15 years, 8 months and 7 days.
That was how long the curse lasted.
And now the curse is finally over…but that is a story for later.
This story begins late on the night of November 24, 1995. A few of us had just finished watching my beloved Chicago Bulls pull out a squeaker over the Utah Jazz to start their season 10-1. It was the usual group for those days: Tommy, Rob, Soop and myself. We were refreshing our drinks and getting ready to grab our controllers to play a few games of NBA Live on the Sega Genesis when the conversation turned to the rest of the Bulls season. Soop lazily threw out a comment about the Bulls not losing more than 10 games for the entire season that drew laughter and derision from all of us.
Our little entourage was pretty well versed in sports trivia so we let Soop in on a few items:
- No team had ever won 70 games (let alone the 72 they would need…at minimum…to not lose “more than 10”).
- The best regular season record ever was 69-13 by the Los Angeles Lakers in ’71-’72
- The season is 82 games long and 11 games into the season is probably not the best time to start making outlandish predictions for a history making and record-breaking season.
But Soop was adamant. So much so that he was willing to lay out $100 to put his money where his mouth was. At the time we were all pretty dirt poor so $100 was almost like throwing down $1000 today. We were all pretty shocked at the balls on Soop to want to make this kind of bet on such a longshot. There was no way I could pass up this easy money.
So I took the bet. And taking a bet against one of my favorite teams is something that I do not take lightly. This wager would have to be a sure thing for me to take the bet at all. I think the only other bet I would take at that early on in a season would be one where the other guy would be taking the Cubs to win it all. Like I said, sure things only.
I was feeling good two days later when the Bulls lost their very next game. I remember calling Soop to gloat, rub it in and to make sure he didn’t spend my money. But my happiness and gloating was very short-lived.
The Bulls didn’t lose their next game for a month. And then they didn’t lose a single game in January. Not one freakin’ game in an entire calendar month? WTF!
On the 4th and 6th of February they lost back to back games to put their record at 41-5. So I wasn’t sweating it…yet. I was still confident that over the course of the next 3 months the Bulls would lose at least 6 games. The season is long. Players get hurt. There was no way, especially as Jordan and company got closer to the playoffs that they would keep up the intensity.
Then April 16th rolled around and the Bulls break the previous record and win their 70th game in Milwaukee. Looking back on all that night back in November when Soop made his prediction…it didn’t look so funny now. So with 3 games remaining in the season the Bulls were sitting pretty at 70-9
The 81st game of the season was played on April 20th in the United Center and the Bulls ended up losing 100-99 to the Indiana Pacers. With a margin of 1 point I was 1 game closer to winning the bet. So with one game left in the season the Bulls record was 71-10. One game left and one loss away from making 100 trophy dollars.
We had actually joked about this final game of the season all year-long. The last game of the season just happened to be here in DC against the Bullets (Yes, this was before they changed their name to the lameness that is The Wizards).
“How awesome would it be if the season came down to that last game here in DC?” was heard at least a few times during the season of The Bet. We honestly didn’t think it would ever come down to that last game of the season. But when it did, I really didn’t have much hope that the Bullets (whose record was 39-42) would help me out.
I couldn’t believe that I had rooted for my team to lose every single time I watched them play. I felt like such a traitor. Like Dan Akroyd and Daniel Stern at the end of Celtic Pride. I really did have some pangs of guilt over this bet and how I had rooted against my team all season long. Especially during a season that I should have ridden high and loved every minute of it.
We couldn’t get tickets to the game because the Cap Centre was completely sold out and none of us could afford the scalper prices. So we all gathered together to watch that last game of the longest basketball season ever. The first half of the game was a nail-biting and teeth grinding mess. The score at halftime was 52-51 and the Bullets had that one point lead.
But that lead didn’t last.
I could not have been more bummed to have my favorite team end the season with such a fantastic record.
I could not have been poorer at the time when I had to fork over that $100 to Soop’s greedy little hands.
And looking back on it now, I wouldn’t have changed a thing.
The season of “The Bet” was probably my favorite season of any sport throughout my entire life.
And I thought that Soop couldn’t get any luckier….
….but the following summer proved me wrong.
Stay Tuned for Part 2: 8th is not better than 174th