1986: Michael Jordan, Bo Jackson, Len Bias, Bill Buckner And The Cutlass Supreme

Some years of your life just stick out. In the past few months I have been doing a lot of reflection. It’s no secret that I am the oldest of The Sports Fan Journal writers, but I relish the fact that I have lived and witnessed so much history.

Just recently I was remembering some of the best years of my life and one of the years that stuck out … 1986.

December 25, 1985, was a memorable date to me because it was the Christmas that changed my life. I was a young disc jockey in the hood, and people always knew that I would have the most current music even though I was a young G. That Christmas was special because it was when my family put together the greatest gift that anyone could have given me.

When I say pieced together, that is what I literally mean. My mom bought me two Philco turntables, one sister bought me an Alpine mixer and my other sister bought me two Cerwin Vega speakers. From that point on, shit got real for my disc jockey career.

The New Year rolled in and the New Year’s party was in my partner’s basement. Everything was coming together as I broke out the new equipment, and we rocked the house all night long. I was merely a kid, and I had grownups doing that damn thing until two in the morning.

All of this may seem minor, but it was big to me. I made $250 that night, and I was proud of it. As a matter of fact, I used that money to go see my first ever New York Knicks basketball game. I remember it was January 7, 1986, and the Knicks were playing the Pacers. The rivalry wasn’t that big then, but it was a chance to see my man Patrick Ewing for the first time live.

Pat didn’t disappoint either as he was a box score stuffer. I remember that he had 24 points, eight rebounds and four blocks. Seriously, Pat was balling out in the low rider booty shorts that the NBA was sporting at that time.

Things didn’t slow down much after that week. We got word that we would have another holiday to celebrate as January 20, 1986, became the first official Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Although the bill was signed in 1983 by Ronald Reagan, it wasn’t officially honored until January 20, 1986.

Good times were had from no school on that Monday to the countdown to one of the greatest displays of defense ever seen during a Super Bowl. On January 26, the crew gathered up at the local sports bar to watch the Bears play the Patriots in the Super Bowl. If you know anything about the 85-86 Bears, you know that it was a thumping. The team that was known for its defense laid the pure smack down on the Patriots. Walter Payton finally gets his ring, and Mike Singletary does what he does to bring a title back to the windy city.

After the Super Bowl, the sports scene slowed down quite a bit, but I remember other things that were popping. A month or so passed and I remember it well as my home boy E Double got his license and his dad had just gotten a promotion on his job and he went out and bought him the infamous 1986 Cutlass Supreme.

Who knew at the time that the 1986 Supreme would become the most tricked-out car in the history of automobiles? From candy paint to 20-inch rims, the Cutlass is always on top of the tricked-out car chain. Back then it was a luxury car.

February 8, 1986, was a weird day all around. I remember that morning I was in the car with E Double and he got a flat tire while heading out to the country. We went to get his spare tire, and it was flat too. We had to walk about two miles before we got to a service station. Luckily there was a guy there who could give us a ride back to the car and helped us put the tire on.

We rode around a little while longer and then settled in at the local sports bar that evening to watch the dunk contest. I remember being disappointed that Michael Jordan was not going to be in the NBA dunk contest, and I honestly felt like it was going to be a waste. That day Spud Webb put on a clinic. The 5’7” Webb showed us that the small guy can have bounce too. I remember the next day we were all in the gym jumping rope and wearing strength shoes trying to improve our vertical.

A couple of weeks passed and we got lucky. My cousin’s job had some tickets to see UNC play Maryland, and we got to see Len Bias in action against the Tar Heels. The day was February 20, 1986. Len Bias and Kenny Smith were the headliners, and neither player disappointed. Len Bias put on a display of basketball that we hadn’t really seen the likes of, and when he threw it down on Warren Martin the rest of the world knew that Mr. Bias was the real deal. Maryland took the Heels to overtime and eventually secured an upset victory.

While the college season was winding down, the NBA season was starting to take off. In April, the NBA playoffs were in full swing, and as usual everyone who doesn’t get to watch much basketball gets to see teams that aren’t local spread their wings. No one was as excited as I was when the Bulls and the Celtics began their series. I have never had much love for the Celtics, but the fact that Michael Jordan was going to be playing against arguably one of the two best players in the game in Larry Bird, it was made for television.

Jordan’s team was definitely outmanned, but it didn’t keep Mike from stealing the center stage. On April 20, 1986, Mike did what no other person has been able to do by dropping 63 points on the Celtics in a spectacular fashion. Sad thing is he just didn’t have much help. The Jordan-Bird display will always be one of the most spectacular events in playoff history. Mike came out on the losing side in this one, but he put everyone on notice that it was only a matter of time before the stage and the league were his to keep.

The NBA Playoffs were in full swing, but the NFL is king. So one week after Jordan steals the show, the NFL draft is ready to debut. It’s no secret who the best player in college football is as Bo Jackson has just won the Heisman and everyone is just waiting to get their hands on him. Bo has already run a legit 4.2 40-yard dash, which is unheard of for a man that is 225 pounds.

Tampa Bay is on the clock, and Bo has already told them that he was not interested in playing for them. He warns them that they are better off trading the pick or picking someone else because he wants no parts of them for jeopardizing his collegiate baseball career. Tampa doesn’t heed Bo’s warning, and with the first pick they chose Bo. Bo said no and decided to pursue his baseball exploits as a fourth-round pick of the Kansas City Royals.

We all know how things turned out for Jackson, as he flourished on the diamond and became a seventh-round pick of the Oakland Raiders the next season. Bo Jackson didn’t disappoint. He became a two-sport phenom and set the sports word on fire.

I started this post with music because it was so central to my development as a young man. I can remember what was happening in 1986 based on the songs that were hot during a particular time of the year. I remember right before the NBA draft, Run DMC dropped “Raising Hell,” and they later became the first rap group to ever crack the Billboard top 10.

The NBA draft was so hot that year with so much talent to choose from that teams were jockeying for position to gather the three or four game changers that would be available in that draft.

The first pick belonged to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and they were in dire need of a big man so they went with Brad Daugherty out of North Carolina. The Celtics swooped in and got the second pick, and they chose Len Bias. Most people thought that Bias was the best player in that class and possibly the next Michael Jordan. Other big names in this draft were: Chris Washburn, Chuck Person, Ron Harper, John Salley, Mark Price, Dell Curry, Dennis Rodman, Nate McMillan, Scott Skiles and Jeff Hornacek.

This draft is noted as the best collection of talent ever assembled, as many of the players selected in the second round have gained Hall of Fame status. That is rare in today’s NBA.

The sports world was shocked when Len Bias died from an overdose of cocaine, and Boston was set back at least 10 years as a franchise with a string of bad luck and the piece they were expecting to replace their aging superstars had become a victim of bad decisions and a growing pandemic.

Not a lot was going down as the sports world seemed dry after the demise of Bias. However, for those of you who love baseball you can’t help but remember the 1986 New York Mets. A team loaded with more talent than anyone could imagine. Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden and a host of young talent would lead the Mets to a World Championship over the beloved Boston Red Sox. It almost didn’t happen, but the most remembered play in the history of sports changed the dynamics of the series allowing the Mets another chance. When Bill Buckner botched that play, he became the most hated athlete ever. In this case many felt like the good guys lost.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *