The following article was contributed by George Sands. A man with a marvelous collection of basketball items, George recounts his encounters with Michael Jordan during the 1980s. You can follow him on Twitter @georgesands58.
There will forever be a debate over who is the greatest NBA player of all time. There is no debate over whose autograph was most sought after in the 1980’s. With all due respect to Magic, Larry, Kareem, Doc, Nique and the rest, Michael Jordan”s was the most coveted.
I was lucky enough to get some of them.
Many people know that Michael Jordan got injured early in his second NBA season. What they might not know is that he was hurt in a game against the Warriors in Oakland. The Bulls’ next game was here in Los Angeles against the Clippers. I figured the next morning the Bulls would be having a shoot around and I went to their hotel hoping to catch them before they left.
It was always easier to get the players when they were leaving because they would come down to the lobby one or two at a time. Obviously, when they arrived everyone would get out of the bus at the same time and it was hard to get a lot of autographs.
When I arrived at their hotel, I didn’t see any sign of them. It could have one of three things:
1) They were at a different hotel
2) They weren’t in town yet, or
3) They already had left for the shootaround.
On top of that, I couldn’t be sure that Michael was even with the team. Since he was hurt, he could have gone back to Chicago or even stayed in Oakland for treatment. I waited what seemed like an eternity but was probably a little over an hour until the bus I was waiting for pulled up. All the players filed out and I let them pass without bothering them.
I was just waiting for one guy.
I guess my manners earned me some karma because he proceeded to walk to the hotel jacuzzi (followed by me and a couple others), put down the crutches, take off his shoes, and put his feet in the water. If I could run fast (which I couldn’t) and I was a thief (which I wasn’t) I probably could have taken those shoes.
He willingly signed our stuff.
By the next time I saw him, he was on a total of 19 cards. I put some in a little plastic box and headed for that same hotel. After about a half-hour I saw him in the lobby and gave him those cards. He said thanks and signed whatever I had for him. I hate to think what those cards I gave him are worth now.
For a few more years he remained a willing signer. Once, he came down to the lobby about a half-hour before the bus was supposed to leave and signed everyone’s stuff. Then he looked us in the eye and pointed at us and said:
“I don’t want to see any of you same people here when I get back.”
After he won his first ring he just got too popular and there was really no way to get near him but at least I had my chance.