Between nostalgia and “fascination for Jordan”, the passion for the Chicago Bulls transcends time

At the Marcel-Cerdan Sports Center (Levallois),

We can go 24 seasons without a title, half of them without play-offs, with only one conference final (in 2011), while maintaining the largest attendance in the entire NBA. But also by shaking up France, on the occasion of the NBA Paris Game this Thursday (9 pm in Bercy) that will almost steal the show at Fashion Week in the capital. The 14,700 tickets for this poster, however, barely blinked between Detroit and Chicago, currently 14th and 10th in the Eastern Conference, so left in 30 minutes. The explanation for this crazy effervescence seems to lie mainly in two initials: and yes, MJ.

Flagship basketball commentator in France since 1985, and still on the microphone of Canal + this Thursday, George Eddy explained: “The Bulls clearly still represent the era of Michael Jordan. It was the best team in the world in the 1990s. Jordan helped popularize the NBA around the world and there is a certain nostalgia when talking about the Bulls among French fans, because MJ remains present in all spirits”. Head of the basketball section at beIN Sports, Xavier Vaution continues: “It’s a historic franchise that remains very popular even in France. When you think of the Bulls, there’s this jersey, this logo, this music. At beIN, we have Eric Micoud [ancien joueur pro devenu consultant] who remains a huge Bulls fan and still says “we” when he talks about their games. »

“Too much winning has become almost boring”

This visceral link to the Illinois franchise, Bertrand Landry (35), is responsible for French Twitter account of reference dedicated to the Bulls, since 1996, year of the fifth title for Phil Jackson’s band. “As a kid, I started getting interested in basketball when Jordanmania was at its peak,” he said. It was a funny time: I watched the videos of the matches recorded on Canal + three days late, and I was calm: before the Internet, no one was destroying me. “Now, Bertrand Landry doesn’t mind missing a little game of his favorite team, which he watches live in the middle of the night thanks to NBA League Pass, “with a nap before and a nap after”. In 27 seasons as a supporter , this employee at Disneyland Paris, who spent a year in Orlando park (Florida) to attend about fifteen Bulls NBA games, is known to know less than high in his team at heart.

“In 1998, after the sixth title in eight years and the retirement of Jordan, I told myself that winning so much is almost boring, and I blame myself for thinking that, one laughs who will obviously be with Bercy this Thursday. . With Jordan’s retirement, I want to see what can happen, but I’m upset that our matches are no longer on Canal+. Fortunately, the link has been preserved thanks to video games, even though they were zero there at the time. Bertrand Landry’s desire to battle the Corey Benjamin and Eddy Curry years, after the Kris Dunn and Luke Kornet years, succeeded. No small feat.

China only dreamed of the Bulls and Jordan back in 1987

Randomly on a light plate (pizza, fries, hot dog, donut), Wednesday in the improvised self-service of the Palais des sports Marcel-Cerdan de Levallois, where Bulls and Pistons practice, we were lucky to meet Sam Smith. And yes, LE Sam Smith almost starred in the popular Netflix series The Last Dancededicated to Michael Jordan in 2020. Suffice it to say that at age 74, the former reporter for Chicago Grandstandand best-selling author The Jordan Rules, had many opportunities to measure the popularity of the red bull in the world. “Even though the Bulls are no longer a title-winning team, they maintain the most recognizable logo and branding in the world, where the Lakers and Celtics remain well-known in the United States, despite all their titles.”, says the current editor for the site

In his recollection, the Bulls were important to the landscape of international basketball after their dynasty, but also before. Because in 1987, when American League boss David Stern traveled to China to try to sign a TV contract, “they didn’t know anything about basketball and the NBA there, but they were already talking about this bull. red and Michael Jordan,” Sam Smith assured us. Rebelote about the popularity of the NBA outside the USA by MJ in 1990, in its first show in France, in the small gymnasium Géo-André (Paris XVIe) assembled, with its 2,000 fans crammed, and its 8,000 others failed outside.

Jordan’s ultimate paparazzi target in 1997 in Paris

Yes yes, from 1990, before His Airness’ first NBA title in 1991, as well as the fantastic Dream Team of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. And then there was the McDonald’s Open in October 1997 in Bercy, the culmination of the star status of the number 23 in Europe, then called “God” in the French press. Sam Smith remembers very well the atmosphere around the Bulls’ two victories against PSG Racing (89-82) and Olympiakos (104-78): “People were excited about all Jordan’s actions: they saw him like an acrobat. He had the attention of the whole room, all the time. Then PSG Racing pivoted in this tournament, Eric Struelens shared this observation.

Obviously everyone wants to see Jordan. Personally, this match is in the Top 3 of the best memories of my career, even without Scottie Pippen and THE phenomenon Dennis Rodman. We were lucky to have a huge media coverage around us that night. So I want to present myself in front of the Bulls, to see if one day I will have the opportunity, why not, to play in the NBA. »

The answer will unfortunately be negative for our Belgian interior, then 27 years old, and present despite himself in some stunning highlights from Jordan, author of 28 points in a match finally hung (89-82). Did he take the opportunity to take a selfie (even before the word was born) with MJ, in the middle of the Intercontinental de Paris IXe, where all the teams reside? “No, we saw him very little and it was not my style to bother him for a photo, loose Eric Struelens. I interacted more with Steve Kerr and Luc Longley in the hotel lobby. When we went out the main door, there were always people hanging around hoping to see him, and the paparazzi were on the lookout. But Jordan is out, and the police won’t let him go. »

Belgian pivot Eric Struelens had the opportunity to face Michael Jordan at the McDonalds Open on October 17, 1997 in Bercy.
Belgian pivot Eric Struelens had the opportunity to face Michael Jordan at the McDonalds Open on October 17, 1997 in Bercy. – GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

4,000 euros worth of Cuban cigars were purchased at the center

Along for one of the rare outings of the Bulls star that week, to buy 18,000 francs (4,000 euros)… of cigars. But why is this strange, if he also locked himself in his hotel room for four days? The end of the story was clear for Sam Smith: “He wanted to buy Cuban cigars because there was an embargo against Cuba here, so he couldn’t buy any in the United States. So he wanted to refuel. Anyone would confiscate all their cigars at the airport, but not Michael Jordan. Also, he did not receive a single fine in Chicago while collecting speeding tickets. »

Amazing privileges that also built the legend of his majesty in Chicago, and thus allowed his franchise to remain separate forever. “The Bulls are still world famous,” said DeMar DeRozan, the team’s winger in 2023 and the main asset of this irregular group fighting to qualify for the playoffs. It all started with Michael, and now we have the honor of coming full circle by returning to Paris for a match. And this in the presence of several hundred American fans who came from Chicago “mainly for the match and not to visit the city” (according to Sam Smith).

Around DeMar DeRozan, the Bulls once again posed in front of the Eiffel Tower this week, just over 25 years after you met.
Around DeMar DeRozan, the Bulls once again posed in front of the Eiffel Tower this week, just over 25 years after you met. – NBA Getty Images

Programmers are no longer ripping off Bulls

However, if beIN Sports and Canal + (which is clear) do everything to broadcast this poster on Thursday, the Bulls will not necessarily be favored by the programmers in France for the rest of the year. “We have to be in the culture of the moment, and since the Bulls are not terrible now, no one is chasing their full television programming”, Xavier Vaution pointed out. An unparalleled logic, in contrast to the irrational passion that drives so many fans around the world.

“Today, this fascination for the Bulls remains because of Michael Jordan, who is like a character from mythology, sums up Sam Smith. There is a “let’s stay close to the team that Jordan played for” among some fans. And wherever the Bulls travel in the United States, you’ll see team jerseys worn across the room. And there’s no doubt that this craze for the number 23 will triumph longer than America’s embargo against Cuba.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *