Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Seen at the Fullerton Station exiting the Brown Line to Kimball at about 8:20 a.m. 

The neon green Air Jordan backpack clashed horribly with her conservative work attire, but Dana didn’t care. It made her laugh. The backpack had been a gift from her five-year-old nephew Chase, who—she certainly hoped—had obtained the money for such an expensive gift from his mother Kelsey, Dana’s older sister. The Air Jordan logo was an inside joke between the sisters thanks to an event that occurred the previous summer.

Dana had stayed with Kelsey and Chase in June and July while she was searching for employment. One day she was teaching Chase how to shoot a basketball. Obviously, his tiny arms couldn’t get the ball anywhere near the basket, and he soon became frustrated. Before he could launch himself into a tantrum, Dana scooped him up and lifted him high into the air so he could enthusiastically dunk the ball. She even let him dangle from the rim for a few seconds before she brought him back down.

“Wow, Chase!” Dana grinned. “You’re better than Michael Jordan!”

His brow furrowed like an elderly philosopher’s might as he absentmindedly dribbled the ball. “Who’s Michael Jordan?”

Dana couldn’t believe it. She’d never felt so old. How was it possible to not know who Michael Jordan was? Sure, Chase was only five. He couldn’t have seen him play basketball. But still! Dana was born long after Elvis Presley died, yet she was perfectly aware of his existence.

Dana knelt down. “Chase, Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player who ever lived. He played for The Bulls, right here in Chicago, and he led them to not one, not two, but six championships.”

Chase’s eyes opened wide in disbelief. “SIX? That’s a lot. You mean he was better than Derrick Rose?”

“Way better than Derrick Rose. Come on, I’ll show you.”

Dana took her nephew inside and showed him some clips of Jordan on YouTube. Within ten minutes, Chase was hooked.

His interest in Michael Jordan quickly grew into a full-fledged obsession. And because she first brought the basketball player to his attention, Dana became not only The Best Aunt Ever, but also a guru of sorts. For his birthday she bought him a Jordan jersey and a copy of Space Jam on DVD. He watched the movie every day for a month, and Kelsey could rarely convince him to remove the jersey so she could wash it. Chase also began to place special significance on the number 23, as though it were some sort of holy talisman. He wanted only twenty-three peas on his plate at dinner. He tried to cross every room—no matter how large or how small—in twenty-three steps. Whenever Dana left for an interview, he’d give her twenty-three high fives for good luck.

In late July, Dana was finally hired by a big hotel chain downtown. On the night before she moved out, Dana heard the door of her room creak open. She saw Chase’s tiny figure steal inside and place something at the foot of her bed. She pretended to be asleep so his intended surprise wouldn’t be ruined. Before he left, he kissed his hand and put it on her forehead.

The bright color of the backpack was made harsher by the morning light; it hurt Dana’s eyes when she woke up. When she saw the Air Jordan logo, however, she was delighted. At breakfast she gave Chase a big hug, and promised to take him to a Bulls game later that year. She packed her toiletries, her laptop, and a picture of Chase into the backpack and set off on her own. 

I worked at a day camp in 2006, and one day some of the other counselors and I were discussing Michael Jordan. None of the kids knew who he was. It was horrifying. I mean, I don't even really like basketball, but as a kid growing up in the Chicagoland area in the 90's, it was basically a requirement that you worship Michael Jordan.

Two fun facts about Space Jam: its hilarious 1996 website still exists, and also the song "Space Jam" is almost exactly the same as "Gangnam Style." Here's a 1:1 mashup.  


  1. I like this. I'm going to kiss my hand and touch someone today.

  2. Oh my god, that mashup is the VERY BEST THING IN THE ENTIRE WORLD.


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