Between nostalgia and “fascination with Jordan”, the passion for “Chicago Bulls” has passed.

in Marseille-Jerdan Sports Center (Levallois),

We can go 24 seasons without a title, half without the playoffs, with only one conference finals appearance (in 2011), while maintaining the largest audience in the entire NBA. But at the same time, rocking France on the occasion of the NBA Paris Game this Thursday (9pm in Bercy), which will almost steal the show at Fashion Week in the capital. 14,700 tickets to this poster looks unlikely between Detroit and Chicago, currently 14th and 10th in the Eastern Conference, with 30 minutes remaining. The explanation for this crazy outburst appears above all to be two initials: yes, MJ.

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

“Too much winning has become almost boring”

This visceral connection to the Illinois franchise, Bertrand Landry (35), French Twitter account A reference to the Bulls since 1996, the year the group won Phil Jackson’s fifth title. “I got interested in basketball when I was a kid, at the height of Jordanmania,” he says. It was a funny period: I watched videos of matches recorded on the channel + three days late and was calm: there was no one who spoiled me before the Internet. Today, Bertrand Landry can’t imagine missing even the smallest game of his favorite team, which he watches live in the middle of the night thanks to NBA League Pass. In 27 seasons as a fan, this employee of Disneyland Paris, who spent a year in Orlando, Florida, to attend about fifteen Bulls NBA games, knows that he knows more lows than highs with his heart team. .

“In 1998, after a sixth title in eight years and Jordan retiring, I said to myself that winning a lot is almost boring, and I blame myself for thinking that, one that will obviously be at Bercy this Thursday laughs. . With Jordan’s retirement I wanted to see what could happen, but I was disgusted that our matches were no longer on Canal+. Fortunately, even if there was zero there then, the connection was maintained thanks to video games. Bertrand Landry’s passion Corey Benjamin and managed to resist the years of Eddy Curry and then the years of Kris Dunn and Luke Cornett.No small feat.

China only dreamed of the Bulls and Jordan in 1987

On a casually light plate (pizza, fries, hot dog, doughnut), we were lucky enough to run into Sam at the impromptu self-serve of the Marcel-Serdan de Levallois Palais des Sports, where the Bulls then the Pistons practiced on Wednesday. Smith. Yes, LE Sam Smith almost landed a role in the hit Netflix series The Last DanceDedicated to Michael Jordan in 2020. Suffice it to say that the 74-year-old former journalist Chicago Tribuneand best-selling author Jordanian regulations, had many opportunities to gauge the popularity of the red bull around the world. “Even though the Bulls are no longer a title-winning team, they retain the most internationally recognized logo and brand, where the Lakers and Celtics, despite all their titles, are essentially recognizable in the United States.” bulls.com website.

As he recalls, the Bulls have been important in the international basketball landscape since, but also before, their dynasty. Because in 1987, when American League head David Stern visited China to sign a television deal, “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 assures us. In 1990, Rebelote, on the popularity of the NBA outside the USA through MJ, his first show with 2000 fans gathered together in the small gymnasium Géo-André (Paris XVIe) in France and 8000 others disappointed outside.

Jordan’s last paparazzi target in Paris in 1997

Yes, yes, from 1990, before His Airness’ first NBA title in 1991, as well as the spectacular Dream Team of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. And then there’s this McDonald’s Open in Bercy in October 1997, the culmination of his star status at No. 23 in Europe, then called “God” in the French press. Sam Smith perfectly remembers the atmosphere surrounding the Bulls’ two wins over PSG Racing (89-82) and Olympiakos (104-78): “People were excited by all Jordan’s gestures: they saw him as an acrobat. He always had the attention of the whole room. Later in the tournament, PSG Racing pivot Eric Struelens shares this observation.

Obviously, everyone wanted to see Jordan. Personally, this match is in the Top 3 of the best memories of my career, even if Scottie Pippen and THE phenom Dennis Rodman are missing. We were lucky to have a big media coverage around us that night. Therefore, I wanted to show myself in front of the Bulls, to be able to say whether I will have the opportunity to play in the NBA one day, and why not. »

Unfortunately, the answer will be negative for our Belgian interior, then at the age of 27 and Jordan presented some striking moments despite himself, the author of 28 points in one match finally hung (89-82). Did he take the opportunity to take a selfie with MJ in the middle of the Intercontinental de Paris IXe where all the teams are housed (before the word was even born)? “No, we had seen very little of him, and it wasn’t my style to bother him for a picture, vapid Eric Struelens. I had more contact with Steve Kerr and Luc Longley in the hotel lobby. When he left the main gate, there were always people milling around hoping to catch a glimpse of him, and paparazzi were on the lookout. But Jordan had a way out and the police wouldn’t let him go. »

Belgian pilot Eric Struelens got a chance to face Michael Jordan at the McDonalds Open tournament held in Bercy on October 17, 1997.
Belgian pilot Eric Struelens got a chance to face Michael Jordan at the McDonalds Open tournament held in Bercy on October 17, 1997. – GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

Cuban cigars worth 4,000 euros were bought from the center

18,000 francs (€4,000), including one of the Bulls star’s rare outings that week… to buy cigars. But why this strangeness, when he locked himself in a hotel room for four days? The end of the story is clearly for Sam Smith: “He absolutely wanted to buy Cuban cigars because there was an embargo against Cuba here, so he couldn’t buy any in the US. That’s why he wanted to refuel. Anyone would have all their cigars confiscated at the airport, but not Michael Jordan. Similarly, he received no tickets while collecting speeding tickets in Chicago. »

Amazing perks that also established the legend of Chicago’s greatness, thus allowing his franchise to stand apart forever. “The Bulls are still pretty popular around the world,” said DeMar DeRozan, the team’s wingman in 2023 and a key asset to this lopsided group contending for a playoff berth. It all started with Michael and now we have the honor of coming full circle by returning to Paris for a match. And this with the presence of several hundred American fans who came from Chicago “specifically for the match and not to visit the city” (according to Sam Smith).

Bulls around DeMar DeRozan posed again in front of the Eiffel Tower this week, a little over 25 years after Who You Know.
Bulls around DeMar DeRozan posed again in front of the Eiffel Tower this week, a little over 25 years after Who You Know. – NBAE Getty Images

Programmers don’t rip Bulls anymore

However, if beIN Sports and Canal + (obviously) go out of their way to air this poster on Thursday, the Bulls are no longer favored by programmers in France for the rest of the year. “We have to be in the culture of the moment, and because the Bulls are not terrible today, no one follows their absolute programs on television,” says Xavier Vaution. An uncompromising logic that contradicts the irrational passion that drives so many fans around the world.

“Today, that attraction remains for the Bulls, as Michael Jordan, who looks like a character from Mythology, sums up Sam Smith. For some fans, there’s a “Let’s be close to the team Jordan plays for” side. And no matter where the Bulls USA travels, you see team uniforms being worn all over the room. There is no doubt that this attraction to the number 23 will last longer than the American embargo against Cuba.

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