For Friday's newspaper and online, I have written this column about Michael Jordan's legendary legacy in the pros and his mixed feelings about entering the hall of fame. It's part of our three-part series on Jordan -- Robbi Pickeral did an excellent job on Part 1 (MJ growing up in Wilmington) and Part 2 (Jordan at UNC).I'll also be going to Springfield, Mass., Friday to cover Jordan's induction into basketball's hall of fame, so watch for my coverage of that both online and in the newspaper Friday and Saturday.
As a preview of all that, here's the way I would rank Jordan's Top 10 moments in the pros:
1. June 14, 1998 – In what would be his last game as a Chicago Bull, Jordan wins the decisive Game 6 (and his sixth and final NBA title). He scores 45 points and in the final minutes steals the ball from Karl Malone, more or less shoves Utah’s Bryon Russell out of the way (no call) and swishes the game-winning jumper for an 87-86 victory.
2. May 7, 1989 – Jordan hits “The Shot” – an 18-foot jumper -- over Cleveland’s Craig Ehlo to win a first-round playoff series in the final seconds. Although it wasn’t for an NBA title (which is why I haven't put it No.1), Jordan’s fist-pumping celebration after the basket before a stunned Cleveland crowd remains his most purely jubilant.
3. June 12, 1991 – Jordan’s first NBA title with Chicago refutes the notion that the game’s greatest scorer couldn’t also lead his team to championship. With father James at his side, he tearfully embraces the championship trophy. The Bulls would go on to dominate the decade, winning six NBA titles with Jordan as their centerpiece.
4. April 20, 1986 – In his second year in the NBA, Jordan scores 63 points in a double-overtime playoff loss to Boston. After the game, Boston’s Larry Bird says MJ played like “God disguised as Michael Jordan.”
5. June 16, 1996 – On Father’s Day, Jordan wins an NBA title for the first time since the death of his father James. Jordan then sprawls on the locker room floor, crying unabashedly while hugging the trophy.
6. June 11, 1997 – The “flu game.” Jordan gets hold of some bad pizza in Utah. Dehydrated and obviously sick, Jordan still scores 38 points against the Jazz while the Bulls win another playoff game on the way to title No.5.
7. Feb.6, 1988 -- In a monumental dunking face-off with Dominique Wilkins during NBA all-star weekend, Jordan wins the event for the second time by starting at the far end of the court, lifting off from the free-throw line, double-clutching in midair and slamming it home. Jordan gets a perfect score on the dunk – he never participates in the event again.
8. Summer 1992 – The “Dream Team.” As the biggest star on the U.S. Olympic “Dream Team,” Jordan wins a gold medal (as the Dream Team rolled to eight straight wins). He also helps ensure the worldwide popularity of basketball and stirs up controversy by covering up a Reebok logo with an American flag during the medal ceremony.
9. March 28, 1995 – In his “double nickel game” at Madison Square Garden, Jordan lights up the New York Knicks for 55 points only five games after returning from his ill-fated stab at baseball. Jordan also ends the game with a surprise twist, passing to Bill Wennington in the final moments for a game-winning dunk.
10. Dec.29, 2001 – As a Washington Wizard, Jordan scores 51 against the Charlotte Hornets, showing that at age 38 the old man still has some game. “He kind of went back in time tonight,” the Hornets’ P.J. Brown says.