I know Michael Jordan is going to make the shot. You know Jordan is going to make the shot. The play was approximately 38 years ago. It’s not going to change, but we watch in anticipation anyway, as if maybe something will change after almost four decades. Maybe one of these times, Jordan’s shot will hit the back of the iron and careen to a waiting Patrick Ewing for the rebound.

That will never happen, but we can pretend.

Saturday at noon, with the NCAA men’s basketball tournament cancelled due to efforts to slow down the coronavirus, CBS began airing classic tournament games. First was the 1982 national championship game between Jordan and the University of North Carolina and Patrick Ewing and Georgetown. CBS followed that with North Carolina State’s upset victory over Houston in the 1983 championship game, then the 1992 regional final between Duke and Kentucky. CBS announced more classic games will air Sunday and next weekend.

Early in the second half of the rebroadcast of the UNC/Georgetown 1982 title game, the game was interrupted by a White House coronovirus task force briefing. The briefing was a reminder why the 1982 game was on television in the first place. When the briefing was over, CBS rolled into the NC State/Houston game from 1983. So if you’ve never seen Jordan’s go-ahead jumper with around 17 seconds to play, or Georgetown’s Fred Brown mistakenly passing the ball to Tar Heel James Worthy in the closing seconds to seal the game for Carolina, find it online. It’s fantastic.

Jordan is 19. We watch this and for a few hours can forget the 38 years that have passed. We don’t know Jordan is going to win three NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls, retire to pursue a brief career in professional baseball, and return to the Bulls and win three more titles. He hasn’t created a sneaker line with Nike yet, hasn’t made McDonald’s commercials with Larry Bird, hasn’t hosted Saturday Night Live, hasn’t mourned his father, hasn’t made another comeback with the Washington Wizards.

Georgetown’s freshman center Patrick Ewing is also 19. We don’t know yet he’ll be the No. 1 pick in the 1985 draft. Ewing is just over two years from being a teammate of Jordan’s on the 1984 United States men’s basketball Olympic team. In just over a decade they’ll be teammates again on the Dream Team at the 1992 Summer Olympics.

Jordan always makes the shot. It doesn’t matter that we know that. With so much uncertainty, that shot is a comfort. Sports nostalgia gives us a grip on something normal when nothing feels normal.

Lorenzo Charles always dunks his rebound of Derek Whittenburg’s long miss at the buzzer, giving N.C. State the improbable win over Houston. Christian Laettner always catches Grant Hill’s long pass, turns, and drills the foul line jumper to beat Kentucky.

In other sports, Adam Vinatieri always makes the kick in the snow. The ball always gets through Bill Buckner. Jim Craig always makes saves after save to ensure we believe in miracles. These moments trigger other memories, which trigger even more memories. The questions surrounding the right now go away for a second. That’s why sports are important, even when it feels like everything is falling apart. Especially when it feels like everything is falling apart.

In 1982, Jordan always makes the shot. It’s unfortunate that here in 2020, no player will get a chance to make their own.


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