Thursday, 20 December 2012


The Sequel


Previously On 'The Jordan Series'...


(1994) Every son wants to make his father proud...and Mike will have done that before he even picked up a basketball, let alone a club. Still the man who sticks his tongue out at the basket to emulate James R. Jordan, Sr at work followed his father’s dream of him playing baseball. That's all that needs to be said. That's all that matters. This was no round of rounders. This dedication was deeper than the 'Boys & Girls' club in his father’s name. Like Magic's tears for his dad in his MVP speech this was a public display of beautiful affection. It didn't matter what anybody else said because Mike father was looking down and smiling. Michael Jordan was a real baseball player.

But then...

1 Year Later.

"I'M BACK"!-M.J.

The greatest basketball player of all-time Michael Jordan was back. Out of retirement Mr. 23...or not as he seemed to you and me. What's in a number you ask. Chance? Luck? Ask fellow Jordan luminaries Kobe Bryant and LeBron James who switched their jersey numbers the other way around from 8 to 24 (almost like Mike) and 23 (exactly like Mike) to 6 respectively. Tell the rafter and the history books, Michael Jordan himself had a different figure on the back of his vest for a minute too.

"When I came back I didn't want to play with the last number my father had seen me wear. Because he wasn't around. I thought of my return as a new beginning."-Michael Jordan From 'For The Love Of The Game'.

You can call it the ultimate collectors item now for hoop heads or anyone looking to get rich and unable to catch that sneaking Air Jordan train. The same number Mike wore in high school and his brother Larry wore in varsity. The same number hew wore as he swung around with baseball during the curve of his one year retirement with the Birmingham Barons. Two numbers that when added together make his Team USA Olympic jersey number of 9. The gold.


45. You can see it at the dunking closing credits of 'Space Jam', as Jordan makes his return to basketball after beating a team of Ewing, Barkley, Muggsy, Bradley and Grandmama mutated space aliens with Bugs Bunny, Bill Murray and co. After Mike did that and played and perfected his baseball swing, riding the buses of the minor league sport in a valiant show of honor in the name of his father. 'Space Jam' may have been fake but in baseball Mike was the real deal earning his place beyond his name to just have the number 45 on his back. Then after a grounded stint and an out of this world movie he truly came back, for the love of the game. 45, for the love of his family.

Still although the jersey change looked cool and had a lot of affectionate tribute behind it, it seemed to bring a little bit of bad luck. It just didn't feel the same without seeing 23 back in action completely. Although the jersey was retired and in the United Centre ceiling during Mike's late season return some wanted it brought down. Mike looked up to the rafters of his 23 banner moment but he also looked up to his brother so 45 fit. Plus take that 45 to 55 and witness a double nickel performance against the New York Knicks at Jordan's mecca of Madison Square Garden that caught everybody including John Starks (again...nah we take that back, Starks has put up with enough) off guard. Spike Lee knows nobody can mess with his main man Michael Jordan...noooobooody. With a boom, the Nike fresh king of basketball shook the room and finally everyone could see Jordan scoring like Will Smith wanted. Independence Day wasn't the biggest return to hit the world in 1996.

This Knick legend came off a game where Mike clutched at the talons of the Atlanta Hawks and hit a game winning basket. The struggling Bulls now made a 13-4 charge for the postseason and Scottie Pippen finally had the help the sidekick had given his leader for years. Still the Eastern Conference Finals and the massive Rookie road block of Shaquille O'Neal and his Orlando Magic kingdom was too much for the corvette of Jordan and his Chi-town engine. At the end of Game 1, Nick Anderson (a man who should not boast about the clutch) strip, stole the ball from Mr. 45, which led to a game winning basket for Orlando. He then made the comment that the greatest "didn't look like the old Michael Jordan". Well, that was all he needed. 23 came down and 31 points per where put up for the rest of the series.

Chicago may have lost to Orlando that series but next year they came back to avenge that once, twice, three times a Larry O'Brien as Jordan showed he wasn't just the player of old, the present and history making legendary legacy. While Nick Anderson threw free throws off the rim, Mike threw champagne and cigar smoke around the locker room. Championships reigned like his exhausted tears of joy. Number 23 was truly back still in the storied career of Michael Jordan forty-five still represents something. 45 went on record like a Gaslight Anthem song and ignited sales for a chorus of fans.

It represents a heartfelt dedication and valiant play in the face of calloused, bloody hands and unconditioned hooping in the rigors of a long baseball season that resulted in a full calendar year of sports work. Just because he's the greatest sometimes people don't just realize how much work and effort Michael Jordan put in. 45 represents that. It still represents great play and a cult moment in his career. It represents the return that everyone thought would happen or at least wished for. The return B.J. Armstrong kept asking about at practice like the army of reporters who just got a perfectly polite 'pardon me' from Michael Jordan as their quotable soundbite. The return that the fans about to sell-out the arenas and the kids wanting to keep their posters on their walls hoped for. The return Scoop Jackson wrote 'The Last Testament' for, R. Kelly sung 'I Believe I Can Fly' for and President Bill Clinton press conference asked for. The return of the king, the Lord of the Rings, the NBA's savior, the God of basketball. The G.O.A.T. Michael Jordan's encore was one everybody was waiting for.

"When I come back like Jordan, wearing the 4-5 / It ain't to play games with you / It's to aim at you"-Jay-Z

Wednesday, 19 December 2012


The Chicago Crossover Connection.


"You love to hear the story again and again, about these young brothers from the city of wind"-Common.

Two men from the Windy City believed they could fly

Let's take it back. There's nothing like nostalgia. Back in time. Back across the pond from America to an 11 year old boy whose American dreams where oceans of time and opportunities away in the mid nineties of his childhood and the golden era. There he is with a cassette tape in the deck of his boombox waiting for his favorite song to come on the radio again. "I just don't know she's just got that vibe" the public announcement says as he hits record, hoping that the radio D.J. wont talk over the end of his perfectly captured song. Late that same night in a screwdriver panic the reels of the tape are turned frantically round after the overplayed tape gets chewed up in the deck. Not a creature is stirring, there is only the silence of this kid not trying to wake his parents and the glow of the television in our company. But boy does it glow. It may be the middle of the night in England, but in America it's primetime and All-Star weekend for this sport of basketball that seems as theatrical as it is exciting. With volume muted, emphatic player announcements, a dominating figure of assured, silent swagger and legendary legacy making greatness runs across the screen and court. A number 23 is blazed across his chest. Who is this guy? What is this game? In a mid-nineties, mid-February this kid fell in love with the sport of basketball.

Fast forward almost fifteen years and this mid-twenties man is back in the U.S.A. like he was Springsteen born there. Traveling and living the dream his childhood and adolescence promised. Finally after all this time he gets to visit Chicago, climb the Willis Tower, see the city and go back once more less than a year later. Even before his second visit to the second city, this place feels fondly familiar from the t-shirts with Bulls on to the radios and what they play all day. It reminds him of a childhood time. Destiny, where he was meant to be. A place that showed him just what life, the world and dreams are made of. What he always wanted. They say there's nothing like your first love. This kid fell in love with the game of basketball and the man that dominated it. This man fell in love with urban soul and the sounds ruled by the R in R&B. Two men that not only defined the good old decade days of the nineties but also represented the Windy City of Chicago and put this major American market that some see behind New York and Los Angeles on all sorts of maps.

Before Kanye West showed in the new millennium that Chicago, Common and Twista where a major force in music someone else carried the ghetto blasting torch. Before Chicago showed it was the true Gotham City for Christopher Nolan's Batman, and the late, great Heath Ledger's Joker and Christian Bale's Bat duked it out on the same road that 'The Untouchables' made iconic, someone in crisp, collectible sneakers ran the streets, like that jumpman commercial across the rising bridge over the legendary Lake Michigan. Before Derrick Rose and the changing of the guard gave the Bulls and this city it's new hope and charge, going West like Kanye in the middle of America there was a man who cemented his status across the whole world like he did outside the United Centre in the concrete immortality of a statue. Before 'The Chicago Fire' and 'The Chicago Code' hit the screens, two men dominated the tube, like Clooney's 'E.R.' or the noisy, clanging, sweeping of the overground L trains did the city. Just like Snoop and Dre, Magic and Kareem and Shaq and Kobe did for Los Angeles, or De Niro and everyone else did for New York, two men did for Chicago. Just like stars of 'Philadelphia' Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks did for movies that decade, these men did for music and sports in the 1990's.

One man followed in the footsteps of Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, Al Green and Stevie Wonder. The other Elgin Baylor, Julius Erving, David Thompson and Magic Johnson. One would pave the way for Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Kevin Durant. The other Usher, Ne-Yo and Tyrese to go along with many more inspired by both men. A legion of followers that would make Twitter look like bird seed. These two men of course being Michael Jordan and R. Kelly. One homegrown and one from Brooklyn, New York who put the air back into Chicago and illuminated the second city skies like the Chicago theatre at night, with towering talents taller then any skyscraper, dominating newspaper headlines, rave reviews and the word of mouth of everyone's lips. Two men that took their respective games and shared city across the whole world, not just America. Needless to say New York and the Knicks and Los Angeles and Hollywood where jealous. In the defining, golden era of music and basketball in the nineties, Michael and Robert where king on the same throne. From above the rim to down in the studio and the last shot to endless songs produced. Everyone was watching like Spike Lee, Scoop Jackson was writing. I was listening. The Grammy's and MVP's kept coming with the soaring record sales and scores. As did the gold championship trophies and platinum plaques.

Then one guy with a carrots and big ears would bring them together like the river that ran through their city. When Michael Jordan teamed up with Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Bill Murray and more to take on some giant aliens in the blockbuster movie 'Space Jam', Michael truly proved he was out of this world, in a 'Roger Rabbit' classic that framed his talents on the big-screen. Fellow Chi-town hero R. Kelly provided the perfect number for Mr. 23 to rise to. 'I Believe I Can Fly' gave air to the films soundtrack and the films moving first late night, back-yard, father and son scene. It also touched the sky for the two men giving the R his biggest and most recognized epic, hit, as he spread his wings. It even drew some of the attention off Seal's fellow big blockbuster track 'Fly Like An Eagle' for the movie. Michael Jordan wasn't the first M.J. R. Kelly wrote for as the king of R&B wrote 'You Are Not Alone' (and recovered it for a 'Love Letter' tribute to the late, great) for the king of pop, Michael Jackson, who also got down and danced with Michael Jordan for the 'Jam' video. Together Chi-town's finest did it again in a crowning moment that showed that in the nineties the world of entertainment was Mike and Rob's...but that wasn't all folks.

If they could see it, these too could surely be it. Michael Jordan won a three-peat with the Chicago Bulls, while R. Kelly started his own trilogy of success with the classic '12 Play' albums (before adding an unrleased 'Fourth Quarter' edition that hit like Mike in the last period of play). Michael scooped up more championships and awards by the double, while with the classic 'R', Kelly released an epic double album that included so many records like 'Home Alone', 'If I Could Turn Back The Hands Of Time', 'When A Woman's Fed Up', his Space Jam big-score and his own record for Batman ('Gotham City'). There was even a duet with Celine Dion on there (the heaven sent 'I'm Your Angel'). One had Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Steve Kerr, Toni Kukoc and Phil Jackson. The other the Trackmasters and more hits then an entire genres worth. One rebranded Jive and modern soul music. The other revolutionized Nike and sports marketing. From Kelly's self-titled collection, to Jordan's self-assured performances these two danced and shrugged their way to success. No matter if they had the flu or other problems not much could stop this dynamic duo.

The two men are Chicago like a deep dish pizza, the crust of the city. They reminded us of something but revolutionized their games. It must have been the shoes or the "oh, oh, ooohs". Even when they took different routes they showed they weren't playing. We saw nothing wrong with their bumps and grinds, even if some peoples minds where telling them no. Michael Jordan made his late father proud when he picked up sticks and played baseball for a year, while R. Kelly teamed up with fellow urban music king and the M.J. of rap Jay-Z and held his own on the collaborative 'Best Of Both Worlds' album. You can't trap these guys is closets or lockouts. Michael Jordan was the closest thing the sports world witnessed to Muhammad Ali, R. Kelly wrote 'The Worlds Greatest' song (that and the haunting 'Hold On') for the Will Smith 'Ali' movie, both men went to the Olympics too. The nineties was their moment, beyond their respective professions or the city of Chicago. They where icons then. Legends now.

The nineties was truly Michael Jordan and R. Kelly's time it was like they where born in it, even though the sixties debuted them to the world. Still the new millennium still showed the former North Carolina and Public Announcement alumni where here to stay in legacy and legend. Michael Jordan came out of retirement again for the Washington Wizards, showing he could still play with the Kobe's and the T-Mac's all whilst incredibly donating his entire playing salary to the September 11th relief fund. Whilst R. Kelly stuck his key back in the 'Ignition' and spun in a new direction, remixing his career and giving us some of his best, new records harking back to the music of decades gone by with 'Chocolate Factory' and 'Happy People'. Stepping back on court and in the name of love these greats still showed the new school an entertainment education.

Today Jordan owns the Charlotte Bobcat franchise and is even prepared to lace them up to help this young team practice. These days Kelly is still making hits, taking his revolutionary sound back to the good old days of soul as his 'Love Letter' and latest 'Write Me Back' can reply. 'When A Woman Loves' is the mans best song in years, while Mike is still inspiring and influencing generations. That's what happens when your legends, the legacy just goes on and the city of Chicago will never forget it's leading men. This city was built on rhythm and basketball. It'll blow forever through the Windy Cities memory. Michael made the moments, while Robert provided the soundtrack. Music and Basketball was their forte. The 1990's their definition and the city...theirs.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012


The Previous Jordan.



With the eight pick, in the first round of the 1986 NBA Draft the Cleveland Cavaliers select Ron Harper from the university of Miami. The hottest star out of Dayton, Ohio, 6 foot 6 and 185 pounds. A man who performed a backwards LeBron of sorts and took his talents from Miami to Cleveland, Ohio. A swinging, guard/forward combo who was on point but also could shoot. A two time MAC player of the year who ended up becoming a five time NBA champ. A man whose career championship contributions to Phil Jackson's Chicago Bull and Los Angeles Lakers teams didn't quite do even enough justice to just the player he truly was.

Ask guys like Tracy McGrady or Grant Hill just how career defining injuries are on the meant to be greats. Still just like Grant, Ron fashioned a second-career out of being a valuable veteran with superstar smarts in the second city and the one of angels, and Shaq and Kobe feud demons. Still like Hill and McGrady, the Magic curse in Orlando practically killed Anferene Hardaway's hype of being like Michael Jordan, leaving the rest of Penny's career as spare change, no matter how well it was afforded. Just like Hardaway being the next Mike, Harper was viewed as the one next to Jordan, and in some eyes the only player that could go toe-to-toe with Nike Air, whether it be in the Slam Dunk Contest or on the court.

Yes that same Ron Harper who you saw keeping it lite with Miller in the Lakers double-up celebration in Philly used to be and above the rim guy. Before injuries and slipping on Kenan and Kel's orange soda took the hops out of him like non-alcoholic beer. When Harp was playing in university he was drawing Julius Erving comparisons for his ABA made aerial ability and above amazing averages of 24.3 points per game, 11.2 rebounds per game, 3.2 steals per game, and 2.4 blocks. A steal in the first round was just what the Cleveland Cavaliers ordered for this star. Way before LeBron the billboards and the throne was Ron's. He was the one. The only one who could touch the hem of the shorts of the greatest, even if he was second Rookie Of The Year to hot-shooter, and fellow Laker twilight star Chuck Person. Not many had "more game then Ron Harper". Former Cav big man and current NASCAR commentator Brad Daughtey recently talked to SLAM magazine about how Ron was the only one who could go round and round with Mike.


"Man thank you so much for getting rid of him" Brad said Mike told him about Ron Harper. In the end Mike wasn't just thankful to no longer be going up against the dynamic defender and tenacious offensive force. After a 22.9 point average, three years of raw but ready hype, a trade to the Clippers for perimeter on point man Danny Ferry and a cruel knee injury that robbed him of his jumps and speed, Ron ended up standing next to Mike as his ally in a Chicago Bulls uniform. From foe to friend, Ron teamed up well with Mike on the greatest return from retirement after a turbulent first season for Harper. The number nine ended up being another great option behind the G.O.A.T, albeit an unsung one.

Michael's incredible, game and sport changing attributes overshadowed everything, even his fellow M.J. King of Pop in some nineties defining moments. Moments that where art like Monet, 'Money' was just that richly talented. Even the superstar sidekick play of Scottie Pippen, the European revolution of Toni Kukoc, the pure three's of household name and face Steve Kerr and the crazy on and off court antics and hairstyles of Dennis Rodman took a back-seat to the back of the jersey that read 23 or 45. Behind all that the quiet, mild-mannered Harper was always going to remain in the shadows somewhat.

Still those banners in the rafters wouldn't be there without Ron Harper's invaluable veteran contributions. Whether on the perimeter offensively or defensively or midrange, his game had that x-factor the Bulls needed. The sort of on and off the ball attributes that some armchair fans ignore but the real purists and coaches know how to draw up. The brilliant ball-handler became a fan-favorite and a crucial championship piece to Phil's playoff puzzle. You can see him in the old parade photo's next to the greatest championship cap and t-shirt on, with a cigar and smile to match. Next to Jordan like he was always meant to be.


You don't win five championships by accident and the man that with former Lakers Dennis Rodman and Robert Horry as the only consecutive NBA Champion for two different teams has been a part of just under half of the Zen Master, Phil Jackson's 11 championship reign. Like Horace Grant and Dickie Simpkins after him, Ron was one of the former Bull brethren that Jackson managed to mediate over to Hollywood. Still yet again Ron was overshadowed by the star, headline making power of first-name term Shaq and Kobe in Los Angeles and then the amazing role player trio of Robert Horry, Rick Fox and Derek Fisher. Still Phil knew, joking with Ron after their first purple and gold championship win that he could retire after Ron asked him if he could "go home now". Still, he wasn't done, "I'll be back next year" Harp affirmed.

Even with all that however he became another pivotal piece as a veteran force in the Lakers, STAPLES born team that started a dynasty against Indiana and the Philadelphia 76ers like former eighties showtime star A.C. Green who returned to the squad in his fall-career years. The fellow star of three decades back proved in the new millennium could still make major contributions on the floor as well as the locker-room. Kobe Bryant-the only man who could truly draw Michael comparisons today-even calls Harp his 'mentor' and Ron's big buckets and stops where just as helpful to Bryant and O'Neal as the ones by Rick, Robert and Derek. In the playoffs he hit game winners against Portland and blazed averages. Fourth on the team with 10.8 points, second in assists with 3.2 and an average of 1 steal a game for second also in that category. His time in Los Angeles as a Laker was championships better then his one as a Clipper. As he aged he helped others grow.

In one vital clutch and confidence building play against the Sixers in the finals of 2001 Ron, open on the perimeter threw the ball to young, hot-streaking guard Tyronne Lue-who then was recently emasculated by Allen Iverson who stepped over him on a clutch play after Lue was pressurisingly dubbed the 'Iverson Stopper'-who was also wide open. The young player then somewhat nervously gave it up, throwing it back to Harp. Immediately and in frustration Ron launched it back at the youngster as if to say "NO...I said YOU shoot it". Which Lue in turn heeded and drained with confidence and assurance. It speaks volumes of Lue's moment of maturity to not flake again under pressure and make the basket. Still it also defines the man Ron is with his tough love, elder statesmen personality looking out for his teammate and nephew-like figure with a brilliant piece of strict support.

Giving up the glory shot also shows another side of the player Ron Harper. A man that could have been a star but was a born teammate or selfless superstar if you would. A true member of a championship squad. The league misses a guy since his assistant coaching gig with the Detroit Pistons-the team that destroyed his Laker dynasty-wasn't renewed in 2007. The man who overcame so much adversity to help others amazingly will always be one of the NBA's greats. Like all good things we miss form the nineties they just don't make players like Ron Harper anymore.