jam.” – Quad City DJs.

The 90s hold a special place in my heart because they were the time of playing alley basketball “all day” with friends and losing myself in Bulls culture and memorabilia, from video games, to cereals, stickers, basketball cards, hats, jackets, books, the first three-peat on videocassette, the second three-peat also on videocassette, and to championship parades downtown.

It was a time when our parents were able to pay their mortgages, have cook-outs all the time, install basketball hoops on their garages without fear of the “bad element” coming in and ruining the fun, and affording things like official jerseys, over-priced shoes, stupid (really stupid) video games and even things like  Charlotte Hornets Alonzo Mourning neon blue-colored  basketballs. Was I the only one who owned this dumb piece of shit?

“Faggot!”

Thank you, guy walking down the street.

Sure, kiddie ventures such as “Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City,” or “Shaq Fu” may seem like trivial things now. But they were important. We were kids. We actually thought that the fact that Ball Park franks plump when you cook em actually meant something because MJ said it. We thought Gatorade was supposed to be delicious because MJ drank it. Shit, we thought that his shoes would make us jump higher. For the record, “Chaos in the Windy City” was terrible. So was “Barkley’s Shut Up and Jam.” That’s why we had to create our own MJ in NBA Live 96.

And think back to the time when the Bulls won that first, that second or that third championship. In the 90s Jordan was God in this city. That’s why riots almost broke out in order to celebrate. That’s what we do when we win. As a city, we come out in throes, breaking shit, causing a disturbance, we honk our car horns until they don’t work anymore, wave flags of whatever team that has won, rob people, spit at the cops who are barricading the streets and get drunk. We have fun. Ya know, guy shit.

Back in the 90s, if you didn’t have MJ’s shoes, then it was probably because some kids jacked you after school after the first day that you wore them. Or you jacked their shoes. Fucking yuppies.

And looking back at all those Starter-jacket woven winter streets and the red or white jersey-colored summer alleys, this city came truly together behind the Bulls. Even now, when the new Bulls are on the verge of something great and uncanny, with D Rose and the gang, there is always that sense of nostalgia, that sense of history that comes from being a fan of this team.

I know this lesson now, but during my humble beginnings in this country during the 90s, it took some time before I realized that I was rooting for the wrong team for a while there.

This was after the first three-peat, after Jordan retired and played baseball and made “Space Jam.” Yeah, those years. After he retired it seemed that some kids were heart broken. And with a pain in my heart I have to come clean. I became a Reggie Miller fan. Not an Indiana fan, but a Reggie Miller fan.

To many Chicago sports fans that’s the equivalent of someone admitting that they have a venereal disease after you’ve just slept with them and pulled out bareback and finished on her stomach. “What do you have again?” “No, don’t kiss me.”

It’s the equivalent of putting ketchup on a hot dog, parking during a snow storm in a city snow lane, singing on the CTA bus in the morning “What are you stupid?” calling it soda instead of pop, and saying Kobe or LeBron are better than Jordan. You just don’t do that. Ever. “You mad, bro?”

I’m quite familiar with the hatred we have against the Pacers. I’m quite familiar with what a pain in the ass they were in 1998 during the Eastern Conference semis. We still hate that cheap ass fucking team. But during my assimilation period into this country I could only rely on my alley peers who played ball out there and their cultural tastes. Out of all the fucking alleys in the world, I had to end up on one where kids liked asshole ball players.

Kids were nuts back then. Here we were in Chi-town, the home of the mighty Bulls, and kids succumbed to wearing Reggie Miller, Alonzo Mourning, Muggsy Bogues, Patrick Ewing and other jerseys because “His Airness” retired and decided to play baseball. Most of them were Polaks. Some were Hispanic.

But the game needed to be played. And as it is with most of the kids who were fans of basketball after Jordan left for the glove, we needed something else to fill our shoes with. And there was that basket, that basket in the alley where all the kids would come out and play.

They all had jerseys on, usually Jordan’s at the beginning, but there was a Horace Grant jersey for the kid who had glasses or the Paxon jersey for the kid who thought he was a perimeter shooter, and then there was that one kid who dared to wear an official white Indiana Pacers jersey. Of course it was Miller’s. We hated that blond kid. What ever happened to him? The kid, not Reggie Miller.

But as a kid trying to assimilate into the country, I thought that it would be a good idea to get a Miller jersey of my own. I just didn’t understand what all the trash talking was about. The jersey seemed to get attention.

Anyway, I bought one of those wannabe blue Pacers jerseys from Sports Mart. The cheaper one since the official one was way over my parent’s budget at the time. I played in that jersey out in the street with the kids during those years and displayed my three-point shooting ability. “Miller chokes.” “Miller eats it again.” “No win for Miller.” “Miller caterpillar.” “Go back to Indiana.”

Alley ball back then was the stuff they make movies about. You had like six neighborhood kids who would divide into teams and as soon someone scored, another one would yell “Make It-Take It.”

This style of play suggests that the players on the “court” are real imbeciles whose ball-playing skills rely mostly on luck instead of actual prowess. It made sense at the time. “Fuck it, he makes it, he takes it.” Then he would make three or four baskets, and what did you do? You fouled him so hard that he put a dent in some guy’s garage with his head.

And remember the total lack of respect for the neighbor’s garage? Here was a family who put up a basketball hoop on the top of their garage to let the neighborhood kids enjoy it and we just fucking went ape shit after missing a three-pointer to win the game. Balls went flying in anger, someone actually used to jump kick the garage. And if you wanted the ball back, you would throw it so hard against it that it would bounce back right to you.

It dawned on me later, that we were the “bad element” that stopped people from putting up hoops on top of their garages.

Oh yeah, fuck Reggie Miller.

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