In 1993, there was no Twitter.
If there was news, you could hear it on the radio, watch it on television, or read it in a newspaper the next day.
And for a long time, Nuggets writer Mike Monroe covered a story that couldn’t wait for the morning newspaper. The experienced Denver Post writer had the sport scoop of the year.
There is a scene in episode 7 of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” capturing delirious media that haunts Michael Jordan and Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf from Chicago’s Comiskey Park. It was Tuesday, October 5, 1993, Game 1 of the ALCS between the White Sox and the Blue Jays, and Jordan had thrown the first pitch. With a groundbreaking report that Jordan planned to announce his retirement the next morning, Monroe had started the firestorm.
Here’s how he did it.
A source said to Monroe that after finishing a third straight title and undergoing the tragic murder of his father, Jordan was done. Monroe called NBA headquarters and asked then-Commissioner David Stern.
“Stern hadn’t heard about it,” Monroe recalled being told by Jan Hubbard, the director of media relations. “Jan said,” Look, I hate to burst your bubble here, but I think David or (Deputy Commissioner) Russ Granik or anyone would know about this when Michael Jordan retired. “
An hour or two later, Monroe heard again from the competition office. “I have another message from David Stern for you,” Hubbard told Monroe. “He said, ‘Tell him to keep editing the story.” “
Monroe clarified the message. Did Stern confirm that Jordan planned to retire?
“That’s David’s other message,” Monroe was told. “” You cannot use this as confirmation. “”
Monroe considered it a “non-confirmation, confirmation.” At the same time, Monroe was concerned that the story could leak due to Stern’s due diligence. He also needed independent confirmation because Stern wouldn’t give it to him.
Monroe called Reinsdorf, then Jerry Krause, Bulls general manager, then Phil Jackson.
“I was just starting to browse the directory and call people and leave messages when it was available,” said Monroe. “Around the fourth or fifth time I would make the phone calls and then I would wait 15 or 20 minutes and then go through the list again. For the fourth or fifth time Phil Jackson picked up his phone. It surprised me a bit.”
Jackson confirmed to Monroe that the Bulls were indeed holding a press conference the next day to announce Jordan’s retirement.
“I think my heart rate has increased by about 50 beats per second, and I was trying to figure out what to ask next, and I said,” Well, Phil, you are about to lose the best player ever in the NBA has played, you should definitely have a few thoughts about that, and he said, “I think I may have said too much already.” ‘
But Monroe had another problem. The Denver Post would not be released until Wednesday morning, after which half the world would know Jordan’s intentions. Instead, The Post’s deputy sports editor, Bill O’Connell, called the Associated Press offices in New York and offered them “ sports story of the year, ” in exchange for proper attribution.
The AP’s news report that evening about Jordan’s upcoming retirement included the line, “The Denver Post will report in its morning edition.”
On the televised White Sox playoff game that night, Monroe recalled CBS ‘sideline reporter Pat O’Brien crediting The Denver Post for breaking the story for the first time.
Several years later, after Jordan returned from his baseball hiatus, Monroe covered the Bulls on one of their playoff runs. The post-game dressing room, once teeming with reporters in Jordan, began to thin out. But Monroe was still there and carrying his media credentials.
“Jordan looks up, he smiles and nods at me and says, ‘You’re the one, aren’t you?” “Monroe said.” I said, “Yes.” It was an acknowledgment. That meant more to me than anything. ‘