With the Last Dance premiering last weekend, most of the talk in NBA circles has been about Michael Jordan. Here are a few key moments that shaped his legacy.
Jordan sets playoff scoring record with 63 points (1986 Playoffs, First Round Game 2)
Just barely in his second season, Michael Jordan and his 8th-seed Chicago Bulls were facing off against the heavyweight Boston Celtics (starring four future Hall of Famers). The Celtics had won Game 1 in a 19-game blowout, but Game 2 ended up being a double-overtime thriller.
Boston simply had no answer for Michael Jordan. He managed to keep his under-talented Bulls in the game, scoring 63 points in a 135-131 loss. Larry Bird was so amazed by this performance, he went as far as to say that Jordan was just "God in disguise."
Game-winner over Craig Ehlo (1989 Playoffs, First Round Game 5)
The Bulls had been eliminated in the first round in two of the previous three years. Jordan was not going to let another year end in such a disappointing fashion. With the series tied at two, the Bulls were down 99-100 to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Chicago was on the verge of blowing a 2-1 series lead, and with 3 seconds left, they put their trust in Jordan.
Brad Sellers would inbound the ball to Jordan. He elevated over Craig Ehlo for a 15-footer near the free-throw line, burying the jumper at the buzzer to win the series. This moment would become one of his most iconic shots.
Jordan sets finals scoring average record (1993 Finals)
Going against the Pheonix Suns in the finals, a team with the best record in the NBA and the season MVP in Charles Barkley, Michael Jordan proved once again that he was indisputably the true MVP of the league. He would average 41 points per game in the series, which still stands as the highest average in NBA finals history.
His top performance would be in Game 4, where he delivered a 55-point performance, the second-highest scoring performance in finals history. Chicago would win the series in six hard-fought games, completing their first three-peat.
The Flu Game (1997 Finals, Game 5)
Though the Bulls had jumped ahead to a 2-0 series lead, the Utah Jazz bounced back in Games 3 and 4 to tie it all up. Heading into Game 5, Utah had all the momentum, and with Jordan struggling with flu-like symptoms, the odds seemed stacked against Chicago.
Of course, Jordan would go on to show why he was the greatest player of the generation. His determination and will to win wouldn't let anything stop him from playing, let alone scoring 38 points in a 90-88 victory.
The Last Dance Finale (1998 Finals, Game 6)
In a finals rematch with the Jazz, the series stood at 3-2 in favor of the Bulls. However, Utah had the home-court advantage this time around, and in the closing minutes of Game 6, they looked like they were in control with an 86-83 lead with 40 seconds remaining. After a Chicago timeout, Jordan would quickly score on a driving layup to bring the game within one point with 37 seconds remaining.
A lot of people forget about the ensuing possession, which was almost as important as Jordan's final shot. Karl Malone had his back to the basket with around 20 seconds remaining, but Jordan snuck in from behind for the strip. Now Chicago had possession with the shot-clock turned off.
Jordan would dribble out most of the time, sinking his last jumper as a Bull over Byron Russell with 5.2 seconds remaining. The Bulls completed their second set of three-peats, Jordan further cemented his status as the G.O.A.T, and the most significant era of the NBA would come to an end.
Preview photo credit: NBC Sports