NBA Stories: The First Time I Encountered Michael Jordan
As a Kings PR intern, my main game-night task was the extremely complex job of grabbing box scores off the printer and handing them to the media.
While warming up the printer I heard that Dennis, the middle-aged 24-second shot clock operator, blew out his knee and couldn’t make it to the game.
Being that I owned the most dispensable job amongst the PR staff, I was told to fill in on the shot clock for the night. Despite the fact that I’d never operated a shot clock and was also receiving poor reviews on my box score pass-out technique. Grant Napear and Jerry Reynolds claimed I couldn’t cleanly place a box score on the table in front of them. My arm messed up their hair, grazing them while setting the box score down. I wasn’t used to the extra inches sport coat sleeves added to my wrist.
Regardless, I took my seat at the scorer’s table. Now, I’d flicked a lot of light switches in my life, my friend, but never anything like this.
My ’96 Acura Integra didn’t have hydraulics.
I stared down at the switch and started envisioning my technique. Which finger would I use to flick the switch? Thumb? Index? Kriss Kross style? (You can get the finger. The middle.) If I had it to do over again, I would have went with the pinky. ON THE LEFT HAND.
But I went textbook right-hand index finger on that switch. Rollin’ in my 6-4.
As the players warmed up pre-game, I got busy practicing. Bobby Hurley pull up jumper. Brick. Flickthatswitch.
Duane Causwell air ball. Don’tflickthatswitch.
Offensive rebound. Flickthatswitch/Resetthe24
The refs came over to chat up the stats crew. The other guys sold me out quick and told the refs I was a shot clock virgin.
“I’m not a virgin – who said that?!?!” my insecure college self yelled back.
The ref told me not to worry. Easy job. If it hits the rim, flick the switch. If it doesn’t hit the rim, don’t flick the switch.
But all I could think about was Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf grazing the rim on a missed three, and Mitch Richmond grabbing it and putting it in at the buzzer to win the game. But Mitch’s shot doesn’t count because I never reset the shot clock and my buzzer went off to cost Mitch his game winner. Then fans storm the scorer’s table to end my life.
I was nearly over that fear when he walked right in front of me.
He was so close, like a Ken doll, I could have reached my arm straight out and touched him as he rubbed his hands with talcum powder.
“What’s up fellas?” Jordan smiled at us.
“Humph blurrp hergonpumph. HAHAHA!” I replied.
What if I screwed up the shot clock on Michael Jordan and he got pissed and ran over and choked me like Reggie Miller?
The sweat began to pour. Through my interior v-neck white tee, penetrating my button up shirt and out into my sport jacket.
The nervous sweat tears of a shot clock rookie flowed all the way through my jacket until dripping out.
Sweat drops poured out, soaking the box score I had previously laid on the table.
Michael Jordan used the talcum powder to dry it up. He was so clutch.
Seconds before tip off, my hands were shaking like Fredo fumbling his gun in a failed attempt to stop the Godfather’s assassination.
But the jump ball went up and I became Michael’s steady hand lighting Enzo’s cigarette.
The rest of the game is a blur. Stress and nerves left my body in a puddle of sweat.
But that finger. That finger never left the switch. I had a mistake free night.
In my version, at the end of the game, Michael Jordan came over and shook my hand: “Way to work that shot clock young buck!”
In the real version, the ref put on his jacket at the scorer’s table as he said, “That’s what you’re supposed to do. Now do it every time.”
I don’t remember, but I bet it was Joey Crawford.