Posted by: Zachary Pace on October 22nd, 2010The author's views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of the Utah Jazz.
As a young boy growing up through the 90’s, I, like many other kids, grew up idolizing the professional basketball players that graced the NBA’s hardwood. Many nights and Sunday afternoons were spent watching some of the best to ever play flicker through on our relatively small television with my father. More than anything I idolized my local heroes. Growing up watching the pick and roll offense of Stockton and Malone was a pleasure I appreciate much more now than I ever did then. These players seemed almost fictitious to me, but since occasionally I was able to attend a game and see them in person, they were able to take on a more realistic feel. There was one player in the NBA however that seemed so fictitious, so unreal, and so unbelievable, that when his reality finally hit me, it was a crushing blow.
Michael Jordan is the greatest player to ever lace up and play the game of basketball. Since my team only ever played against the Bulls twice a year, seeing him play was not something I did often. Sure, I would obviously see highlights and the occasional game on Sunday afternoon’s “NBA on NBC,” but actually watching him play an entire game was not something I was accustomed to. With that being the case, he took on a totally different place in my mind, a place that should be reserved for video games. And his unbelivability (if that is even a word) never shined more than when the pressure was the greatest.
See, growing up in the 90’s and being a fan of the NBA was something else. I watched as many Jazz games as television would permit, but home games, especially in the early 90’s, weren’t on TV much. So, I loved when the Jazz would go on the road. I watched for years as they would play with an unmatched consistency, only to lose in the playoffs. Then along came the Western Conference Finals against the Houston Rockets in 1997. I remember sitting on the floor of our living room as Bryon Russell inbounded the ball Stockon and John pulled up and hit the 3 pointer that would send the Jazz to the finals for the first time. They would face the Bulls, the team that had the man that refused to lose. The Jazz gave them a series, and that was surprising to me. That was also what made the next year’s NBA Finals that much more painful.
In 1998 the Jazz had home court advantage as once again, they faced the Bulls in the finals. They won Game 1, but went on to lose the next three. In Game 5, Karl Malone put his team on his back, as he did so many times throughout his Hall of Fame career, and they were able to push the series to a 6th game and back to Utah. In Game 6, it appeared as if the Jazz had the Bulls on the ropes and were going to force Game 7, but in the closing seconds, with the Jazz leading by 1, Michael Jordan did what he had done so many times, he closed out his opponent. Karl Malone had the ball down on the block and was stripped by “His Airness.” Michael brought the ball down the floor and the ensuing play crushed my dreams as a young man. Jordan crossed over on Bryon Russell, gave him a little push to create some space, and hit a 20 foot jump shot that would give the Bulls the lead for good and the 1998 NBA Title.
I was 12 years old as I sat in our living room with my father and could not believe what had just happened. There have been pictures published in Sports Illustrated of “The Shot,” just as the ball has passed through the net, and in those pictures you can see the disbelief of the fans in the Delta Center. I’m sure my face would have fit in perfectly. As they sat in their seats at the game, I sat in a recliner in my own disbelief. For several minutes nothing was said between my dad and I, and during those somber moments a couple of tears seemed to find their way down my cheek. This year had seemed so much different than the previous one. There had been a feeling around here that the Jazz were going to do something special. All of the momentum had swung to their favor and the feeling was that they had, as Bill Walton put it, “(put the) Bulls title run in serious jeopardy.” Forever I will wonder what would have happened if Game 7 had taken place. Unfortunately it did not due to the fact that Michael Jordan, in every way, was all too real.
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.