My Detroit Playaz
Ballin' in the Motor City
Detroit / it's like Oakland / it's a
black thing / and I'm a black man.
— Too SHORT, “Short Dog's in the House”
Many people have forgotten about the early Michael Jordan. Many more never knew about his early incarnation as a player, set against the backdrop of hip hop as a discourse that was emerging as the most appropriate way to understand the post-civil rights era and its redefinition of Blackness. Michael Jordan in the 1980s was a very different Jordan from the one who emerged in the 1990s. It was in the '90s that Jordan became the Jordan that we now most remember; strong, determined, and invincible. Yet in those formative years, Jordan was an emerging young star trying to make a name for himself in a league still dominated by images of Magic and Bird.
It was not Magic and Bird who posed the most immediate threat to Jordan's quest for fame and championships though. No, Magic and Bird were locked in their own battles, and as the '80s progressed, the tarnish was beginning to show, however subtle, on the armor of both their squads. Jordan's most immediate nemesis happened to be due east of Chicago on Interstate 94. That, of course, was the city of Detroit, home of the Pistons.