Yvette Joseph climbed higher and higher toward her seat in the upper deck of the Georgia Dome, hardly believing how far she was from the court where Michael Jordan was playing.
“I don’t think I’m really going to be able to really appreciate this game,” she said, squinting to catch a glimpse of the ant-like figures at the opposite end of the arena. “I’ve got 20-20 vision, but I still don’t think I can see.”
Joseph and her boyfriend, James Watson, drove from Nashville, Tenn., to be part of an NBA-record crowd of 62,046 that packed the Georgia Dome Friday night for a chance to see what could be Jordan’s final Atlanta appearance.
Actually, not everyone could see His Airness.
The ticket demand for the game was so great that the Hawks put an extra 8,000 seats on sale this week, even though they offered no view of the court. Revenues from the $5 tickets will be donated to a relief fund for victims of a deadly tornado that struck north Georgia last week.
“The point was not about making more money,” Hawks president Stan Kasten said. “The fans wanted this so badly that we said, ‘Here you go, come on in.”’
Jordan didn’t disappoint, scoring 34 points to lead the Bulls to an 89-74 victory. Hundreds of flashbulbs went off every time he touched the ball, and he was cheered loudly as he walked off the court afterward. One fan held up a sign, “Michael for President.”
“It’s all right to be part of history,” Chicago’s Toni Kukoc said. “All those people paid money and they couldn’t even see us.”
The fans who packed the entire upper deck of the Georgia Dome could view the court - albeit many of them several hundred yards away - since a curtain which normally divides the arena was taken down. But thousands in the lower deck were obscured by a section of seats which is stationed along one side of the court.
“We could have sold 100,000 for this game,” Kasten said. “Think about it - there’s 8,000 people who can’t even see the game.”
Fans like Andrew Martin had to settle for watching the game on one of the two video screens at each end of the domed stadium. He didn’t seem to mind.
“Look at that,” the Atlanta man said, pointing to his clear view of the video screen while he stretched out to enjoy his order of nachos. “I can’t complain about this. I don’t have to worry about people going back and forth in front on me or someone with a big hat sitting in front of me. And I’ll always be able to say with a straight face that I was here.”
Also, a group of in-line skaters who performed on the court before the game took their act to the barren, concrete floor at the opposite side of the building after the tipoff, further entertaining those fans whose view of the game was blocked.
The crowd eclipsed the previous NBA record set by the Detroit Pistons when they still played at another domed football stadium, the Pontiac Silverdome. The Jan. 29, 1988, game against Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics attracted 61,983.
The crowd, many wearing Jordan’s No. 23 jersey, cheered louder for the entrance of the Bulls than the Hawks.