This Sunday April 25th will mark the 13th anniversary of the Washington Bullets’ 1997 opening first round playoff game against Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. That game represented the franchise’s first playoff game since May 8, 1988 … or, the first in eight years, 11 months and 17 days to be exact.
The ’96-97 Bullets team featured the present-day likes of an ESPN NBA analyst (Tim Legler), a special assistant for the Golden State Warriors (Calbert Cheaney), an analyst for NBA TV/TNT (Chris Webber), a guy who is still playing in the NBA playoffs (Juwan Howard, Portland Trailblazers), a Kentucky Wildcats basketball assistant who was recently charged with a DUI (Rod Strickland), a guy who was last year fired as head coach of the D-League’s Fort Wayne Mad Ants (Jaren Jackson), a guy who is currently a community liaison of sorts for the Wizards (Gheorghe Muresan), a guy who attended the March 27, 2010 Wizards-Jazz game with a lady friend (Chris Whitney), and a guy who assists the DeMatha High basketball program because that’s where his sons played (Harvey Grant) … among other cats.
Recently Webber went on the Dan Patrick Show and recounted a story from the ’97 playoff match-up against Jordan’s Bulls (via Sports Radio Interviews):
“One time we played in Washington. We played a five game series against the Bulls. It was the year they won 72 games. We lose all three games by a total of seven points. I saw Michael Jordan come into our locker room with a cigar, while it was lit, and said, ‘Who’s going to check me tonight?’ And we looked at Calbert Cheaney and we were laughing like little school kids knowing that Calbert Cheaney was going to get him, we knew it wasn’t a game for Mike. He was going to be there and he was going to be playing like he said. Game Three we get off the bus and Juwan (Howard) is from Chicago and used to workout there. I’ll never forget, Jordan was sitting on his Ferrari and Pippen was right there and they have a cigar lit. We get off the bus and we have to pass them with a lit cigar. You want to talk about posturing? Forget Phil Jackson. You got Michael Jordan there behind the scenes smoking a cigar before the game, letting us know that he’s the Red Auerbach before the game even started. It was almost like, ‘I lit the cigar. I’m celebrating already. This is just a formality, you guys getting on the court tonight.”
Of course, there are factual inaccuracies with Webber’s tale … such as, the Bullets were swept 3-0 and lost all three games by a total of 18 points, not seven, and that game three was in Washington, not Chicago like Webber alludes. But it would’ve been cool if Jordan had arranged for his Ferrari to be in D.C. … probably did.
In any case, stories are good, so I thought I’d share.