Let me paint you a picture.
The stadium is almost pitch black. There’s just one spotlight, like a moonbeam, shining from the ceiling down to the floor.
Subtle movements are noticeable in the fringe of the light. A voice resonates throughout and bounces from wall-to-wall, “and now from North Carolina, 6-6 guard, Michael Jordan.”
The greatest basketball player to have ever lived bounces with grace and swagger, by his teammates and towards the center of the court.
Any chance of there being a quiet voice in the United Center is crushed by the fans, the thousands of people clamoring to see His Airness.
This scene is one of the many Chicago sports have given sports fans across the world. From the ‘85 Bears, to the Bulls dynasty to the ‘05 White Sox, Chicago sports have been where it’s at for the last couple of decades.
Chicago has given the world of sports the greatest running back of all time, Walter Payton, the greatest basketball player of all time, Jordan, and the greatest coach of all time, Mike Ditka. For these reasons, Chicago is the greatest sports city in the world.
“Sweetness” is more than a nickname. It a verbal symbol of a majestic figure, an unstoppable beast, a divine being that, every Sunday, made grown men giddy. Most great athletes end up as polarizing figures-either you love them or you hate them, but Payton was different.
He is one of those few who elevates himself or herself above the athlete status and into the icon level. Sweetness represents everything great about Chicago. His toughness and work ethic embody the ways of Chicago. From his famous workouts to the abrasive running style, Payton meant more to his fans than just football because he went to work just like the rest of America.
He wasn’t a diva and didn’t think he was entitled to the privileges other athletes of his stature demanded. He took what the city of Chicago gave him and ran with it, literally.
He ran his way into the hearts of Bears fans everywhere. Even though I never got to see him play, I feel like I have because his legacy means so much to Bears fans.
They hold him in such high regard that new Bears fans can almost see him run on Sundays.
Much like Sweetness, Bears fans hold one other individual in high regard.
“Da Coach” Mike Ditka led the Bears to their lone Super Bowl title in 1985. Now, Ditka may not be the best coach ever, but as the coach of the greatest football team ever, he deserves to represent them.
His hard nose style of football and tenacious defense made opponents shake in fear.
In the playoffs, the Bears surrendered 10 points overall, all of which came in the Super Bowl against the Patriots. Experts have conceded the greatest football team of all time title to ‘85 Bears for three reasons.
The first is the aforementioned Walter Payton. His running ability was the main component of one the top ranked offenses that year. His incredible talent helped the Bears dismantle their opposition on their way to a 15-1 record.
The second was the famed defense.
The ‘85 Bears are remembered for their tenacity on D. Until the ‘01 Ravens, that squad had allowed the fewest points in a season and they hold the record for fewest points allowed in a post-season for a Super Bowl champ.
The final reason for their success is the fear they created in opponents. No team, not even the ‘07 Patriots, made teams more afraid. Middle linebacker and current 49ers head coach Mike Singletary was known not just for his All-Pro play, but also for his scary eyes that peered out from behind the cage of his helmet.
In addition to Singletary, the Bears had William “The Refrigerator” Perry. At 382 pounds, the Fridge towered above everyone else in the game at a time when players were much smaller than they are now. This defense got a reputation as an inflexible force that could win games all by itself.
The final piece to the Chicago puzzle is His Airness. Michael Jordan captivated not only the city of Chicago, but the world, for six championship seasons with his athletic ability to drive to the basket and the famous fall-away jumper.
Until then, no guard in the TV era of basketball had the capability to take over a game.
Jordan’s legacy seemed to be similar to Dan Marino’s as the best player to never win a championship. But in 1991, the talent around Jordan finally got better and gave him an opportunity.
Eight years and six NBA championships later, Jordan had cemented himself in NBA history as the best ever. He used the chance to play on TV to his advantage and gained popularity across the globe.
Jordan has made Nike into the athletic power that is today. Jordan’s prowess on the basketball court mesmerized the world. For that week or so in June, people across the globe held their breath and hung on his every jumper.
Never before have people clung to a player like this. Jordan set the standard for superstar athletes today. Even today, more than 10 years after he retired in a Bulls uniform, the premier basketball players are judged by Jordan’s standard. Jordan will forever be the face of a game and a city.
With all of this in mind, Chicago presents the best case for greatest city for sports. The fans love their teams, the players play hard and winning just comes naturally.
Bill Hopkins is a sophomore sports communication major from Oswego. He is the Scout sports editor.
Direct questions, comments and other responses to whopkins@mail. bradley.edu