Published: July, 1993
In the end, it all comes down to four wins.
The regular season, the grind of the playoffs – the road to the NBA Championship rising and falling as the teams that drive along it struggle to grip the wheel tight enough to survive… but not too tight.
The motto of the 1992-93 Phoenix Suns from the beginning was “Win Playoff Games.” Simple. Straightforward. Unencumbered by motivational phrases or pop psychology.
Win playoff games.
Through the first round, then the second, on to the Western Conference Finals, the Suns had done just that. The wins had not come especially easy… not unlike the 62 they had accumulated during the regular season… but they still had come. Eleven down and four to go.
Just four wins.
Of course, this simplicity could not be more complex as the team on the other side of the court had the same goal. They had been there before… twice, exactly. The vaunted Chicago Bulls and the “Best Player on the Planet” – standing there, almost sneering at the 12 men in purple and orange who dared hold hope of keeping them from their place in history. For these Bulls, four more wins meant three in a row… and only two had ever done that and none of them were led by the other two “Best Players on the Planet.”
But the Suns had their own player who could lay a valid claim to many titles, but who needs only one – Sir Charles. And for him, four wins were all he wanted. He was not looking for history, just a ring.
All that separated these two teams from four wins were each other.
It was not one-on-one, Sir Charles vs. the Best Player on the Planet. It was not Phoenix vs. Chicago, desert against wind.
It was 303 minutes of ballet and drama, 63 of which will hang on the wall of superlatives for years to come. A little over 300 minutes that formed a microcosm of what is great about the game of hardwood, glass and iron – arrogance, grace, confidence, over-confidence, spirit, re-birth, pressure, humor… finality.
Fans may remember the triple-overtime Game 3, a key turnover here and there, three-point bombs falling like hail from a gray Kansas sky… and THE three-pointer.
But the Bulls will remember their four wins.
The Suns will remember their two wins… the two they grasped in the most hostile of territory and the two they could not quite gather – the two for which they will spend all of next season searching.
Just two wins.