The Jordan Rules

My heart pounding a mile a minute, I raise my hand and attempt to get their attention. My mouth opens, but nothing comes out.

A few years ago, I worked in the pro shop of a gym on Chicago's Gold Coast. One day, a rumor was going around that Michael Jordan was coming in to work out. This was exciting to me because, by coincidence, I had brought several of my basketball cards to work with me that day to show one of my coworkers.

Maybe I could get him to sign the one of him and Wilt Chamberlain, I thought.

The pro shop was located directly across from the aerobic studio and between the men's and women's locker rooms, so he had to pass by our counter. I figured I'd ask him on the way out so as not to interfere with the focus of his workout.

So Jordan arrives with his trainer, Tim Grover, and they head into the locker room. Shortly afterward, they emerge in workout gear and head downstairs. Michael looks tall and lean as a Thoroughbred and is all of 6'6".

After his training session was finished, they headed back past me to the locker room. Michael was slightly distracted by the girls in the studio engaged in their step class, but otherwise still had his game face on.

OK, here was my chance. He's gonna come back out any minute now, and I was trying to think of how I was going to ask him. I was a big fan of him and of the Bulls, as they had already won three championships. This autograph was not something that I would sell to the highest bidder, but something to be treasured always as a gift from the greatest player who ever laced up a pair of sneakers.

Finally, Jordan and Grover headed out of the locker room--Michael dressed in one of his immaculate suits and engaged in conversation with Grover. My heart pounding a mile a minute, I raise my hand and attempt to get their attention. My mouth opens, but nothing comes out. Tim sees my hand and thinks I'm waving at him and waves back. Then, as he spots the card and pen in my hand, his expression changes to a frown that says, "Don't even _think_ about it".

All the while, M.J.'s gaze never leaves Grover's, and his conversation never breaks stride.

Initially, it was a crushing blow. But the more I thought about it, the more I understood Michael's point of view. He had just come back from his first retirement and was focused on getting back in the shape he was in during the first championship run. He would later that year lead the Bulls to their fourth title, and the team--along with him, Pippin, and Rodman--would become like rock stars whenever they came to town. Not only that, but the experience taught me to look at athletes or celebrities as just people and not be enamored of them.

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