Although he played his last game almost ten years ago, Michael Jordan is considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Jordan will turn 50 on February 17 and SportsCenter will air 50 of the most memorable moments from his career. As a fan of the Bulls, I spent most of my early teen years following Jordan’s ascension from the playoff battles with the Detroit Pistons in the late 1980s, to the player who helped lead the Bulls to six titles in eight seasons. That said, here are five memorable Jordan playoff moments in chronological order.
Chicago Bulls vs. Cleveland Cavaliers: Game 5 1989 Playoffs
The Bulls were trailing by a point in the final seconds of this tight series and everyone in the building knew who was going to take the last shot. Jordan took the inbound pass, drove left and hit a jumper from the free-throw line with Craig Ehlo draped all over him. The winning shot gave the Bulls a 101-100 victory and its second postseason series win of the Jordan era. The win was impressive considering the Bulls had lost all six regular-season meetings to the Cavaliers. Jordan’s numbers for the series included an astounding 39.8 points, eights assists and five rebounds per contest, proving he was capable of leading his team to victory in the postseason.
Chicago Bulls vs. Los Angeles Lakers - Game 3 1991 NBA Finals:
Chicago had come back from a 13-point deficit against the Lakers, but still trailed by two in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter. Jordan took the ball the length of the court and hit a jumper from the right wing over the outstretched arms of Vlade Divac to send the game into overtime. The Bulls eventually won the game 104-96 to take a 2-1 lead in the series. While this does not technically fall into the game-winning shot category, it was just as significant because it enabled the Bulls to win a game they should have lost and reclaim the home-court advantage.
Chicago Bulls vs. Cleveland Cavaliers - Game 4 1993 Conference Semifinals:
As many basketball fans recall, Jordan took pleasure in beating the Cavaliers and this playoff series was no exception. The Bulls had a commanding 3-0 series lead, but the Cavaliers were hanging tough with their season on the line. Unfortunately, for the Cleveland faithful, Jordan would deny them yet again. With the game tied at 101, Jordan had the ball on the right wing with Gerald Wilkins defending him. Jordan took a few dribbles before hitting a sweet turn-around jumper that simply broke the hearts of the Cavalier fans.
Chicago Bulls vs. Utah Jazz - Game 1 1997 NBA Finals:
The Utah Jazz had an opportunity to go up by two points with Karl Malone at the free-throw line. However, Malone came up short on both attempts, leaving the door open for the Bulls to steal the game. With Bryon Russell guarding him closely, Jordan rose up and nailed a jumper from the left wing as time expired, lifting the Bulls to an 84-82 win over Utah. Jordan’s basket marked the first time since 1985 that a game-winning shot was made at the buzzer in a Finals game.
Chicago Bulls vs. Utah Jazz - Game 6 1998 NBA Finals:
The Bulls were on the brink of defeat, trailing the Jazz 86-83 with time winding down in the fourth quarter. Jordan had two remarkable sequences in the final moments of this contest. Following a John Stockton three-pointer, Jordan converted an easy lay-up, trimming the deficit to a point. On Utah’s next possession, Malone had the ball against Dennis Rodman in the post. All of a sudden, Jordan surprises Malone and strips the ball, setting up one of the most epic moments in Bulls history. With Russell guarding him again, Jordan calmly knocked down a jumper near the free-throw line, giving Chicago an 87-86 lead. John Stockton failed to convert on a three-pointer in the game’s closing seconds and the Bulls were champions once again. This would be the last shot Jordan would attempt in a Bulls uniform.