I will willfully admit I grew up with Michael Jordan posters covering my walls. As a kid, I mimicked his every move, complete with tongue wagging, as I launched up every fancy layup trick I could imagine on my driveway hoop. The neighborhood kids and I would re-live his game winning shots, all taking turns being Jordan. So it should come as no surprise that my all-time favorite Finals moments come at the hand of 'MJ.'
It was the perfect ending to one of the most amazing careers the sport has ever seen. It was 1998 and the Chicago Bulls were taking on the Utah Jazz in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. Yes, I can now admit Jordan could have been called for an offensive foul against Bryon Russell. And yes, Jordan’s subsequent Hall of Fame acceptance speech poking fun at Russell was a cheap shot and beneath the greatness of his career. Yet, at the end of Game 6 in 1998, none of that mattered and everything seemed simply perfect as he hit the most clutch shot of his career.
Jordan got the ball with 11 seconds left in the game and Chicago down 86-85. He started his dribble just outside the 3-point arc and drove right with Russell all over him; he then pulled back to his left and launched one of the purest jumpers in NBA Finals history. He left his hand hanging in the air as the ball caught nothing but the bottom of the net with 5 seconds to go. My family room exploded with cheers and yelling, as we couldn’t believe he’d done it again. That shot lifted Jordan to his 6th NBA championship and one more shot every kid in the neighborhood would mimic for years.
It felt right. Like the universe was in sync; the Chicago Bulls should win, and Michael Jordan should never be denied. It wasn’t that the Jazz — or Karl Malone and John Stockton — were bad guys, it was just that Michael Jordan was the good guy. Always. It didn’t matter who he played against, it just felt like he should win.
Photo Credit: AP