(NBA senior communications adviser): Dominique Wilkins won the dunk contest in '85, and Jordan was injured in '86. Jordan won in '87, but Dominique was injured then. Going into '88, Jordan had won once and Dominique had won once. We had 693 credentialed media, about 10% more than the year before, but old Chicago Stadium had no extra space anywhere. So we erected a tent in the parking lot, at gate 3½, and it was about minus 20º with the wind howling. Reporters were typing with their gloves on. We set up propane tanks for heating, but the police department made us replace them with kerosene. The smell of kerosene still takes a lot of us back to '88.
WALTER IOOSS JR.
(SPORTS ILLUSTRATED photographer): Three hours before the contest, Michael was sitting in the stands, and I went up to say hello. I explained that it was really important for me to get a good picture—as if he cared—and it would help if I knew which direction he was going, so I could see his face. I asked, "Can you tell me which way you're going to go?" He said, "Sure, I can do that." I said, "How?" He put his right forefinger on his knee and said, "I'll point." I asked, "You're going to remember this?" He said, "You watch."
(Bulls p.r. director): About an hour before, I plopped down next to Michael in the locker room, and he was putting on his shoes, not a care in the world. I asked, "What's the slam dunk trophy look like this year?" He said, "I don't know. But you'll find out when you're putting it in my car."
(former NBA shooting guard who withdrew from the '88 dunk contest with an injury): Back then, the dunk contest was bigger than the [All-Star] game. It meant a lot to Michael. In the locker room he was telling everybody, "Let's give these people a show."
(former NBA shooting guard and '88 All-Star three-point-shootout contestant): Larry Bird had won the first two three-point shootouts, including the one in Dallas, when he walked into the locker room and we all asked, "Larry, what are you looking at?" And he said, "I'm trying to figure out who's going to finish second." This was Larry Bird at his best. He won again, with his warmup jacket on, turning around and raising his finger before the last ball even went through the net. But none of us left afterward. We all stayed for the dunk contest. We knew we might witness something we'd never seen before.
"Like two gunfighters at the O.K. Corral."
(sportscaster who did play-by-play of the '88 dunk contest for TBS): I went to Marshall High, 10 blocks west of Chicago Stadium. They called it the Madhouse on Madison, and I knew how crazy that building could be. I broadcast at least 100 games there. But this was more exciting and tense than any game I ever did, more than the Bulls and the Celtics, more than the Bulls and the Bad Boy Pistons. I'm not exaggerating when I say it was the most mesmerizing competition I was ever involved with—and I saw Hank Aaron's 715th home run. Dominique and Michael were like two gunfighters at the O.K. Corral. There were other people in the contest, but I can't remember who they were, because it was a foregone conclusion it would come down to Dominique and Michael. Dominique had that determined look on his face that was so different from Jordan's confident smirk. If it was possible, Michael would have had a cigar in the side of his mouth.
(former Trail Blazers forward and '88 All-Star dunk contestant): It was all about Michael. The odds were laid against everybody else. There was this weird silence at the beginning, like the silence before a crescendo. Everybody was waiting for Michael to appear, out of the mist, and take off his cape. I got eliminated in the first round.
(former NBA star and '88 dunk-contest judge): I was one of the early leapers in pro basketball, and I didn't see anybody who could approach Michael and Dominique. When they came out for the finals, the electricity reminded me of when I was growing up in Chicago and they used to have college basketball doubleheaders in that old stadium on Saturday nights: Notre Dame, Illinois, Bradley, Kentucky, Loyola, DePaul. All the fans were holding cards with a 9 on one side and a 10 on the other.
(Mavericks forward and 2000 dunk-contest champion): I was 11 and just starting to dunk. I could only dunk a tennis ball. I was home in Daytona Beach, Fla., taping it in my living room. I used to tape all the dunk contests and study them. That was my homework.