ON THIS DAY IN 1982: Michael Jordan, playing as a freshman for the University of North Carolina, did this:
Now, just because Jordan drilled the famous winning jumper to beat Georgetown on March 29, 1982 while he was wearing North Carolina Blue and not Johnny "Red" Kerr Red and Black, there's no reason for Chicago sports fans to avoid laying claim to it. It's the first big moment of Jordan's legacy, after all.
As fans, Michael Jordan belongs to us, so gimme. And, quite bluntly, there wasn't much from the Wizards era to consider.
With Jordan's first big "Shot" in the books, let's take a look at the other top moments for popular Chicago athletes that happened when they weren't wearing the familiar uniform of a Chicago sports team.
2. Horace Grant's Orlando Magic beat Michael's Bulls — May 18, 1995
Michael can dish it out, but can he take it? (Not really all that well, no.) Jordan in '95 had bagged Major League Baseball, faxed in a two-word message notifying the world of his return, and changed his jersey number to 45. It was a weird time in Chicago sports — but we still expected the Bulls to win with Jordan. Well, the Orlando Magic made moot any haughty championship plans for the Bulls, taking them down in six games in the second round of the playoffs. And they did it with the help of onetime MJ scapegoat Horace Grant. Grant had joined the Magic in free agency and played his role perfectly — just like he did with the Bulls — alongside Magic stars Shaquille O'Neal, Penny Hardaway, Nick Anderson and Dennis Scott.
In the playoffs, the Magic were better, the Bulls were not ready and Jordan ran out of gas. Grant played big in the series until a finger injury limited his effectiveness. Still, it was Grant the Magic players lifted on their shoulders at the United Center after a 14-0 run ended the Bulls season. Jordan often had belittled Grant when they were teammates, as detailed in Sam Smith's The Jordan Rules and ESPN's "The Last Dance" doc. The Magic got to the NBA Finals but lost, and the Bulls bounced back starting the next season to win three more titles in the '90s. But for one series — and season — Horace got back at Michael in the best way.
Of course he did!
3. Carlton Fisk waves home run fair in Game 6 of World Series — Oct. 21, 1975
Not unlike collegiate Jordan's shot, Carlton Fisk's most famous dinger came before his time in Chicago. The Red Sox trailed the Reds 3-2 in the Series, and the score was tied in the 12th at Fenway Park when Fisk came to bat against right-hander Pat Darcy:
The Red Sox fell to the Reds in Game 7 — his closest chance to a championship. Fisk wouldn't come to the South Side for six years, following a free-agency snafu by Boston's front office. Whoops, where's the Fisk? Chicago, chumps!
4. Chris Chelios wins Stanley Cup... ugh, with the Red Wings — June 13, 2002.
Chris Chelios won three Stanley Cups in his career, but he never did better than "close" when he played for his hometown Chicago Blackhawks. So it was a semi-bummer for Hawks fans when Chelios, playing for the hated Detroit Red Wings in the 2001-02 season at age 40, hoisted Lord Stanley's Cup. Chelios says the '02 Cup remains his favorite of the three. The Hawks' time soon would come, just not with Cheli.
5. Ed Belfour wins Stanley Cup vs. Dominik Hašek (and Hawks are nowhere close) — June 19, 1999
Belfour helped the Hawks reach the Stanley Cup Final in 1992 but, as with Chelios, the team fell short of hoisting the trophy during his time in Chicago. Belfour moved to Dallas in 1997 and won the Cup with Mike Modano, Brett Hull and the Stars the next season against the Buffalo Sabres — with former Hawks goalie Dominik Hašek minding Buffalo's net. Hey, a two-fer!
6. Greg Maddux wins World Series (and three more Cy Young Awards) ... with Braves — October 28, 1995
Maddux definitely peaked just as the Cubs let him leave. He won the Cy Young Award an amazing four straight seasons from 1992-95, including his first three in Atlanta, and culminated the stretch with a World Series ring in 1995
7. Luis Aparicio wins World Series ... with the Orioles — October 9, 1966
Blackhawks fans have some mixed feelings about Chelios. Luis Aparicio, conversely, is widely beloved by Sox fans, in addition to being one of the more decorated ballplayers in team history. But, like Chelios, he never won the World Series with the White Sox, despite coming close in '59. It's a great thing for Aparicio that he got to contribute to a championship somewhere, even if it wasn't here.
8. Mark Grace wins World Series ... with the Diamondbacks — Nov. 4, 2001
Remember how well Grace hit in the '89 NLCS against the Giants? He slashed .647/.682/1.118 with a home run, eight RBIs and three runs scored in five games — and it still wasn't as good as Will Clark, who went with .650/.682/1.200 with two homers, eight RBIs and eight runs scored. It was never good enough in Chicago, which mostly wasn't Grace's fault over 13 seasons. In the 2001 World Series, he batted .263/.391/.474 with a home run in Game 4 and a single off Mariano Rivera that started Arizona's rally in Game 7.
9. Frank Thomas hits career home run No. 500 ... with the Blue Jays — June 28, 2007
Frank Thomas wearing a Blue Jays uniform (especially this terrible one, yeesh) is a lot like Michael Jordan wearing Washington Wizards colors. Did it really happen? It's so ugly! It did happen and, in fact, something really beautiful happened whilst Thomas wore it: The Big Hurt hit career home run No. 500. Put it on the board, eh?
9a. Robin Ventura hits walk-off 'grand-slam single' in NLCS ... for the Mets — Oct. 17, 1999
Ventura came in 1 for 18 in the series. It was raining, it looked like it was pouring. It was the 15th inning. Everyone was tired. Robin didn't care.
Every single game in this series came down to one or two runs — so much so that Ventura was not allowed by the baseball gods to score on his own grand slam. So the official scorer reduced his slam to a single. The Mets lost this Series in Game 6 and Robin never won a World Series.
9b. Jim Thome his career homer No. 600 ... for the Twins — Aug. 15, 2011
Thome's 500th career homer was a walk-off (!) for the Sox against the Angels. But his 600th came as a stranger:
9c. Sammy Sosa hits career home run No. 600... against the Cubs — June 20, 2007
Some people think nobody in Chicago cares how Sammy hit his 600th home run. I don't want to believe that, nor do I want to live in such a world. Somebody out there cares!
10. Tony La Russa wins World Series ... with the Athletics — Oct. 27, 1989
It wasn't so much winning the World Series that was galling to Sox fans after Hawk Harrelson fired La Russa in mid-1986, it was instead the daily competence, respectability and dominance displayed by the Athletics with La Russa at the helm. Meanwhile, the Sox were bumbling around, possibly to the point of leaving for St. Petersburg, Fla. The late '80s were a hard time for Sox fans until it was certain that new Comiskey Park was being built. Meanwhile, La Russa had the respect of everyone as being the top manager in MLB. He'd add another two in St. Louis and, hey, he could still add a fourth here, too!
EXTRA! Harry Caray's popularity blows up with Cubs — April 5, 1982
Harry Caray wasn't a player but he did crush a lot of Sox fans after ownership fired him after the 1981 season. Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn didn't like Harry's schtick with colleague Jimmy Piersall because they held players accountable. Ownership also didn't like that the Sox broadcast team was more popular than the product on the field. Thankfully, the Sox addressed the product on the field, but they really messed up by letting go of Harry. They could have made Harry Caray the centerpiece for Sox broadcasts, regardless of who the players on the field were. The Cubs did this brilliantly, even if their own plan for the roster wasn't always consistent. At least the Cubs had Harry! Holy cow, did the Sox blow it.