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Wolff: Remembering Michael Jordan’s dominance

Sports Illustrated

In the November 13, 1995 issue of Sports Illustrated, Alexander Wolff told the story of Michael Jordan’s return to the NBA after his 21-month absence to play minor league baseball. Jordan’s return to the league came against the New York Knicks, twenty years ago this month, in March of 1995.

On March 27 of this year, on a Monday afternoon flush with the balm of spring, Michael Jordan arrived in Manhattan and checked into the Plaza Hotel. That evening he and four companions, including NBC commentator Ahmad Rashad, met for dinner downtown at Robert De Niro’s Tribeca Grill. These were old friends, determined to liberate Jordan from the prison of his hotel room–to “keep it regular,” as Rashad says. The game that Jordan and his Chicago Bulls were to play the next night against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden was only indirectly alluded to, but throughout the evening Rashad sensed something about Jordan–sensed that Jordan knew that if he had something to say, New York was the place to say it.

When Jordan returned to the hotel after midnight, CBS’s Pat O’Brien was waiting for a previously scheduled interview. Jordan had stood him up for more than three hours, but O’Brien had spent that time well, drawing up the most prescient of questions. “When will fans see an explosion,” he asked, “the kind of game in which you score 55 points?”

“It’s just a matter of time,” said Jordan.

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Idea for MLB: Full Sunday of Opening Day games

Opening Day always has been a very special day for me. Baseball brings the promise of spring, even though winter seems to linger into mid May in stupid-weather Chicago.

My first vivid memory of Opening Day was in 1968 when the White Sox opened at home against Cleveland. I was an 8-year-old just beginning my obsession with baseball. Somehow, I always seemed to manage to will myself to get sick so I could stay home from school to watch the season opener. And it wasn’t some wimpy cold. I had a conveniently-timed string of mono, measles and strep throats in successive early Aprils. I couldn’t have been happier with my 102-fever as I settled into the couch for a day of baseball.

The record shows Cleveland, behind Sonny Siebert, slaughtered my Sox 9-0 in the ’68 opener. Yet that hardly dimmed my enthusiasm, as 47 years later, I am eagerly awaiting another White Sox Opening Day.

However, there’s a problem. The Sox open Monday afternoon in Kansas City. I’m not a kid anymore. I don’t miss work even when I do get sick. As a result, I won’t be able to watch most of the game.

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Notre Dame seniors leave lasting mark

ncaa-cleveland-squarelogo-web CLEVELAND – At the end, they had nowhere to go. Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton ended their Notre Dame careers on Saturday night in a game that came so close to taking its place as one of the greatest in the history of Notre Dame basketball. Instead, with their school’s second trip to the Final Four seconds away, their last game became a crushing defeat, a 68-66 loss to the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats.

As the Kentucky celebration started, Grant and Connaughton just stood with their teammates. They were limited to a combined total of seven of 24 shots. Grant’s last two shots were unsuccessful three-point attempts, the first with 1:25 to play, the last in the final second after he was forced toward the left corner by 7-foot Kentucky defender Willie Cauley-Stein.

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Kentucky holds on to earn trip to Final Four

ncaa-cleveland-squarelogo-web CLEVELAND – Dakari Johnson couldn’t contain his emotions. He giggled through answers in the corner of Kentucky’s locker room after his Wildcats barely secured a second consecutive trip to the Final Four. Johnson’s hands came up to his face like a reflex, bumping into tape recorders and camaras as he tried to hide his smile.

He didn’t say much. All of it was still sinking in.

Behind his palms was the grin of a child who had just gotten out of doing his chores. Or, as was the case Saturday night in the din of Quicken Loans Arena, the grin of a 7-foot sophomore whose team just escaped in a game it easily could have lost.

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Tournament marks emergence of Notre Dame’s Demetrius Jackson

ncaa-cleveland-squarelogo-web CLEVELAND – Notre Dame is hoping to extend an already historic season for its basketball program. The Fighting Irish have reached a regional final for the first time since they fell to Michigan State in 1979. They have a chance to play in the Final Four for just the second time in school history, and the first since 1978. They emerged from the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament as champions, having traversed the gauntlet of Tobacco Road that is Duke and North Carolina.

Their lineup features quality players, including the leadership of upperclassmen. But none is as important to their recent success as sophomore point guard Demetrius Jackson.

As a freshman, Jackson posted averages of 6.0 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game for the Irish in 22.2 minutes of action. He started just 15 of his team’s 30 games. Those numbers have improved to averages of 12.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 34.5 minutes in his sophomore season. In the Sweet 16 matchup with Wichita State on Thursday evening, Jackson’s 20 points, on seven-of-10 shooting including four of five three-point attempts, pushed the Irish past the Shockers. Jackson appears to be playing the best basketball of his career at the most opportune time, and he attributes much of his development to his teammates.

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Rec facility dedication honors Attucks’ teams, ‘Dust Bowl’

IUPUI will celebrate the opening of newly developed outdoor sand volleyball and basketball courts with a three-part dedication ceremony honoring two icons of local basketball history: the Lockefield Gardens Dust Bowl and the Crispus Attucks 1955 state high school champions.

A Championship Tribute, the dedication of the IUPUI Campus Recreation Outdoor Facility, is 3-5 p.m. April 1 at the facility at the northwest corner of Blake Street and West North Street, and at Hine Hall, formerly the University Place Conference Center, 850 W. Michigan St. The tribute is free and open to the public. The IUPUI Division of Student Affairs and the IU National Sports Journalism Center are sponsors of the event.

Basketball legends Oscar Robertson, John Gipson and Bill Hampton, three members of the 1955 championship Attucks team, will be special guests of honor. The 1955 team was the nation’s first all-black team to win a state title and the first Indianapolis team to win the Indiana boy’s state title. Crispus Attucks also won the 1956 state championship.

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Apply by March 31 for NCAA Final Four photography workshop

Aspiring student sports photographers have until March 31 to apply for the inaugural Men’s Final Four Sports Photography Workshop, which will provide 10 participants with access to NCAA tournament and U.S. Basketball Writers Association’s Full Court Press events April 3-4 in Indianapolis.

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