The reason Michael Jordan will always be the Greatest of All-Time is because he had a sense of the moment that no one in the history of American sports -- maybe Tom Brady aside -- has had.
By 1998, already five titles in, he had a silent maturity and professionalism to him that no one has matched before or since. So, in the final minutes of Game 6 of the 1998 Finals, there was a sense of inevitability you could hear in Bob Costas’s voice and feel in Utah's crowd. Of course, he delivered in his final moments as a Bull, with the shot above, but also in the entire final-minute sequence.
With 59 seconds left and Utah winning, 83-81, Jordan drew a foul and hit two free throws to tie the game.
With 41 seconds left, John Stockton hit a 3-pointer to make it 86-83, Utah.
With 37 seconds left, Jordan took an inbounds pass from Scottie Pippen at halfcourt and drove to the basket for a layup, making it 86-85, Utah.
With 21 seconds left, Jordan cheated off Jeff Hornacek to double-team Karl Malone in the paint, stripping the ball from Malone and regaining possession down by one point.
With five seconds left, Jordan nailed a jumper to give the Bulls an 87-86 lead. On the other end, Stockton missed a game-winning 3-pointer, and the Bulls had their sixth ring.
The layup. The steal. The shot; other than Pippen’s inbounds pass with 40 seconds left, no other Bull touched the ball in the final minute. It doesn’t get better than that. Costas’s call immediately after Jordan’s shot was similarly money:
“Michael Jordan, running on fumes, with 45 points. … That may have been -- who knows what will unfold in the next several months -- but that may have been the last shot Michael Jordan will ever take in the NBA. … If that’s the last image of Michael Jordan, how magnificent is it?”
This Game 6, and the series as a whole, will be the prolonged subject of this Sunday’s final two “The Last Dance” episodes. Keep in mind you’ll see footage from this game and its aftermath that have never been seen before.
[WATCH:Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals|The final three minutes of Game 6]
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