I still can’t understand why Jerry Krause felt the need to chase Phil away from Chicago. But a good thing for the Lakers that he did because they went on to win five rings. Jackson had a wide range of interests. In 1992 he, along with Roger, participated in a fundraiser called “Chicago Stories” where they wrote plays to be performed by professional actors at the Victory Gardens Theater. The big surprise for everyone was that Jackson’s play was about education and family rather than basketball. In “The Last Dance,” before all the players dispersed after their last championship, he had them participate in a ceremony where they wrote their fears and hopes on paper and then burned the paper in a sacred fire. Could this be a remnant of his visit to the Golden Door Spa?
Michael Jordan and the six-time-champion Bulls team helped to change the international image of Chicago for the better! Prior to Jordan, whenever I travelled internationally, whether to France or Spain, England or Italy, the word “Chicago” would elicit a parody of a machine gun going rat-a-tat-tat, followed by the name “Al Capone.” Ay! It was much nicer to have our city associated with Michael Jordan, and Siskel & Ebert and Oprah. In fact, the whole Dream Team representing America during the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona gave an overall uplift to the image of American athletes that turned them into de facto ambassadors for our country.
When Michael Jordan returned to the Bulls after leaving to play baseball, it was a global story! I remember watching a press conference where an economist had charts showing how Jordan’s presence influenced billions of dollars in the world economy. I had never seen such a thing.
And speaking of Siskel & Ebert, Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel were obsessed with the movies, but they were also avid basketball fans. It is not widely known that Roger started out as a sports reporter before he became a film critic. Siskel frequently had floor seats at the Bulls games in Chicago, just as Jack Nicholson had them at Laker Games in Los Angeles, and Spike Lee had them at Knicks games in New York. One year, when Roger and I were at the Cannes Film Festival, he and Spike Lee were talking trash about the upcoming Bulls vs Knicks game. Spike arranged to get sponsors to broadcast the game by satellite. Julie Sisk of the American Pavilion brought in giant monitors so we could all watch the game in real time at about 2 or 3 am in France. Somehow the room organically divided between Bulls fans on one side and Knicks fans on the other. When the Knicks pulled off a win in the last minute of the game, Spike jumped up on a table and did a victory dance. It was mad fun.
Watch here Roger and Gene’s enthusiasm while reviewing Jordan’s 1996 blockbuster “Space Jam,” in which both critics state that the basketball phenom could potentially have a career in the movies…
I will leave you with the above snapshot of fun times at Michael’s birthday party…