Today in Sports History: March 19th

Michael-jordan-1995

3/19/1991 - Phoenix loses '93 Super Bowl

The team owners in the NFL revoke Phoenix's privilege to host the Super Bowl.

After the St. Louis Cardinals moved to Phoenix in 1988, the NFL granted the city the rights to host Super Bowl XXVII in 1993. But while the league was anxious to host the big game in its newest market, a controversy soon erupted over the state's refusal to recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a holiday. Several state politicians, such as governor Evan Meacham and senator John McCain, strongly opposed the initiative, believing that while Martin Luther King Jr. was an important civil rights leader, he was not to be revered as a national hero.

In November 1990, Arizona citizens had voted against Proposition 301, which would have enacted MLK Day as a paid state holiday. As one of the only remaining states to openly oppose the holiday, Arizona began receiving national scorn and ridicule. The controversy surrounding the issue was so great that the league lifted Phoenix's Super Bowl rights and gave them to Pasadena, California, where the game would be played at the Rose Bowl.

Faced with an increasing backlash over its refusal, Arizona finally passed a law in 1992 that established Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a federal holiday. About a year later, the NFL voted to give Phoenix the rights to host Super Bowl XXX in 1996.

3/19/1995 - Jordan returns to court against Pacers

One day after announcing his return to the NBA, Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls played in Indiana against the Pacers on the NBC Game of the Week. Jordan came out in a No. 45 uniform, the same number he wore when he played minor league baseball, instead of his famous No. 23. Jordan stated that because his No. 23 uniform had already been raised to the rafters at the United Center, he felt the need to wear something else.

In his first professional basketball game in over 18 months, Jordan looked rusty. He played 43 minutes but shot just 7-28 from the floor as the Bulls lost, 103-96, to Indiana in overtime. Jordan had several instances to make a big shot that would have put the Pacers away, but he just couldn't get it to go.

"Either I was too short with my shots, or I was too long," he said after the game. "And I played a bad game. But it wasn't the first bad game I've ever played. But it gives me something to build on."

The frenzied hype surrounding Jordan's comeback, helped by a close game and national exposure from NBC, gave the game a gargantuan 10.9 rating and 35 million viewers. It remains the highest-rated, most-watched regular season game in league history.

When Jordan first returned to the Bulls, Chicago was a mere 34-31 and was in no position to challenge for a title. Even worse, Phil Jackson and Scottie Pippen appeared to be on the way out after the season. Jordan's comeback not only kept Jackson and Scottie from leaving, it instantly made the Bulls a contender. Michael played in the team's final 17 games in 1995 and helped them to a 13-4 mark over that time.

However, it was clear that Jordan wasn't the same player that he was when he retired. Having re-entered the league with literally no time to get re-acclimated, Jordan appeared lethargic and out of shape. He played great in Chicago's first round series against the Hornets, but showed his endurance issues in their semifinals series with Orlando -- a series that they lost in six games. Eventually, by the start of the 1996 campaign, Jordan managed to return to full strength. He wasn't nearly the leaper that he was in his earlier years, but at 95% of what he used to be, he was still the best player in the league.

3/19/1996 - Bowie records triple-double

In professional basketball, getting a triple-double is almost always a momentous occasion. But in a game in 1996, Anthony Bowie recorded the most infamous T.D. in NBA history.

The Orlando Magic were leading the Detroit Pistons, 111-91, with just a few seconds left in regulation. Bowie -- who was starting in place of the injured Nick Anderson -- was having a great game: 20 points, nine rebounds, and nine assists. As a Pistons player shot the ball, avoiding the shot clock violation, most of the players started walking to their respective benches. But not Bowie, who pulled down his tenth rebound of the game and called timeout with 2.7 seconds left -- allowing the Magic to devise a play that could give him his tenth assist.

Detroit coach Doug Collins was livid. Calling a timeout with a twenty-point lead just to draw up a play to pad someone's stats was not the definition of good sportsmanship. Collins ordered his team to walk off the floor and not be a part of it. This allowed Bowie to catch the ball, uninhibited, at the Orlando basket. Bowie dished it to David Vaughn, who slammed it down as time expired. That bucket gave Bowie the first and only triple-double of his career: 20 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists.

Bowie repeatedly claimed that he had no problems getting the triple-double the way he did. "It was worth it," he told Outside the Lines in 2002. "You know, people can say what they want, and you know, think of me as a bad guy, but it was an opportunity for me. You know, I ended up playing the 48 minutes all the way out to the last second, that's all it was."

After the game, Collins was fined $5,000 for not playing out the final seconds of a game. While most sided with Collins' outrage over Bowie's incident, including Orlando coach Brian Hill, many writers believed that defending Bowie and preventing him from getting the milestone would have sent a stronger message than walking off the floor and letting him have it.

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