MICHAEL JORDAN was looking good. He arrived for the post-game interview session, Wednesday night after Game 1 of the NBA Finals, in a perfectly pressed sand-colored suit and matching silk tie. In his left ear flashed a gold earring. If you didn't know better, you might have mistaken him for some sort of prince.
Which, for all intents and purposes, he is.These days, all of Chicago is in a dither about some kind of royalty or another. Everywhere you go, people are talking about royalty, analyzing royalty, watching royalty.
Normally, there is only one royal family in Chicago, and that's the Bulls. On the verge of the greatest single season in NBA history, they are front page news in both Chicago newspapers. It's hard to go anywhere in town without seeing the image of Jordan somewhere - in a restaurant photo, on a billboard, painted on the side of a building.
But for one of the few times in history, Jordan and the Bulls have had to share the spotlight this week. The reason is that the Princess of Wales was in town to promote breast cancer awareness. Royalty-watchers have had to divide their time between watching the ever-composed Diana attending social functions, and the ever-composed Jordan taking apart the Sonics in the NBA Finals.
You could stare at Jordan wearing a pale tan linen suit and gold jewelry, or you could catch the Princess of Wales in a pale green linen suit and pearls. You could watch Her Highness sweeping into the Field Museum of Natural History for a fund-raising dinner, or His Airness sweeping in from the baseline for a kiss-the-rim dunk. Take your choice: The Princess of Wales or the Prince of Hoops.
The arrival of Princess Di in Chicago on Tuesday evening for a brief 47-hour visit was the first time the Bulls have had any competition on the royalty front in months. When she visited Northwestern University on Wednesday, a student held up a sign that read: "We Love Ya Like Da Bulls!"
Dat's a lot of love.
Royalty visits come with their own inherent problems. For example, when Di arrived, she brought along over 500 media members, here to cover the royal visit. And when Jordan and the Bulls opened the NBA Finals at the United Center Wednesday night, they had 1,400 media members from 35 countries in tow. The crush of attention got so big that even Bulls backup center Bill Wennington told reporters: "I'm feeling almost important."
The biggest difference between the royals - Michael and Diana - is that Michael holds press conferences. Diana spent 47 hours in Chicago and didn't utter word one to the media. She treated them like, well, peasants. They followed her from room to room at a hospital, covered her speech at Northwestern University and breathlessly reported snatches of conversation she had with others, such as the man wearing black shorts whom Di stopped to compliment.
"You've got great calves," said the Princess of Wales. "You should show them off in shorts."
To which he replied, "Thank you."
Good stuff like that.
Impressing Chicago, of course, isn't all that hard. This is a city where Jerry Springer and Phil Donahue pass for royalty. A place that, for all its big-city sophistication, is still being referred to as "the hog butcher to the world."
Deciding which royalty to follow can be a problem when there's two in town. Chicago socialites were in a quandary Wednesday night over whether to attend the Princess's gala at the Field Museum, or watching the Bulls at the United Center. Even Jordan's mother, Deloris, got caught in the middle.
"What do you mean, you're not coming to my game?" Jordan reportedly asked his mother in a 7:30 a.m. phone call on game day. As a compromise, she attended the early part of the benefit with Di, then left for the United Center to see the rest of the game.
If there is any major difference between American royals and British royals, it's that the Americans are slightly more accessible. A woman in Chicago once laid down in front of the Bulls' team bus until Jordan got out and signed an autograph. Lay down in front of the royal carriage and you're likely to get hoof marks on your chest.
Princess Di doesn't stand in a throng of people, signing her name on game programs, and she doesn't hold press conferences where reporter get to shout questions.
By Thursday afternoon, the Princess had left Chicago, which was too bad. It was a nice break from basketball. But it wasn't like the town was left abandoned. It still had a beautiful, rich and enviably thin royal named Michael to follow around. Long live the king. And it still had Dennis Rodman, boa feathers, eyeliner and all. It's enough to make you line up to stare. Then again, what are royals for?