Monday, April 11, 2016

The Chicago Bulls & the Last Snow Day - April 11, 1996

There are some days that live on in your memory, for better or for worse. This is obvious if something really good happens, or if some kind of tragedy strikes.

Sometimes, however, it might not take such a huge event to allow you to remember a specific day very well.

Twenty years ago today, I had such a day (although it is still hard to believe that it actually was a full twenty years ago).

You see, the year 1996 was perhaps my best year as a young man in my twenties. I had a steady girlfriend, which was something relatively new for me at the time. I had successfully wrapped up being president of the Environmental Club at my community college the year before, and joined the school paper, where I was recruited to the position of sports editor. As such, I was one of seven people who went to San Francisco to attend a conference on journalism. It was my first trip to the other coast, and it was free!

There would be other things to make that year stand out for me, as well. That would be the year that I finally saw Pearl Jam and, the two months before that, saw other concerts, including Lollapalooza, Smashing Pumpkins, and Rage Against the Machine. My friend and I would go to Chicago, with a side trip to Milwaukee, which marked my first time out to the Midwest, as well. For the first time in over four years, I went on a trip to Quebec - twice!

That year was pretty remarkable for sports, as well. As a fan of the Super Bowl, seeing the Cowboys and the Steelers duel in the Arizona sunshine was a bit of a thrill! In the summer Olympics, Andre Agassi won gold. And in the NBA, the Chicago Bulls enjoyed what to that point was the most dominant season that any team had ever had in basketball history, going 72-10 during the regular season, then capping that off with a 15-3 run in the postseason to capture the NBA title. They were an exciting team, and I was thrilled to be able to obtain tickets to go see them play against the New Jersey Nets, although I had managed to get them through a ticket package. At the time, it was no big deal to me, simply allowing me the excuse to hang out with friends that much more. Again, that was a great year for numerous reasons, not least of which being that it was around that time, the mid-90's, that proved to be the peak of my social life.

It is rather ironic that I am writing this on this day, specifically, because back when I first started this particular entry (at some point very late last year), I still had no idea that this would be the point where one team finally matched those Chicago Bulls, at least in terms of regular season success. Yes, the Golden State Warriors handed the San Antonio Spurs their first (and so far, only) home defeat last night, and in so doing, they clinched their 72nd win, at least tying the 1995-96 Bulls for most dominant regular season. If Golden State can defeat Memphis at Oracle Arena in their closing game later this week, they will have reached the 73-win milestone, and will stand alone as the winningest regular season in history. Quite an achievement!

Of course, that will really only matter if the Warriors follow that up with another NBA title, just as the Bulls did in 1996. And the Bulls made it look easy that year, breezing through the postseason with a 14-1 record, their only loss coming to the Knicks in the divisional round, and holding a 3-0 series lead against the Seattle Supersonics in the NBA Finals. That was when they hit a very rare stumbling block, as the Sonics managed to take their last two games at home to force the series back to Chicago, although the Bulls finally did clinch the series, and the title, with a convincing win.

Naturally, I was excited to see the Bulls, and there was that anticipation of going to see what then seemed to be a once in a lifetime kind of team. April 11th was the date.

At this point, I should point out that this was not the only thing that made this day stand out. No, you see, we had a nasty winter that year, and it still stands on record as the snowiest winter in the history of this region, the greater Tri-State area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. And on April 11th, we got our last little bit of snow. At least we did in the higher elevations, in the foothills of the Kittatinny Range in northwestern New Jersey. It was not crippling snow, but the most pleasant kind of snow, that thoroughly covers the grass and the leaves on the trees, but only makes the roadways wet. I did not have classes that morning, and so decided to go for a drive to some local parks and take some pictures. They came out great, and became a source of pride to me, as it was unusual for me to devote a whole portion of a day towards something like taking pictures. It was perhaps a foreshadowing of the older version of who I would become, as a person who actively tries to take pleasure in the little things.

In any case, I remember feeling happy as I came home after that. The snow melted rather quickly, and the winds knocked the snow off the trees before too long, but not before I had managed to take quite a few nice, rather dramatic looking shots. As I prepared to go to school, there was a sense of satisfaction and, yes, thankfulness. Again, this was a glimpse of the person that I was to become, although not yet fully there as early as 1996.

And to cap off the day, of course, there was the game. Truth be told, it was not a thrilling game, as the Nets back then stunk, and they were not equal to the task of giving Chicago a serious challenge.

The Bulls won easily, and more convincingly than the final score would suggest - Chicago Bulls 113, New Jersey Nets, 100. It felt like the Bulls completely dominated that game, and by that point, being a fan of basketball and of sports records, I was pulling more for the Bulls than the Nets, admittedly. It would have been a different story, surely, had it been the Lakers. But the Chicago Bulls did not bother me, although they bothered a lot of people back then, including my brother, who is (or was) a Knicks fan. They used to bother me during their first three-peat, but their amazing success of 1995-96 transcended all of that, and made me appreciate just how great and unique they truly were.

Yes, all of that happened on this day twenty years ago, and I remember, and thought it would be good to share, and through that, to relive and recapture the memory of what were great times in my life.

There was a clip of almost the entire game that was here at one point, although whoever posted it on Youtube took it down. But there is nonetheless a much shorter clip of the same game below that.

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