Saturday, April 21, 2012

My nostalgia problem with the Bulls—or is it?

Posted By on 04.21.12 at 02:19 PM

Michael Jordan: Lets see you do this.
I have a nostalgia problem with the current Bulls, and I don't think I'm alone in that. As much as I like the current roster, from the goofy Joakim Noah, who has made himself a much better pro than I ever expected, to Luol Deng, the one holdover from the promising previous bunch of Bulls who never fully panned out, to of course Derrick Rose, whom I saw first as a sophomore at Simeon and have been following ever since, they just don't compare to the Bulls of Michael Jordan.

That's not fair, of course. The Jordan Bulls won six championships in eight years and still hold the record for most wins in an NBA season (72, in case you haven't seen the banner commemorating the 1995-'96 campaign at the United Center), and they're universally acknowledged as one of the best teams in league history—the best ever, in my opinion.

Yet is that really nostalgia? I don't believe so. Nostalgia implies a sepia-toned tainting of the past, a sense of romanticism. With the Jordan Bulls, I've tried to retain what really made the team special—not just Jordan's athletic abilities, but the whole team's court sense, especially that of Scottie Pippen, who was Jordan's equal at athletic intelligence (but for a 1.8-second lapse the spring Jordan was playing baseball). There was the way the team melded disparate personalities—from the bland Will Perdue early on to the ostentatious Dennis Rodman later—into a single functioning unit. Most of all, there was the team's comfort in the media spotlight, and the way coach Phil Jackson would use that spotlight as a tool, turning it on the opponent (as when they leaked their 1992 scouting report on the Portland Trail Blazers suggesting they were chokers to the press, and what did the Blazers do in the end of the sixth game of the NBA Finals but choke, big time?). No, that's not nostalgia, that's trying to preserve a team's true talents and abilities as accurately as possible.

I know this: the Jordan Bulls never would have been pushed around the way the Bulls were this week in Miami. Jordan in his prime would have made it a point to put Dwyane Wade in his place, and cut out LeBron James's heart (what little he actually has) and serve it on a plate.

Consider that, Derrick Rose, when you return to action and face the Heat down the road. Beat LeBron and win a title, and we'll talk.

No, nostalgia is more the preservation of colored personal memories: the starchy feel of those old boys' baseball uniforms as they had been ironed by one's mother, or ordering a "suicide" (Pepsi, 7-Up, and Orange Crush mixed together in one paper cup) and a cheese popcorn with "doubles" at the snack stand on the occasion of a victory.

Those are my memories, to do with as I please. The Jordan Bulls belong to all of us, and should be preserved as accurately as possible, to be weighed against all comers from now into the future.

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