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When Michael Jordan defied the rules and brought a kid to the Bulls bench


The Last Dance was a fascinating look into the 90s Bulls. For younger fans, it was a chance to feel a bit of what it was like to be an NBA fan in the 90s. For older fans, it gave us a look into what that era would look like if they had social media.

In the age of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok, self-promotion has a different connotation. It's not considered arrogance; it's building your brand and talking to your fans. Grandstanding was considered negative back in the (good old) days. If you just had to guess it, you'd probably say stars of this era do much more compared to the 90s or earlier. That guess would be wrong.

In 1983, a young boy named Dave Rothenberg was set on fire by his father during a custody battle between his parents. With severe burns to over 90% of his body, he miraculously survived. As the tragic news made national headlines, it was revealed the boy was a Bulls fan. After a long recovery, Dave got to meet his idol. Michael didn't just spend time with him - he broke league rules for him.

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"Jordan fought to keep his self-indulgence private as well as the burdens he chose to bear beyond the game. “I thought in the early days, he was doing so much, it was unbelievable,” Bach recalled. “He always visited with some person or child who had a last wish. He never turned anyone down. Every night he faced that, and I could never understand how he was strong enough to do it. Kids that were burned, brutalized, and dying by disease or something else. I can still remember he saw a kid who was brought in whose father had burned his face off him."

They brought him in, and Michael talked to him in that old dressing room we had in Chicago Stadium before the game. He just talked to him. You couldn’t imagine, a kid that was hideously burned. And Michael just talked to him. He put him on the bench, and during the game he would come over and ask, ‘How’d you like that jump shot?’ One of the officials came over and said, ‘Michael, you can’t have that kid on the bench. It’s against league rules.’ And Michael looked at him and said, ‘He’s on the bench.’ He left our team time-outs to talk to the kid. I can remember John Paxson and I having tears in our eyes, looking at that scene, because the kid was so hideously burned. And here’s Michael talking to him. So he had that greatness in him. It brought out scenes like that. That was repeated many times. He was a wonder man."

Michael Jordan; The Life", 2014 book by Roland Lazenby

MJ had only had one rule about situations like these - no publicity. The press knew about some of them but respected Jordan's wish to keep it on the down-low. No likes, no engagement, just kindness. The way it should be.

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