When Michael Jordan went to finish his career in Washington, it made logical sense to me. Obviously he'd have to be a Wizard because who else could turn a Bull into a G.O.A.T.? If the lingo isn't familiar, that acronym stands for "Greatest Of All Time" and if you don't agree with the sentiment that MJ was the best ever, you're out of your damn mind.

From day one he embarrassed fools and held boss-tenure over the sport. In the early years he hogged nightly highlight reels with explosiveness and tenacity. In his prime and twilight he dominated with unguardable low-post shimmy shaking, precision shooting and tact. He knew how to adjust and develop his game to maintain reign as king of the castle. The guy was basically a basketball hybrid of chameleon and ninja. Making yet another case for real-life wizard status.

If not for two years in the mid-90's whiffing on curveballs and sinkers, the Bulls would probably be sitting on 8 championship titles right now. 


 
 
 
 
 
I played and watched a silly amount of sports as a kid. I'd need an abacus and a squad of accounting monkeys to add up the total hours of my youth spent spazzing about in gyms, on fields, in swimming pools, or on asphalt courts playing sports. Whatever that total is, I guarantee it's a 5-digit number. I'm certain we'd get an even bigger number counting the hours I masterfully wasted in front of a television watching the pros do it for real. So it comes as no surprise to me that years (decades) later, in my adult life, basketball would be the focal point of a large personal endeavour (I'm referring to this, the thing you're reading now, in case that wasn't clear).

Jump to the summer of 2014. I started a project. It might be more accurate to say, the project started me. No matter how I view it, it changed my life. I'm still amazed how what began as one painting evolved into a book, an animated video, and a 23-piece art series. 

 

Do you know that feeling when you walk to a room because subconsciously you know you're supposed to do or get something there, but when you arrive you have no idea what it was? You know for sure you had a purpose in this mini-voyage to said room, but you're standing there like a schmuck wondering what the fuck you're doing there?

That's kinda what I felt like throughout my 20's when it came to my art ambitions. There was something I was meant to do but couldn't figure out what.

Finally, an idea arrived. It was straightforward but it wouldn’t prove to be easy. My plan was to complete a series of 23 unique acrylic paintings of Michael Jordan that chronicles his career as a Chicago Bull, his Air Jordan brand, and his legacy as a six-time NBA champion. 

What follows is a visual and written description of why, when, and how I took on this project I call ProjectMJ23.

 
 
 
"I didn't think anyone was capable of doing what Michael did to us," he said. "He is the most exciting, awesome player in the game today. I think it's just God disguised as Michael Jordan."
 
― Boston Celtics forward Larry Bird after beating the Bulls in a 1986 Eastern Conference first-round playoff game that ended in 2OT, a game in which Jordan scored 63 points .
 
Like a lot of basketball fans in the 80’s and 90’s, I was ridiculously preoccupied  with following everything involving the Chicago Bulls and, more specifically, Michael Jordan. It was a special time to love basketball and the NBA. You had Bird and Magic's dueling Celtics and Lakers reluctantly yielding way to a Windy City Bulls team lead by this 6’6” shooting guard who could basically jump out of the damn arena. A player so explosive he was setting the whole league ablaze. Shit, the whole world for that matter.

It was like watching a sports legacy being carved right before our eyes. A legacy of a career that many would later describe as the greatest of all time. To put it simply, growing up a fan during the Jordan-era Bulls dynasty was fun. A lot of fun. When MJ was drafted by Chicago in 1984 I was 3 years old. When he became the second ever player in NBA history, behind only Wilt Chamberlain, to score more than 3000 points in a season (1986-1987) I was in my first year of grade school and already hooked on basketball. I still remember how excited I was on my tenth birthday, in early June of 1991, knowing that the Bulls were just two wins away from their first ever NBA title as they held a 2-1 series lead over the Lakers. 

That night I couldn’t sleep, I was so excited for game 4.
 
 
For Bulls fans everywhere, those years were like being on the best thrill-ride in the park and you never wanted it to end. But much like holidays, concerts, and the last roll of toilet paper, all good things inevitably come to an end. And in the summer of 2005 Michael Jordan, for the final time, hung’em up for good. No, for real this time. He actually retired.
 
 
When it happened, for a while things just weren't the same. Indeed, the NBA was blessed with many new superstars to carry the torch; Kobe and Lebron to name just two. But for me, it wasn't the same. I remained a curious follower of the NBA but less passionate, less attached. Deep down I knew, from my perspective, the bar Jordan set in the 90's was just too damn high. 

I felt less connected to the NBA.

So when the inspiration for this project finally hit me in 2014, nearly a decade after his retirement, it was as if it had been hibernating and waiting for the right moment to wake up. Once it did awaken, I noticed the paintings were making me reconnect with those memories and that era. Now that the series is complete, I hope these paintings and this project elicit similar memories with you. 
 
Be Like Mike
 
 
From 1991 to 1998 the world was essentially obligated to bare witness to something special. It’s that rare once-in-a-lifetime type shit.  Number 23 and company owned the basketball world winning back-to-back Threepeats that bookended Jordan’s (nearly) two season hiatus from the game (something I’m sure Rockets fans genuinely  appreciate) in 1994 and 1995.

From his rookie season and throughout his career Michael Jordan essentially mesmerized everyone, everywhere. On his own he elevated the NBA brand to unprecedented heights. Night in and night out, he packed stadiums while both putting people in their seats and making them rise up out of them. His highlight reel is virtually endless.

It was like a comic book fiction where the limits of reality get stretched a bit extra for effect, except in this case the dude was actually doing the shit. You’re sitting there, thinking, well, maybe some supernatural stuff is actually going on here. As if there was nothing he couldn’t do and no adversary too great to defeat. A made-up fantasy fit for tv, the big screen, and VHS. 

Just like a comic, it made fans believe in myth and feel like invincibility was real.