You probably have your favorite random memory of Michael Jordan … here’s mine:
The last time Jordan played in Boston (December, ’97), the Bulls were thoroughly wiping out the hometown Celtics, and MJ seemed bored. This was
always when it was the most fun to watch Jordan in his prime, when he searched for little challenges to keep himself from falling asleep.
So Jordan started talking trash to Antoine Walker (who was enduring an especially painful shooting night). There was also some history there — Walker grew up in Chicago and had known Jordan for years.
Watching the game in person from midcourt seats, just close enough to pick up on moments like this, I nudged my buddy Dave:
“Watch this,” I said excitedly. “Jordan’s up to something with Walker. He’s giving him crap. Watch this. Something’s gonna happen.”
So we followed MJ and Walker as they ran back and forth between plays, engaging in a running dialogue of sorts. Someone on the Bulls was fouled (I
think it was Rodman), so Walker and Jordan lined up next to one another on the right side of the free-throw line. Walker had inside position; Jordan was
standing to his left.
Now Jordan was leaning over and talking some serious smack to Walker, who started jawing back good-naturedly. Never a good idea.
“Watch this,” I told Dave. “Jordan’s telling ‘Twan he’s gonna beat him inside and get the rebound. Watch this. Just wait.”
Sure enough, Rodman prepared to launch his second free throw and Jordan’s arms started swaying, his mouth moving the entire time. Walker’s body tensed.
Rodman shot the ball … and there was MJ somehow leapfrogging past Walker, grabbing the rebound and jumping back up for a layup — all in the same
motion — before a mortified Walker fouled him from behind.
Now Michael was strutting to the line, giggling, thoroughly pleased with himself, looking like he just found a $20 bill on the ground. Walker’s head
hung like a little kid who just got scolded by a parent. He couldn’t even bear to look up.
And I remember the Fleet Center jumbotron showing a closeup of Jordan lining up his first foul shot, an enormous grin spread across his face. Highest of
Bill Simmons writes three columns a week for Page 2.