The Chicago Bulls' Michael Jordan of the East team watches the 1996 NBA All Star game from the bench during the fourth quarter Sunday, Feb. 11, 1996, in San Antonio. Jordan was named the game's Most Valuable Player. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Updated: May 13, 2012 10:33AM
Michael Jordan is closing the Chicago business office he opened shortly after joining the Bulls nearly three decades ago, one more sign of the basketball icon severing his ties with the city where he gained his fame.
By the end of this year, sources say, Jordan’s Jump 23 Inc. plans to vacate its space on the 29th floor at 676 N. Michigan where his assistants handled his fan mail and where Jordan in years past often snuck away for a late-night poker game.
Its closing should come as no surprise, I suppose, everything having pointed in this direction since Jordan played his last game in a Bulls uniform in 1998.
From finishing his playing career with the Washington Wizards to becoming majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, Jordan had embarked on a path toward abandoning Chicago long before he started building his new luxury home in Florida.
The news in late February that Jordan’s Highland Park mansion was up for sale may have been the strongest indication of all that Chicago doesn’t hold much interest for him these days now that his kids are grown.
Yet I can’t help but feel a little sad every time another shoe drops as the man Jerry Reinsdorf correctly called the Babe Ruth of our time steps further away from the town where he made the magic happen.
Not to sound foolish, but I thought we had something together. Didn’t you? Didn’t we all, back when the championship love was flowing, and it felt like it would last forever?
You remember those days when most of us either wanted to be like Mike — or sillier still, daydreamed about becoming his best friend through chance encounter. Back then, most of you probably never even realized Jordan had an office in Chicago. He always kept it low-profile to maintain some privacy.
Although it’s in a fancy Streeterville location at the Omni Hotel Office Tower, the office itself isn’t so fancy, I’m told. I wish I could give you a first-hand report, but on past attempts I have never been able to get past the security desk in the lobby.
Only a couple of employees work in his Chicago office, and they don’t talk to the press.
This is not where the big endorsement deals that made Jordan one of the richest athletes in history were hatched or managed. That office is in Washington, D.C., where his longtime agent David Falk is based.
The Chicago office was more dedicated to helping Jordan keep his life here organized. It’s where his longtime personal assistant would help him navigate all the requests and demands created by his fame. In the heyday of his playing career, the office would receive more than 5,000 pieces of fan mail a week.
This is where you’d request a Michael Jordan-autographed basketball for your charity fund-raising event, and it also served as the headquarters for Jordan’s own charity until its demise.
Much of Jordan’s basketball memorabilia found a resting place there.
In 1984, Jordan formed Jump Inc., which is the corporate identity under which he did business for many years. He formed Jump 23 Inc., as the Chicago office is currently called, in 2005.
I don’t begrudge Jordan leaving us for the warmer climes or the year-round golf or the younger wife-to-be.
He doesn’t owe us anything, obviously, having delivered more excitement and more satisfaction than any other sports figure in the city’s history.
But it would sure be nice if he maintained some physical presence here, something to indicate his time spent in Chicago was as good for him as it was for us, certainly something more than a steakhouse carrying his name that also can be found in New York and Connecticut.
The Jordan statue at the United Center is a swell reminder, but you can’t daydream about some day bumping into the statue and inviting him over for dinner.