Michael Jordan remains the hottest topic of sports debate for the second week in a row as the third and fourth episodes of The Last Dance aired on ESPN last night. It stirred up many a memory for the millions watching, leading us at The Big Lead to recall what our very first memory was of the man who came to be known as His Airness. Thus, a collection of Michael Jordan memories for your enjoyment.
Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals
My first solid memory of Michael Jordan was Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals. Just 10 years old at the time, I had only been interested in basketball for a year or two, maybe less. I know I had watched random games and some of that year's playoffs. And I know I had watched the Dream Team and even had wall stickers of Jordan and Chris Mullin, but I have a crystal clear memory of where I was when John Paxson hit that shot. So yeah, technically, my first loving memory of Michael Jordan involves a play where four guys touched the ball and somebody else made the last shot.
Jordan had 33, 8 and 7 in that game and won his third straight title. I remember where I was sitting in my parents' living room and the game tipped off at 7:30 Eastern, which explains why I was allowed stay up until the game ended. If I wasn't already hooked on the player or the sport, I was then.
I do not remember Jordan averaging 41 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 6.3 assists in that series, but I have to say looking back I am quite impressed. He shot 50% from the field and made 40% of his three pointers that series. That's... insane. They should really make a documentary about this guy. -- Stephen Douglas
My wife refuses to believe that my long-term memory is otherworldly because my short-term ability is astoundingly poor. But I do remember going over to my grandparents' house on a Sunday when I was five-years-old. This was always big fun because they, unlike us, had cable, meaning I could watch the Detroit Tigers lose to a superior baseball team. And they did on this day -- 5-4 to the Oakland A's -- despite a late Lou Whitaker homer off of Dennis Eckersley.
At some point the channel was changed -- perhaps not by remote -- to the Bulls-Cavaliers game. Though unclear on the finer points of basketball, I did grasp that something special had happened because they kept replaying the shot over and over and over again. Due to my environment, the introduction to Jordan was as a villain, as someone who was not up to defeating the Detroit Pistons. Someone everyone in the room wanted to see fail.
That resulted in less hero worship and more the slow formation of a begrudging respect. The Shot was just the first of many times he'd disappoint me. Good early lesson. -- Kyle Koster
As I am constantly reminded by my coworkers, I'm on the younger side of sports fandom. I was two years old when Michael Jordan won his final NBA championship and seven when he retired for the final time. And I wasn't even a basketball fan growing up. So I don't have a singular memory of Jordan. There was never a moment where I saw a highlight and thought, "Man, who's that guy?"
But of course I knew who MJ was, because his legend transcended the game of basketball. Jordan isn't just the greatest basketball player of all time, he's the greatest competitor of all time. He's nearly as likely to come up in an argument about football as he is a basketball discussion. I've never known a time where Jordan wasn't an ever-present figure in the world of sports. Unlike the other entries in this blog, I didn't have that moment when Jordan entered my world view. He was just always there, inescapable and indescribable in his greatness. -- Liam McKeone
The 1991 NBA Finals
Growing up in San Diego, everyone was a Lakers fan and Magic Johnson was the hero of every young basketball player. As a member of that group -- and as the son of a pair of Celtics fans -- I reveled in every Magic "moment" for years. In 1991, the Lakers' stars were getting older and hadn't reached the finals the previous season. So when they made the 1991 NBA Finals and didn't have to face the Bad Boy Detroit Pistons, it looked like they would be able to crown the waning days of the Showtime Era with a championship.
Then Michael Jordan and his Chicago Bulls brought reality crashing down hard on the remnants of 1980s basketball.
The Lakers took Game 1 in Chicago and looked to be poised to run away with Johnson's sixth title. But that all changed in Game 2 as the Bulls won 107-86 and made the Lakers look old, slow and completely outmatched. Jordan also did this, which is a highlight Lakers fans have had to live with for decades:
The rest of the series went the same way as Chicago battered my beloved Lakers to win the series in five games. Jordan was magical. He averaged 31.2 points, 11.4 assists, 6.6 rebounds, 2.8 steals and 1.4 blocks in 44.0 minutes per game. That was Magic Johnson's last NBA Finals appearance and the end of the Showtime Lakers. It was the first of Jordan's six titles and by far the most painful for me to watch. -- Ryan Phillips
1992 Eastern Conference Semifinals
I'm sure I watched Jordan play before his Bulls met my Knicks in the 1992 conference semis, but I do not have a specific memory I can point to and say, "That's when I first remember Jordan." Instead, I have this memory of the 1992 playoffs, when Jordan ripped my heart out for the first time by completely dominating the Knicks in Game 7 of that series to send the Bulls to the conference finals on their way to the second of three straight championships.
The anticipation in the Tri-State area ahead of game 7 was intense. The Knicks, as I recall, pretty much handled the Bulls at home in Game 6 and it seemed they had a chance to dethrone a dynasty before it got off the ground. Pat Riley was our head coach, Patrick Ewing was our star player, and Mark Jackson was our floor general. It felt possible. We were gonna do it.
Then Jordan hung 42 points on us and the Bulls pulled away in the second half to secure a 29-point win.
It was the first of many times Jordan, Pippen, and the Bulls got the better of the Knicks. Sadly, we couldn't even get it done when MJ was trying to hit a baseball. But I remember that series as the first time I really cared about the Knicks and remember that game as the first time I had hope they could win it all. How naive I was.
Jordan, to me, was always the foil in my desire to see the Knicks win it all. But anyone who knows me knows I loved him, even when he beat my team. It wasn't the same for all fans (RE: Koster's point above), but I was always enamored with the great ones-- even if they didn't play for my team. Jordan was that for me, a guy I wanted with all my heart to beat, but didn't hate when we inevitably lost. I admired him. You can call me a bad fan or whatever you want, but I do remember quite vividly watching until the end of Game 7 (didn't really have many other TV options back then) and thinking, "Man I wish he was on the Knicks." -- Brian Giuffra