The highly anticipated ESPN-Netflix documentary about the Chicago Bulls 1997-1998 season is coming out next week. We thought a good way of prepping for what promises to be an epic telling of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and Phil Jackson’s last dance, is running down, in chronological order, the most famous moments of Jordan’s college and NBA career.
Championship Winning Shot For North Carolina
When Jordan pulled up to take the shot that ended up winning North Carolina’s first national title under Dean Smith, he wasn’t considered the best player on the team, or the second. James Worthy was the #1 guy for the Tar Heels, followed by Sam Perkins. But that shot put him on the map, followed by 2 more seasons in Chapel Hill, in which he was twice picked to the 1st team All-American and the national player of the year in 1984 before moving on to the NBA.
63-Point Game vs the Celtics in the Playoffs
The pre-championships part of Jordan’s career is probably famous for two things: Not being able to go through the Detroit Pistons again and again in the playoffs (until that changed in 1991) and his 63-point performance, still an NBA playoffs single game record, against the Boston Celtics, in a losing effort.
‘The Shot’ vs Lakers in the 1991 NBA Finals
Remember the Pistons? In 1991, with the Bulls entering the playoffs backed up by 61 wins, the Bulls’ division rivals weren’t a problem. The Bulls swept the Pistons aside to set up a Finals meet with the Los Angeles Lakers. They dropped game 1 at home, but won the next 4 to claim the 1st championship. In game 2 Jordan made one of his career’s most famous shots, attacking the basket and switching hands mid-air to avoid getting blocked, scoring over a former UNC teammate, Sam Perkins.
‘The Shrug’ vs Trail Blazers in the 1992 NBA Finals
The Bulls won a then franchise best 67 games in the 1991-1992 season. The Eastern side of the playoffs proved tougher than the previous year, but the Bulls still made it through to another Finals series, this time facing the Portland Trail Blazers. Jordan was tremendous in the finals, averaging 35.8 points in six games en route to another title and Finals MVP. He scored 39 in game 1, including six three pointers in the first half, leading to the famous shrug after hitting one of them.
Peak Jordan Throughout 1993 Playoffs
It’s hard to find one defining moment to the Bulls’ run in the 1992-1993 season, which included winning in the conference finals and the finals without home court advantage. And while Jordan’s performance in six games against the Suns (41 points per game) is perhaps the best individual performance we’ve seen in the finals, his 54 points in game 4 against the Knicks in the conference finals stands out to me as the masterpiece of that run, in what was Jordan at his finest.
55 Points vs Knicks at Madison Square Garden
The comeback of 1994-1995 didn’t have a happy ending: The Bulls lost to the Orlando Magic in the conference semifinal, with Jordan, wearing #45, looking like he’s not up to speed with everything that changed while he was trying to hit baseballs. But there was plenty of “old” magic during his return, non better than his 55-point performance against the New York Knicks at the Garden, ending with a game-winning assist to Bill Wennington.
Getting Revenge vs Shaq & Penny in 1996 Playoffs
So Jordan went to the drawing board along with his teammates, Dennis Rodman came along for the ride, and from it was born a new three-peat. The 1995-1996 Bulls were historic, winning 72 games and the NBA championship after beating the Seattle Supersonics 4-2 in the finals. But Jordan facing Shaq & Penny one more time in the playoffs this time sweeping them including 45 points to clinch that series was perhaps the exclamation of his real comeback season.
The Assist to Steve Kerr & Flu Game to Win 1997 NBA Finals
The first regular season in that three-peat run gets most of the fanfair because it set a record for wins (since broken by the Golden State Warriors in 2015-2016), but winning 69 games off that season might be even more impressive. And that run ended with the first of two Finals series against the Jazz. The 1997 edition ended in game 6, at home, with Jordan drawing the double team from John Stockton, leaving Steve Kerr open to hit the most important shot of his NBA career.
A game before that Kerr winner was the Flu Game, Jordan playing ill (how sick depends on who tells the story), putting the Bulls up 3-2 in Salt Lake City, scoring 38 points in a 90-88 win.
The Last Shot to Win 1998 NBA Finals
A year later, game 6 again, this time Jordan does it by himself. First it was the steal off Karl Malone to call the timeout, and then slowly dribbling the clock down, the little shove and maybe the most famous, iconic shot in NBA history, winning championship #6 for the Bulls, while picking up his 6th Finals MVP.