After a lifetime of drinking Gatorade, buying Nikes, and tongue wagging, one MF editor finally got a chance to meet an icon.
Waiting for an elevator with ESPN sideline-reporter Ric Bucher. "John, right?" I ask. "Ric," he says. "Think we'll be meeting the big guy?" I ask. "We'll see," he says, as he gets in an elevator, the door closing behind him. I subtract two points from my score for getting his name wrong and slam my head into the elevator when it finally arrives for me.
I need to change my shirt. Do I need to change my shirt? I'm overdressed. Should I worry? Everyone's wearing sneakers and hoodies. I'll be fine. Do I look fine?
Following instructions from the PR people who are steering this ship, the 23 journalists, handpicked to attend the event, wait around in the lobby of the hotel like we're eighth graders preparing for a field trip. I resist the urge to check my lunch and see if I have tuna on white.
Still unaware of exactly what we'll be doing today, we all board buses. I've successfully made friends with one French basketball journalist, but haven't conquered the language barrier with the throngs of Asian journalists. The NBA is most certainly a global game-arguably, it's the world's pastime.
Oh yeah, soccer. Forgot.
Pull into United Center parking lot through players' entrance. Check pants. Have not soiled myself yet. Something we can build on.
We empty out of the Jordan-brand buses and are greeted with flashbulbs. There's a camera crew recording our every move, which is awkward but very cool at the same time. I silently wonder if I could get used to this.
Where are we going? Do you know where we're going? Where do YOU think we're going?
We enter the visiting locker room. Each locker is adorned with a specific journalist's name and some Jordan-brand gear. I sit in front of my locker, pretend I'm about to take the court for a big game, and feel a knot of excitement in my stomach. I'm either ready for the next part of the day or I had too much bacon this morning. Either way, I check my pants again-still clean. This is a plus.
We sit through a presentation of all the previous models of Air Jordans. Suddenly, a PR person removes their buttoned-up shirt to reveal a referee jersey. We're still a bit unsure of where this is going, but we now have reason to believe we'll be taking the court. The actual court. The same one the Bulls play basketball on. I manage not to faint, somehow.
We line up just outside the tunnel. This is my first time inside one of these things, and I've got to tell you, if I was going to be playing a professional basketball game, I'm sure I'd be able to get hyped in this area. You can see the court, from diagonally out of bounds behind one basket, and you can see the crowd, but the enormity of the building escapes you. It's big, but feels small, if that makes sense.
It's clear what's going to happen now. As the Alan Parsons Project's "Sirius" plays over the loudspeaker, the Bulls public-address announcer introduces each editor as their names are broadcast over the big screens overhead.
Almost my turn, huh? Holy shit, what AM
I going to do when I get out there?
I see my name flash up to the screen. I don't remember reading it. I'm pretty sure I blacked out, actually. Thankfully, my pregame ritual went off without a hitch. As soon as my name is called, I make the peace sign with both hands, bring them both to my mouth, kiss the index and middle fingers of each hand, and then raise both to the sky. Think Double J, Jeff Jarrett, the WWE years. I give a two-handed high five to the person in front of me, hop onto the hardwood (mind the gap), serve a sweeping low five to the on-court contact, and run down the baseline to give the already-called editors low fives.