For 48 anxious hours between Games 4 and 5, doubt hovered over the Windy City. Many Chicagoans legitimately feared Michael Jordan might end his career on a losing note.
Then His Airness scored 29 points as the Bulls annihilated the Pacers in Game 5. Just as quickly as the fans turned against the Bulls, suddenly they're for them again.About an hour after Chicago's win, a caller dialed up a local sports radio station and issued this statement. "The Bulls will destroy the Jazz in five." Of course they still must go through the formality of eliminating the Pacers - which is exactly what the entire city expects tonight.
Then finally, for the first time in Bulls history, Chicago will encounter an NBA Finals rematch. Depending on whom you talk to, that's great. Most Chicago media already have their plane reservations to Salt Lake City made, which reveals their confidence in a rematch.
While one gets a general sense from the media that the Jazz present perhaps the first serious threat ever for the Bulls, some of the fans don't buy that.
"Chicago in four," said Chicago resident Tony Randall. "No team in basketball has proved they can beat the Bulls in a seven-game series."
Randall's buddy Chris Chism isn't so confident. "The Jazz have a really good chance, it should be a tough series."
For Chris Spahn, who pronounces himself as a Bulls fan since 1978, he believes the Jazz will end the dynasty before General Manager Jerry Krause can dismantle it.
"I admire John Stockton so much. He's probably the next most aggressive player after Jordan," said Spahn. "I honestly think the Jazz can put the Bulls away in six because of the revenge factor."
That's something Spahn has looked forward to since 1991. Each year the Bulls have faced a different team in the NBA Finals, but if they happen to get past the Pacers tonight or Sunday, they'd be faced with their first rematch.
That's great for Bob Brown because he's a basketball purist. "I think Utah's a great team. I think they play the game how it's supposed to be played," said Brown. "They present a very serious challenge for the Bulls."
While Brown says he's glad Chicago will be facing the Jazz, he knows he's in the minority in Chicago. Most people wanted the Lakers to win, setting up a big city series. Brown just laughs at those people because he doesn't want to see a finals sweep.
"I like how they taught those young guys a lesson. It doesn't matter how many all-stars you have," he said. "I think (Utah's) a gritty bunch. They're the one team that won't become intimidated by the aura of the Bulls championships."
Sean Gibbons believes Utah's going to be awfully tough for two reasons: First the Jazz are an excellent basketball team, and secondly they have the homecourt advantage.
Gibbons just happened to be in Salt Lake City during last year's NBA Finals, and he says nothing in the league compares with the volume generated in the Delta Center. However, he did say the noise produced in the old Chicago Stadium can never be topped.
"I think home court is going to play a huge factor in this series," said Gibbons. "I think people in Chicago are afraid of Stockton and the Jazz."
Assuming the Bulls take care of business this evening, and not a soul called a Chicago sports radio station Thursday proclaiming otherwise, it's time for the rematch. And many of those Bulls fans, no matter how die-hard, are worried.