Michael Jordan has had an impact on society more than any other NBA player in his generation. His success on the court led to a widespread increase in the popularity of the NBA, and it hasn't been the same since.
I felt I should recall some of his more outstanding moments in the week of his enshrinement to the NBA Hall of Fame.
In arguably one of the best National Championship games ever, with 16 seconds left, Michael Jordan hit a mid-range jumper from the baseline to give North Carolina a 63-62 lead and the victory over a juggernaut Georgetown team led by Patrick Ewing. This was just the beginning of what would turn out to be a special career with plenty of game-winning shots.
Michael entered his name into the 1984 NBA draft. With the No. 2 pick the Blazers decided to choose Sam Bowie rather than Michael Jordan. This let him fall to the third pick in the draft, and right into the lap of the Chicago Bulls. Chicago has never been more thankful to Portland.
In the 1985-1986 playoffs, Jordan scored a still standing playoff record of 63 points against the Boston Celtics. This Celtics team was considered one of the greatest teams of all time. The Bulls were swept in the playoffs that year by the Celtics, but Chicago knew it had something special.
In the 1989 playoffs, in Game Five against the Cavaliers, Jordan hit one of the most recognizeable shots in NBA history over Craig Ehlo at the buzzer. This shot was unbelievable in itself, let alone considering the fact that it was a buzzer-beater and a series-clincher.
In 1991, Michael finally got over the hump and beat the Lakers for his first NBA title. There was also a signature move in that game when Jordan jumped to the hoop and avoided a possible blocked shot by Sam Perkins. He switched hands mid-air in order to avoid the block and he made the layup. The shot has been replayed constantly ever since.
In 1992, Jordan won his second MVP and had another spectacular NBA Finals performance. In the first half of Game One, Jordan hit six three-pointers and had an NBA Finals record 35 points in the first half. After his sixth three, Jordan looked over towards Marv Albert and shrugged his shoulders as if to say: "I can't believe I'm doing this either!"
In 1993, Charles Barkley ended Jordan's streak of consecutive MVPs at two, so Jordan decided to take his aggression out on Barkley and the Suns by scoring at least 30 points in every game when the two teams squared off in the finals. Jordan averaged an NBA Finals record 41 points per game. This capped off Jordan's third championship victory.
Jordan felt he accomplished all that he could in basketball and retired for the first time. He pursued a career in baseball, but he didn't succeed so he decided to return to basketball.
In the 1996 NBA Finals, Jordan and the Bulls finished with an NBA Record 72 wins and just 10 losses and advanced to the finals and played the Seattle Supersonics. The Bulls went on to win the title, losing just four games in the playoffs.
The Bulls clinched the title on Father's Day, the first Father's Day since Jordan's father was murdered. Jordan reacted very emotionally after the game, sobbing with the championship trophy. The image helped to show that this incredible, almost otherworldly, basketball player was in fact human.
In 1997, the Bulls started what would be two consecutive exciting NBA Finals series with the Utah Jazz. In Game Five, Michael Jordan had a very bad case of the flu, as well as a stomach virus, and a temperature over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
In this game, Jordan scored 38 points and hit the game-winning three-pointer with less than a minute remaining. After the game, Jordan very famously was carried off the court by Scottie Pippen.
The Bulls went on to win the finals for the second straight year.
In 1998, the Bulls faced off with the Jazz again in the finals. In Game Six, with less than a minute remaining and the Bulls down 86-85, Jordan stole the ball from Jazz star Karl Malone.
He dribbled the ball up the court slowly to the left wing, then with under 10 seconds remaining drove to the center of the key, stopped and let a scrambling Byron Russell fall to the ground. Jordan pulled up and hit possibly the most famous shot in the history of basketball to give the Bulls an 87-86 lead.
This ended Jordan's brilliant career with the Bulls, and allowed him to go off into the sunset with his sixth and final championship. He retired after that season and later returned again to play for the Washington Wizards in 2001. He owned a stake in the Wizards as part owner at that point but believed he could still play.
He had three less than memorable years in D.C. but will always be remembered for what he accomplished in a Bulls uniform.
This enshrinement is one for the ages, and I'm proud to say I will be in Springfield this weekend for this event.