The Spirit: Michael Jordan, 1994
Omri Amrany and Julie Rotblatt-Amrany
Gate 4, United Center
1901 West Madison Street
This bronze statue of Chicago Bulls superstar basketball player Michael Jordan reaches 17 feet into the air and was commissioned by Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and team Vice President Steve Schanwald. Reinsdorf wanted a realistic depiction of Jordan that would showcase his unique skill and create the illusion of flight. Jordan appears to soar through the air above an abstracted conglomeration of opponents, an effect heightened by the fact that only his knee is attached to the base of the work.
The statue was designed by portrait artists Omri Amrany and Julie Rotblatt-Amrany, who are based in Highland Park, Illinois. They met with Jordan and worked with a combination of photographs to capture his likeness and characteristic style. Weighing in at 2000 pounds, the work was cast using the “lost wax” method by Art Casting of Illinois, a foundry located in Oregon, Illinois. It was unveiled before a television audience on November 1, 1994, the same night Jordan’s number 23 was retired.
The laser-etched black granite base includes a list of Jordan’s basketball achievements, honors and records as well as the statement “The best that ever was. The best that ever will be.” Although Chicago Tribune art critic Alan G. Artner was dismissive of the work, writing that the statement “refers more accurately to the subject than to the sculpture,” the statue has become a popular tourist attraction and gathering point for sports fans.