6 Enduring Mysteries of "Your World Champion Chicago Bulls!"
Gambling! Refs! That elusive 4-peat! And a song about Don Calhoun.
A friend told me this week that my Bulls book will be good because I already know about 75% of it.
I told him it will be good because actually, I only know about 25% of it.
What I mean is that when I started writing “How The GOAT Was Built,” I knew merely the broad strokes of each chapter (except this one). What gave that book its foundation and made it special was the 4-5 months of new research — the books, newspapers, magazines and video clips.
So while the same is true for “6 Rings,” what will make this book special is the work that I put into it from this point forward.
That means getting to do something I love the most about writing: solving mysteries.
Throughout the course of this book, I will attempt to answer every question I have about the dynasty Bulls. Some are questions I already know, while with some, both the question and the answer will be new to me. (Again, like here.)
Thus, here is a look at the six mysteries that I know I want to answer. I’m sure there will be others as the process unwinds. But these six are up first.
6 Enduring Mysteries of “Your World Champion Chicago Bulls!”
What really happened with MJ’s first retirement?
In his 2012 book “100 Things Cubs Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die,” my friend Jimmy Greenfield wrote that in reality, there was one thing, and 99 other things. That one thing, of course, was winning the World Series.
And when it comes to enduring mysteries about the 90s Bulls, there is one thing and all others, and the one thing is Michael Jordan’s first retirement.
I’ve been very upfront the past few years arguing that MJ’s retirement was on the level and that I don’t buy the conspiracy theory around a “secret suspension” due to gambling.
I take the man at his word: He’d long considered retiring young, he felt he was out of challenges, he was mentally exhausted, the game had grown burdensome — and all that came before the unspeakable grief and mourning of his father’s death in July of ‘93.
I won’t rehash this too much now, just to say that if you want to learn more about the reasons that I think he chose his own path on Oct. 6, 1993, and was not suspended by the NBA, read this from my book and listen to me in this Barber’s Chair podcast from 2018 and the 25-year anniversary of that retirement.
But despite the work I’ve done so far, I feel like there is more to uncover. My preference is to have as definitive an answer as possible. My belief is that IF David Stern had secretly suspended Jordan, he would have to deliver that news to MJ in person. That’s obviously just a guess on my part, but it seems reasonable as a starting point for research.
To that end, I have been compiling a calendar of the summer and fall of 1993 via multiple sources (newspapers, books, etc.) to track the day-to-day whereabouts of MJ and Stern, in hopes of answering one question:
Were MJ and Stern ever in the same city at the same time in the summer and fall of ‘93, allowing Stern to suspend Jordan in person?
On Monday, I will release that calendar as my first subscriber post. [UPDATE: Here it is.]
As dynasty mysteries go, that is certainly the biggest. But these other five are fun too. Here they are, along with related reading material if you want to dive in:
What did Jerry Reinsdorf really want from his experience as team owner? And how do his most famous employees view him now? (Reading material: My look in 2018 at the difference between Reinsdorf’s Bulls and Jerry Buss’s Lakers.)
To what degree did the NBA grease the wheels for the Bulls, and for MJ, and how did MJ feel about it? (Reading material: Melissa Isaacson’s 2017 feature on John Paxson, with the key excerpt here.)
What was the lasting impact of the dynasty on all aspects of Chicago, Illinois, the U.S., the world, the NBA and professional American sports? (Reading material: “Bulls Market” by Long Beach City College assistant professor Sean Dinces, exploring the economics and social impact around the construction of the United Center. You can also check out his dissertation on that subject.)
What might a post-1998 continued run have looked like? (Reading material: The fourth section of my 2017 reflection on Jerry Krause after his passing.)
Is there a world where we could have broken up the dynasty AND rebuilt successfully in its wake? (Reading material: My 2017 thread on the interwoven paths of Krause and Tracy McGrady)
Of course, every area of research comes with questions, because the collection of detail is driven by questions — namely, the one in me that asks, “Yes, but what specifically happened?”
But the above six items are the major questions that I have about the dynasty here at the outset. This thing is going to grow, and go in places I can’t foresee. That’s the fun stuff. I wouldn’t want to do this otherwise.
We’ll end this with a song: “The Ballad of Don Calhoun,” written in 1993 by “Bones” Bach and Steve Vogel of Bloomington, Ill., in honor of their fellow Bloomington-native Don Calhoun, who famously hit the Million Dollar Shot at a Bulls-Heat game that April.
Thank you to reader Matt Diller for passing this diddy along.
COMING MONDAY: Were Michael Jordan and David Stern in the same city in 1993 between July 12 (the day the NBA interviewed Richard Esquinas) and October 3, when according to one source he told Jerry Reinsdorf he was retiring?
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