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Today we’re departing from our normal B&B format but it’s for a VERY GOOD REASON. My book, 1996: A Biography - Reliving the Legend-Packed, Dynasty-Stacked Most Iconic Sports Year Ever launches Tuesday of next week.🚀🚀🚀
We already reached #1 in the History of Sports category on Amazon, but that’s barely the tip of the iceberg. The goal is to get this book to #1 overall in sports and with your help, we can do it.
Today, we’re all 96ers and as an exclusive for you, the loyal B&B community, I’m posting the entire introduction to the book below. All you have to do is sit back, relax, breathe in that sweet, nostalgic air from ‘96 and enjoy this quick read…
‘1996: A Biography’ INTRODUCTION
Now let me welcome everybody to the Wild Wild West, a state that’s untouchable like Eliot Ness…
Dr. Dre’s lyrics slide out of your white Sony Dream Machine as you flick the rectangle snooze button to cut off your alarm. You might live in the Golden State, but probably not. You love California because of “California Love,” and anything is better than the radio stations that won’t stop playing “Macarena.” You hop out of bed wearing your black Orlando Magic basketball shorts with the stripes dropping from the drawstring and the stars from the logo on the side of each thigh. You probably don’t live in Orlando, but no matter. Shaq and Penny’s uniforms are dope.
As you open your blinds to let the sun pour in on this fine, early summer morning in 1996, you flip on “SportsCenter” to catch part of last night’s “The Big Show” with Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann, two men whose voices you’ve heard more the last few years than even your own father’s. Hell, throw Stuart Scott and Rich Eisen in the mix and you’ve listened to these sports anchors speak more than anyone in your whole life. You can recite their catchphrases (en fuego, cool as the other side of the pillow) better than the Pledge of Allegiance.
On your dresser you’ve got your Right Guard deodorant because Charles Barkley says anything less would be uncivilized. In your closet are a bunch of shirts from the GAP and Abercrombie & Fitch and some oversized Tommy Hilfiger polos, and in the back you’ve got a vintage ’92 Clyde Drexler USA Basketball Dream Team jersey (too many people had Jordan and Bird and Magic, and you’re no sheep).
Hanging on random doorknobs and trophies around your room are a bunch of The Game hats. You’ve got South Carolina’s maroon hat that says “COCKS” on it (insert Beavis’s laugh in your head) and a maize and blue one that says “U of M” for Michigan and a nice royal blue one that says “Kentucky.” You’ve never stepped foot in Columbia or Ann Arbor or Lexington, but who cares? The hats are tight.
On your wall is the Bo Jackson poster you’ve had since grade school. You know the one—Bo, shirtless, wearing his football pads and holding a baseball bat behind his head. You have the yellow-bordered “Sultans of Slam” poster with Jordan, Dominique, Spud Webb, and every other great dunker in the NBA. You have the classic Kid Dynamite Costacos Bros poster of Ken Griffey Jr. with flames behind him. Come to think of it, the only hat you have in your room that isn’t The Game is a blue Seattle Mariners hat that you wear backward because of Griffey. If you know, you know.
Between some of your posters you’ve put up a few Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue pictures and covers. Of course, there’s Tyra Banks and Cindy Crawford and Kathy Ireland. And yeah, you might have a few of your dad’s Playboys stashed under the bed with Jenny McCarthy and Pamela Anderson on the front.
As you throw on a white “No Fear” t-shirt with the blue logo and slide on your Nike Air Zoom Flights (because you’d have to mow 4,000 lawns to afford a new pair of Air Jordan VIs), you’re excited because tonight is the first game of the 1996 NBA Finals between Jordan and Pippen’s Bulls and Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton’s Sonics. You can’t believe the year is only half over. It feels like New Year’s Day was a lifetime ago, when you watched Bobby Bowden’s All-NFL Florida State defense, Steve Spurrier’s Fun ’N’ Gun at Florida, and Tom Osborne’s Tommie Frazier-led Nebraska battle it out in bowl games in a race for team of the decade.
Then in quick succession, as if blessed by the sports gods, nearly every major star from every sport had their moment. Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, Emmitt Smith, Deion Sanders, and the Cowboys capped off their third Super Bowl in four years on January 28, and then two days later Magic Johnson miraculously returned to the NBA after his hiatus due to HIV. The next week, the NBA’s past and future collided in the All-Star Game when Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway, and Grant Hill joined Pippen and Jordan in the East’s starting line-up (MJ’s first All-Star appearance since his return from baseball).
You then quickly transitioned to college hoops’ conference tournaments, where the NCAA’s biggest name (and NBA’s future icon)—Allen Iverson of Georgetown—scorched his way through the Big East and then March Madness. Immediately after that, Ken Griffey Jr. was ready to put the ’95 strike-shortened season behind for all of us and signed a record-breaking baseball contract. Then the WNBA announced its existence to the world with a trifecta of women’s hoop pioneers in Rebecca Lobo, Lisa Leslie, and Sheryl Swoopes.
The Bulls then became the best basketball team of all time, finishing 72–10. After the Finals, the Los Angeles Lakers drafted a kid out of high school named Kobe Bryant, after which a seismic shift in the NBA took place when Shaq left the Orlando Magic to join him on July 18. The very next day, Muhammad Ali lit the torch to start the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, with Dream Team III, Michael Johnson burning up the track, Amy Van Dyken owning the pool, the Magnificent Seven taking over gymnastics, and tennis’s reformed bad boy Andre Agassi winning Olympic Gold.
Wayne Gretzky got traded to the New York Rangers, a 16-year-old Venus Williams faced 8-time Grand Slam Winner Steffi Graf for the first time, and then Tiger Woods said “Hello, world,” joined the PGA Tour, won his first tournament, and became Sports Illustrated’s coveted “Sportsman of the Year.” Derek Jeter made his Yankees post-season debut, Mike Tyson fought three times in nine months, and Brett Favre was about to gun-sling his way to the top of the NFL. It was an embarrassment of sports riches, and every day you woke up, a new generational legend was performing a new sports feat—and you didn’t even know how good you had it. Of course, every year has its icons; but dammit, it felt like 1996 was loaded top-to-bottom with them.
If you came of age during the ’90s, with your Madden season saved on your PlayStation and “boom shakalaka” from NBA Jam ringing in your ears, this was your time. You had Shaq-Fu and Rock N’ Jock, Space Jam and Kazaam, Happy Gilmore and Jerry Maguire.
You had it all.
And in the blink of an eye, two-and-a-half decades have passed.
You grew up.
Hell, we all grew up.
We settled down, got jobs, had kids of our own. Now here we are, all these years later, and we’re still enamored with the stars, teams, icons, legends, and dynasties of our youth.
Forget 2021 for a minute.
Forget all your responsibilities.
Close your eyes.
Hear SportsCenter’s da-da-da-da da-da-da one last time. Listen to Stuart Scott’s intro. Mentally throw on your Game hat. Grab a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos and a Citrus Cooler Gatorade and for a couple hundred pages let’s go back in time, together, and celebrate the 25th anniversary of the most glorious year of sports’ glory years: 1996.
If you were ever interested in this book, or you know someone or are married to someone or pals with someone who’d love it, now’s the time to get it!
Pre-orders for books are HUGE. Publishers watch them. Bestseller lists watch them. In short, they matter! So grab your copy today and it’ll ship May 11th.
AND MAKE SURE TO SEND ME A SCREEN SHOT OF YOUR ORDER!
I’m giving away FIVE ridiculously awesome 1996 t-shirts in a raffle.
And don’t worry… I still have an awesome Trick Shot of the Week for you that I hit in front of a bus full of high schoolers. Check it out… Under pressuuuuuuure.
We’ll be back to our regular B&B next week. Thanks for reading!
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