In May 1996, a Chicago Tribune editor approached me with the opportunity of a lifetime.
At 72-10, the Bulls had just finished what stood then as the best regular-season in NBA history. Seemingly insatiable interest existed for the exploits of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and the entire team. And the World Wide Web was just starting to enter the national consciousness, with newspapers creating fledgling web sites that needed content.
“How’d you like to cover the Bulls full-time for www.chicagotribune.com?” he asked.
And that’s how it came to be that the first Bulls game I covered as a professional journalist was Game 1 of the Eastern Conference first-round series against the Miami Heat. It was April 26, 1996. I was 28.
To show how much times have changed, while thrilled with the assignment, I not only wrote as many stories as I possibly could for the website but pitched extra ideas for the newspaper. Back then, with the Internet in its infancy as a resource, I didn’t feel fully validated unless I saw my name in print.
That’s not the only way in which times have changed. A global pandemic has silenced the sporting world. And so, beginning with last night’s airing of the Blackhawks’ first playoff victory on their run to the 2010 Stanley Cup, NBC Sports Chicago is airing victories from that run and the Bulls’ 1996 title stampede nightly.
Up tonight? Game 1 against the Heat.
The Bulls prevailed 102-85 in an extremely physical game that featured Michael Jordan scoring 35 points, nine technical fouls, the ejections of Heat coach Pat Riley and Chris Gatling and Alonzo Mourning fouling out.
Chicago native Tim Hardaway scored 26 of his 30 points in the first half to keep the Heat tied at halftime before the Bulls ran away and hid.
As for me, none of my stories made the newspaper. But the ride of a lifetime was just beginning. And we can all experience it again with these broadcasts.