Jay C. Brandriet
Looking at things in hindsight, I’d claim Michael Jordan was better than Magic Johnson and Larry Bird by his third season (1987). In real time, I believed it by May of 1989. Two years later, it became official.
It was June 7th, 1991. Chicago at the L.A. Lakers. Game 3 of the NBA Finals. I was watching it with my parents, and my uncles Jim and Curt.
Magic Johnson was why I loved basketball. He was in the Finals for the ninth time, attempting to win his sixth ring. Jordan was the obvious heir to the throne, and was playing in his first championship series. In terms of top heavy star appeal, this was a match made in heaven for the NBA.
The teams had split the first two contests. Pivotal game three came with an exciting finish. Lakers center Vlade Divac, bobbled the ball and ended up making a layup while getting fouled. The Los Angeles crowd erupted. I went dead silent and put my hands over my face. The Lakers were now up by 2.. The room wondered why I looked defeated.
There was 10.9 seconds left, and the other team had Michael Jordan.
I KNEW Jordan was going to score. I KNEW the best case scenario here was a tie. The feeling was tangible.
Michael wrapped the dribble around his back, and headed down the court. He took a 14-foot floater at the elbow. The ball went over the outstretched arms of Divac. All net!
This bucket should be iconic. It’s rare to see it replayed.
In overtime, MJ scored 6 of the Bulls 12 points. Chicago took a 2-1 lead, and became the world champions just days later.
We all understand being worried when your team is facing great clutch players. This wasn’t worry. Jordan’s mere existence made me accept a future that had not happened yet.
That’s the moment I believed MJ was the G.O.A.T.
Jay C. Brandriet