Preseason games don’t count toward a team’s official record, but they do count in the memory of players and fans. And that’s why Michael Jordan’s first home game as a member of the Chicago Bulls didn’t even take place in the state of Illinois.
As chronicled in extensive detail by CSN Chicago’s Chuck Garfien, Jordan’s official home debut for the Bulls in 1984 didn’t come in the old Chicago Stadium, or even in Chicago at all. Because of a general lack of excitement about the Bulls, the team played it’s home preseason game at Washington High in East Chicago, Ind.
You can see sporadic footage from the matchup against the neighboring Milwaukee Bucks in the video below, which gives you a sense of just how claustrophobic the setting was.
And that’s before players had to deal with other logistical problems, like a lack of security.
“There was nobody to stop them and they were so excited. They would have done anything to get up and touch him,” Bulls Senior Director of Public & Media Relations Tim Hallam told CSN Chicago. “That was the beginning for me to see that he was indeed like the Pied Piper. It signified, ‘Wow, this guy is really going to be something.'”
Now, the very court where Jordan’s first professional home contest unfolded no longer exists. Washington High was merged with East Chicago Roosevelt High in 1986, and Washington High was demolished, even its gymnasium. Another small piece of history fading away into the ether, with Jordan’s brilliance the lasting reminder of its existence.