Now, I’m a Bulls lover, and a Michael Jordan enthusiast, however whether you share the passion, I’m sure we can all agree that when MJ announced his retirement, we knew basketball wouldn’t be the same. And this final shot proved to really let that thought fester and force us to never forget his legacy on the game.
On this day, the Utah Jazz had the Delta Center PACKED to capacity, and everyone knew the ball would end up in Jordan’s hands to do what he does best in the final seconds of close games ─ win the game. Chicago believed in him and trusted him, and the Bulls’ bench knew this decision was a no-brainer. He was the NBA’s worst-kept secret, however nobody could find a way to contain him. (This is why he is considered G.O.A.T.).
What was special about this play is that no plays needed to be called. All Jordan needed was the ball and some time to do his thing. You would’ve thought the Jazz would have already learned that when the game is on the line, and there’s more pressure on him than the deepest depths of the Pacific Ocean, that’s when His Royal Airness comes out of hibernation.
With the Bulls behind by three points in the final minute or so of Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals, MJ scores on a drive to the basket. In the immediate following play, MJ rips up Karl Malone and brings the ball back downcourt. Now, don’t get me wrong, Bryon Russell is one of the greatest defensive players of ALL time (at least to me he is), but Super Michael made it seem like Russell was taking a lesson from the Gods. With a beautiful pullback (and possible slight push), MJ knocks down the game-winning 20-footer with 5.2 seconds remaining to give the Bulls an 87-86 win to cap off the repeat of the 3-peat!
MJ had done it. Finishing with 45 points, he takes home his sixth MVP award in eight years and leaves us with the most beautiful goodbye letter with this final shot. “Let’s face it, we all hopped on Michael’s back. He just carried us,” Bulls sharpshooter Steve Kerr recalls. “That guy is just ridiculous. He is so good it’s scary.”
Psh…YEA, HE IS!!
“As soon as Russell reached, he gave me a clear lane. I made my initial drive, and he bit on it, and I stopped, pulled up and I had an easy jump shot,” Jordan said. “I had a great look, and it went in. Once it went in I knew from that point on, we’ve been hanging around long enough, it was the game-winning basket, and it was a matter of playing solid defense. Our defense has held us strong all series, we wouldn’t be in this scenario without the defense. All we had to do was play defense for 5.8 seconds, and I knew we could do that.”
Said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, “You can’t afford to give them second chances, with Michael Jordan out there, he was going to make the plays, he was able to do that and you live with that.”
Cheers to the greatest memory of the great Michael Jordan and his final shot…in a Bulls jersey.
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