On Sunday, March 24, 1996, the Skydome was packed with a record crowd of 36,131, the largest attendance in Canadian basketball history, to watch the Toronto Raptors take on Michael Jordan and Chicago in the afternoon Bulls game.
Raptors power forward Sharon Wright went on the injured list with back spasms and Carlos Rogers started the game, opening the scoring with a thunderous one-handed dunk. Jordan responded a minute later with a layup under the rim to put the visitors on the court, drawing oohs and aahs from the home crowd. The Raptors picked up the pace and opened up a 7-point lead early. Just when it looked like they were going to run away in the first quarter, Michael Jordan hit a patented fadeaway jumper to stop the run.
On his next play, he drove to the basket but missed the layup. There was a familiar face in the paint grabbing offensive rebounds and clearing the ball with returns. John Salley signed with Chicago after being waived by the Raptors in early March. With Dennis Rodman suspended for six games for head-butting referee Ted Bernhardt and Luke Longley sidelined with knee tendonitis, the Bulls’ front line consists of Sully, Dicky Simpkin Si and Montreal native Bill Wennington pieced it together. In 1985, the Dallas Mavericks selected him with the 16th pick in the first round. After Jordan hit another mid-range jumper, he already scored 9 points. He smiled at Raptors shooting guard Alvin Robertson. The two were teammates on the U.S. team at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and won a gold medal together. The two became friends but remained rivals on the court.
The Raptors had played the Bulls in their previous three games. Chicago eked out a 92-89 win when it visited the Skydome in January, exhaling at the buzzer when Oliver Miller’s game-tying 3-pointer missed. At halftime, the Raptors led by 7 points, but Jordan scored 38 points, including 15 points in the fourth quarter, almost causing an upset. On its fourth and final drive, Toronto once again took on the best team in the league. At the end of the first quarter, the Raptors led 28-23. A few minutes into the second quarter, Steve Kerr’s back-to-back three-pointers tied the score. Another fadeaway jumper by Jordan over Robertson gave Chicago the lead. On the next possession, Jordan drove toward the basket and made contact with Robertson, who received his third foul. When Jordan hit two free throws to give the Bulls a four-point lead, Robertson headed to the bench. Midway through the second quarter, it was Doug Christie’s turn to be Jordan’s primary defender.