Of all the guys who have been sharing stories about projects they’ve been working on during the coronavirus pandemic, Trent Othick’s might be the most interesting.
After watching the debut episode of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” documentary miniseries about Michael Jordan, Othick was inspired to dig out a painting his stepmother, Sandra, had done of the Chicago Bulls’ superstar and hang it up in his TV room.
Jordan’s signature, which has started to fade, is on the painting.
He signed it during the 1985-86 NBA season — the year he broke his foot during the third game of the season and sat out 64 games.
Here’s how it happened. Jordan was golfing pals with Jamie Thompson, who played for Wichita State’s 1965 Final Four team. Thompson was Buddy Othick’s business partner. Buddy Othick, a former Wichita State assistant coach, is the father of Trent and Matt Othick, the former Bishop Gorman basketball star.
Jordan and Thompson were playing golf one day at Las Vegas Country Club when Thompson asked Jordan if he wanted a glass of lemonade on the backside of the course.
“They were on the 15th hole,” Trent Othick said. “That was the hole our house was on.”
Othick was hanging out with Charlie Skinner, stepson of colorful Las Vegas restaurateur Freddie Glusman, when the doorbell rang.
“I grabbed the painting to show him, grabbed my original Air Jordans, the first ones ever made, had him sign those,” Othick, 47, said. “I couldn’t believe he signed the painting. I don’t know if he signed it with a paint brush or a magic marker, because it’s starting to fade — it has been 30-something years.
“I found articles of him, took Polaroid pictures of him with us, and then he signed the pictures. I cannot find those damn Polaroids, and it is driving me nuts.”
He did find a Polaroid of Jordan playing pickup basketball at Las Vegas Sporting House on Industrial Road later that day.
“I’ll never forget what he was wearing: A golf shirt, these silver sweatpants that looked like a space suit and low cut Air Jordan basketball shoes,” Othick recalled. “He was not supposed to be playing because he had the broken ankle. But he absolutely put on a show, flying through the air, dunking on people.
“I was so little. I was the Coke retriever. That must have been before Gatorade.”
As for the painting, growing restless during the pandemic definitely played a part in it now hanging on the wall, Othick said.
“It was precious to me, but I never wanted to put it up in the house — I didn’t want it ruined at a party.”
The story continues
And that was that, until “The Last Dance.”
“We had just moved, two weeks before the chaos, and the Jordan thing came on the other night, and I’m sitting up in our loft where the kids watch sports,” Othick said. “And I’m thinking, you know what would look nice there? The Jordan painting.”
He said Brian Williams, who also starred at Gorman and Arizona and spent eight seasons in the NBA, would have enjoyed hearing the story. Williams basically moved in with the Othick boys when he played for Gorman. He was so tall that Trent’s disc jockey chair was attached to the end of a bed so his feet wouldn’t hang off.
Williams was Jordan’s teammate on the Bulls’ 1997 championship team, a year before he changed his name to Bison Dele and was killed in a boating accident.
The story of the autographed painting was retold years later on St. Patrick’s Day at a tavern on trendy Rush Street in Chicago, after Othick had dropped out of law school to become a Hollywood producer. He was hanging with Chazz Palminteri during the Oscar-nominated actor’s one-man show that the Othick brothers produced.
The brothers also had produced the movie “Yonkers Joe” in which Palminteri starred, and Trent Othick said “it was a cool moment” when Jordan and power forward Charles Oakley sidled up to welcome the actor and his entourage to their kind of town.
Not long after, I found myself backstage at the Venetian Showroom with the Othicks and other Las Vegas basketball types and Palminteri’s bodyguard, a former New York City cop named Bobby Lambchops. Palminteri signed posters for the group. Mine’s still in a closet in the spare bedroom.
But if this virus shutdown lasts much longer, I think I might have to put it up in place of the one of Farrah Fawcett in the red-orange bathing suit.