O'BRIEN: Jordan's entry into the AARP can make you feel old

Posted: Feb. 15, 2013 5:28 pm Updated: Mar. 29, 2013 7:15 pm


I still see him gliding through the air, the basketball cradled in his arms, rising higher and higher until it looked like his head was going to hit the rim.

Just as he hit the apex of his flight, Michael Jeffrey Jordan would throw down a thunderous dunk.

It seems like only yesterday that Jordan was dominating the National Basketball Association, leading the Chicago Bulls to world championship after world championship. But when you start doing the math, you figure out that Jordan's been gone from the limelight for a long time. He hasn't been a factor in the NBA since 1998, when he led the Bulls to the last of their six NBA titles. (Sorry, the Washington Wizards years don't count to me. It's like when Bobby Ewing came back from the dead on Dallas. What happened during those two seasons is all a bad dream.)

How in the heck can it be that Jordan is turning 50? There's no way that he should be a part of this article in AARP The Magazine that my co-hort Steve Eighinger laid on my desk. Jordan should still be in Sports Illustrated and ESPN the Magazine. No offense, but he shouldn't be featured by the AARP.

It's true. Jordan will blow out the candles on that 50th birthday cake Sunday.

Didn't I just save all of my paper route money hauling around the Galesburg Register-Mail for months just to buy a pair of the original Air Jordans? It hasn't been that long since April 12, 1987 -- the day Jordan met me before a Bulls-Indiana Pacers game at the Chicago Stadium.

I can still remember my feet freezing from having sat in seats placed on a flimsy carpet on the ice. My parents called to get tickets for that game the day they went on sale before the season. I asked my mom to order us the best seats in the place.

Little did I know that the beat seats available were in the front row behind one of the baskets. They cost us all of $25 apiece. It's still the best seat I've ever had for a game. That day was one of the best of my childhood.

We showed up early because it was "Get Your Photo Taken With Your Favorite Bull Day." Of course, this was when the Bulls were nothing but Jordan. The line in the Chicago Stadium snaked around the bowels of the area for what seemed like miles. I finally got into the area and was handed a slip of paper with "No. 1" scribbled on it.

As it turned out, you didn't get a photo of your favorite Bull. You got a photo taken with you and the Bull that you were assigned to go sit next to.

I had about 20 feet to figure out where I was going. There were six players lined up under the basket. On one end was Jordan, while on the other was a balding center named Granville Waiters. While Waiters was a bit of a cult hero of mine, Jordan was my idol.

Thankfully, No. 1 meant Jordan and I got my photo taken with him. I was star-struck. I remember muttering something along the lines of "Hello, Mr. Jordan," and shaking his hand. We got a quick Polaroid photo taken, and it was over in about 30 seconds -- the biggest brush with greatness in my life up to that point. I was shaking like a leaf when it was over. It was as if I had undergone some kind of religious experience.

I next ran into Jordan at the 2005 Final Four. I went back to being that 16-year-old again, just awed by his presence. He's always been bigger than life.

If my graying hair, bulging waistline and creaking bones weren't already proof that I'm getting old, the fact that my boyhood idol is turning 50 serves as a good wake-up call.




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