While reminiscing my all-time favorite basketball moments, it really always comes down to one play. Not only did one single shot win me over as a basketball fan, but it put a charge in my brain that convinced me I wanted to be an expert 3-point shooter and future NBA player for years to come — until of course I realized I would never grow to be 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds. But back to reminiscing…
The year was 1993 and the Chicago Bulls were taking on the Phoenix Suns in their third straight NBA Finals. Being from central Illinois, the Bulls were all the rage of the 90's, and if they could win their third NBA championship in a row, it would solidify them as one of the all-time greatest teams, as they would become the first team since the Boston of the Celtics of the 60's to accomplish the feat.
I remember being very young and with a friend at one of his parents' parties. All the adults were talking about the game — Game 6: The Bulls versus MVP Charles Barkley and his Suns. A game that would be on television later that night. Although we missed most of the game because of the party, the adults got us home just in time for the end of the fourth quarter.
As I plopped all wide-eyed in front of the TV, I was beyond anxious to see if 'my' Bulls were going to win the game. After watching just a few minutes, the tension built up to a level I had never experienced. Only about :10 on the clock, and the Bulls were down two.
Michael Jordan brought the ball down the court and dished to Scottie Pippen. What then ensued is a play that I have listened to over and over again since that fateful night. The call was made by play-by-play announcer Marv Albert — "Pippen got the snap…Here's Paxson, for three!!..YES! The Bulls take a one point lead and Phoenix calls for time!"
When Pippen drove into the lane, almost the entire Phoenix team collapsed in on him to help on defense in the paint. After dishing to Horace Grant on the baseline, Grant saw a wide open John Paxson near the top of the key who then nailed the 3-pointer with just 3.9 seconds remaining, giving the Bulls the one point lead. Chicago won the game 99-98 following the last play — a Kevin Johnson blocked shot from Grant. The Bulls won again, and Paxson was the clutch hero.
Being only nine years old at the time, that shot put me in a flurry of ecstatic emotion. Literally tears ran down my face as I raised my arms in triumph following Paxson's big shot. And because of that shot, I not only spent hours on the playground, shooting hoops for the next nine years, but won multiple three point contests while playing varsity ball for three years in high school, and had a bedroom covered in Bulls posters and memorabilia — which still remain in that room to this day. Mom it's okay to take all that down.
What's even more amazing — besides the fact my Jordan posters are still up in my childhood room — is that Paxson's three-pointer were the first points scored by a Bull other than Jordan for the entire fourth quarter.
Jordan finished with a game high 33 points, while Pippen had 23 and Paxson had 8. The Suns' Dan Majerle and Barkley each had 21, while Johnson had 19.
Jordan averaged a Finals-record 41 points-per-game during the six game series.