I sat in my bedroom watching a college basketball game on a cold December night in 2002. I was only a junior in high school and had nothing better to do. My bedroom was a place of solace and nostalgia. My walls were plastered with all of my favorite memories. And by favorite memories, I mean hundreds of posters, photos, and various magazine covers of my long-time hero, Michael Jordan. My friends called my bedroom “the shrine.” Most people who first gazed at these triumphant walls for the first time greeted me with a cautious, ‘are-you-crazy’ type of look. And on this quiet weekday evening, I did indeed go crazy.
As I watched the basketball game, surrounded by MJ and all his glory, I began to reminisce about hoops seasons gone past. Jordan was in his final year of playing professional basketball — yet again. I had so many vivid memories of Jordan throughout the years, going all the way back to when I was eight years old with Jordan’s number 23 shaved into the back of my head.
But I had never seen him play live. This was something, I thought to myself, that had to be done.
I immediately turned on my computer and began to shop for game tickets, as if I had the money to do so. I came upon a game in late February, scheduled to be played at the United Center in Chicago. Since Jordan was then playing for the Washington Wizards, this would be his last game in the Windy City where he spent the bulk of his career, and enjoyed all of his success.
I had to be there. And this is where I went crazy.
I had no money, but I had an extreme passion and desire to be at this game. After much debate between the halo-clad angel on one shoulder and the red devil on the other, I boldly went where I had never gone before — my mother’s purse. That’s right, her purse. I tiptoed through our house and into the master bathroom where she always kept her purse on a little wooden stand. As my mother slept soundly in the next room, I sifted through the contents of her purse until I came upon a fresh looking MasterCard.
It would have to work.
Quietly and nimbly, I retreated from the bathroom. About five minutes later, after the damage was done, I returned the credit card in the same silent fashion. I was the proud owner of two tickets to Michael Jordan’s final game in the city of Chicago.
The next day at school, it began to set in what exactly I had done, and I was scared. I confronted my friend, Seth, about the situation in which I had voluntarily entangled myself. I needed to talk this through with someone.
“Who cares,” said Seth, very nonchalantly. “You love Michael Jordan. Your mom is not gonna care that you ordered a couple of tickets.”
I responded, “Dude, they were $550 dollars. Each.”
After a montage of expletives and hysterical laughter, Seth told me that I had better be sitting next to a celebrity for that price. He then said what I was already aware of.
“You are screwed.”
As the saying goes, honesty is usually the best policy. At dinner that night, I was brutally honest with my mother. This was again followed by many expletives, some of which I had never heard before. I took the heat with a face that showed maturity and valor. Then, I took a shot in the dark.
“Mom, I would really like it if you would go to Chicago with me for this game (even though I had planned on taking someone else). We could take the train, make it a little vacation. And I really want to visit Northwestern.”
That last bit was right off the top of my head. I was a fan of Michael Wilbon, host of ESPN’s daily sports debate program, PTI, and Northwestern alum. Maybe, I told my mother, this is the university for me. The invitation worked perfectly.
A little more than two months later, I stepped off a cramped Amtrak cart and into America’s second city. The tickets worked themselves out. I paid a marginal fee for all of this. The rest was paid for by the Christmas/Birthday/next year’s Christmas fund that my parents had not anticipated breaking into.
But it was worth every penny . even my mother now agrees. We had a chance to tour the city, to visit Northwestern (an amazing yet brutally cold campus), to bond (she loves that line), and to see an all-time legend at work.
I sat in the seventh row, nearly mid-court, with my mother on my left and Rev. Jesse Jackson on my right — a celebrity indeed. This was all an act of destiny. As the starting lineups were introduced, Jordan received a four-and-a-half minute standing ovation from the crowd of over 32,000. I gave the reverend a high five and thought to myself, “This is icing on an $1,100 cake.