The Ten Greatest Bulls Shots
OVER THE PAST 30-PLUS SEASONS, the Chicago Bulls have scored about 159,000 buckets, give or take a few free throws. Out of so many balls going through so many hoops in so many NBA arenas, how do you pick the 10 greatest shots in Bulls history? It isn't easy.
Why, you could easily create a list of Michael Jordan's top 100 shots and disregard everyone else who's ever worn the Bulls' colors. Of course, Bob Love, Scottie Pippen, Chet Walker, Guy Rodgers, Reggie Theus, B.J. Armstrong, Jerry Sloan, Nate Thurmond and many other Bulls have hit their share of clutch, big-time, awe-inspiring buckets. But these 10 just might be the most memorable:
|John Paxson's three pointer clinched the Bulls' third straight championship.|
1. John Paxson hits the trey
Millions of kids have "won" NBA titles shooting hoops in their driveway. But John Paxson went them all one better in 1993, when he cemented the Bulls' third straight NBA title with a nervy three pointer. With 14.1 seconds to go in Game 6 against the Phoenix Suns and the Bulls down by two, Michael Jordan inbounded the ball to B.J. Armstrong, who moved it up the floor to Pippen, who whipped it to a wide-open Horace Grant under the basket, who dished it back to Paxson to the left of the key. Ka-boom. Bulls 99, Suns 98. Make your reservations for the Grant Park celebration.
"People have told me that shot was something like the Kennedy assassination," Paxson said. "It's a little morbid, but people have said to me, 'I'll always remember where I was when Kennedy was shot, and I'll always remember your shot against Phoenix.' It's become one of those things where people come up and tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing when the shot went in. I can't tell you how often that's happened."
Paxson said the championship winner was just like he practiced it with his brother, Jim, a former NBA All-Star. "I've played basketball since I was eight years old, and I've taken hundreds of thousands of shots in my driveway," he said.
"I knew it was in as soon as Pax shot it," Jordan said. So did Bulls fans all over the globe.
2. The Shot, the Sequel
For sheer drama, the shot in Bulls' history that can rival Paxson's trey is remembered simply as "The Shot." Doug Collins' Bulls in 1989 were still in the maturation process, and Larry O'Brien Trophies were only a dream. The Bulls and Cavaliers were embroiled in Game 5 of a five-game playoff series, on the road in Cleveland. There were six lead changes in the final three minutes and with three seconds to go--Michael Jordan time--the Cavaliers were up by one. Brad Sellers inbounded to Jordan, Larry Nance and Craig Ehlo put on the double team, Jordan elevated, Ehlo jumped with him, Jordan pumped, Ehlo started to return to earth, Jordan continued to elevate, one second and counting, swish.
Jordan was mobbed by Sellers, Craig Hodges and the rest of his teammates while Johnny "Red" Kerr bellowed into his microphone. "When the ball left Michael's hands, the noise was deafening," remembered Kerr. "When it went in, the place was like Madame Claude's Wax Museum. Whatever is quieter than the sound of silence is what you heard on that Sunday in Richfield, Ohio."
Nance didn't feel like talking after the game. "Michael Jordan, superstar. That's my only comment," he said.
Four years later, Jordan was in the same spot against the Cavs, only this time the victim was Gerald Wilkins. Considering Jordan's penchant for breaking Cleveland fans' hearts, "The Shot II" was in before it left Jordan's hand. The Bulls were on their way to their third title.
3. The ice breaker
Somebody had to be the first. Charles Lindbergh was the first to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, Alexander Graham Bell was the first to talk on the telephone and Len Chappell was the first Bull to score a basket. And it only took him 11 seconds. Chappell, the Bulls' opening night center who came to the team from the New York Knicks in the expansion draft, hit a short jumper in the Bulls' inaugural game, a 104-97 road victory over the St. Louis Hawks. Chappell and the "Baby Bulls" went on to win an expansion-record 33 games and make the playoffs in their first season.
By the way, speaking of ice breakers, Michael Jordan's first bucket came at 7:27 of the first quarter in the Bulls' opening game on Oct. 26, 1984, against the Washington Bullets. Jordan banked in a 12-footer from the right side in the Bulls' 109-93 win, thanks to Orlando Woolridge's 28 points.
4. Bobby Hansen blazes a title trail
The 1992 NBA Finals were a roller coaster. Game 1 went the Bulls' way, thanks to Michael Jordan's 35 first-half points. Game 2 went to the Portland Trail Blazers, with Danny Ainge scoring nine points in overtime. Game 3 was a 10-point Bulls' win, while the Blazers answered with a Game 4 win. The Bulls took command with a Game 5 win, thanks to Jordan's 46 points. But the roller coaster started going downhill again in Game 6, as Portland started the fourth quarter with a 15-point lead.
That's when reserves Bobby Hansen, B.J. Armstrong, Stacey King and Scott Williams took the floor with Scottie Pippen. Hopes for avoiding a Game 7 were fading fast. That's when Hansen stole the spotlight. A journeyman guard who had averaged 2.5 points per game in the regular season, Hansen calmly swished a three-point shot from the far reaches of the corner that switched the momentum, got the nervous Stadium crowd back in the game and started the comeback that resulted in the team's second NBA title.
Hansen was the only player on the 1992 team who didn't have a 1991 title ring. But he had one now. "I'm glad for Bobby Hansen," Jordan said repeatedly after the game. And so were Bulls fans.
5. Jordan's 63-point special
Boston Garden, Sunday afternoon, 1986 NBA Playoffs. CBS' ratings rose throughout the double-overtime game as basketball fans called each other to tell them to turn on the television, like when a pitcher is flirting with a no-hitter in the bottom of the eighth inning. Michael Jordan was making history in his second season. Before 58 minutes of basketball was over, Jordan would pour in a playoff record 63 points in a 135-131 defeat.
Jordan relied on his entire collection of shots, including flying dunks, fadeaway jumpers, running bankers, double pumps and everything else. But if one shot summarized Jordan's game, it was in the third period when Jordan was on the wing, covered by fellow legend Larry Bird.
Jordan made a fake to the basket, then another. Bird wouldn't bite. So Jordan dribbled between his legs once, twice, mesmerizing Bird. He faked right again, dribbled between his legs once more for good measure then faded away, as a combined 13 feet, 10 inches of Bird and Kevin McHale jumped out to block his shot. Release, rainbow arc, swish, get back on defense. Bird's postgame comment was short and to the point. "God came to the game tonight and played under the name of Michael Jordan."
|Norm Van Lier's 83-foot heave was only worth two points back in 1977.|
6. Van Lier goes the distance
The date was Jan. 19, 1977. It seemed to be just another game on a Texas road trip, against Doug Moe's San Antonio Spurs, featuring George "Finger Roll" Gervin, former Hornets Coach Allan Bristow and Larry Kenon. It seemed like just another game, that is, until Norm Van Lier went to work. With exactly one second to go in the first quarter, Van Lier, standing in the Bulls' foul lane, picked up a loose ball and heaved it in the other direction. Eighty-four feet later the ball went through the basket, and Van Lier had made the longest shot in the 30-year history of the Bulls.
"And just think, back in those days a shot like that was still only worth two points," Van Lier said. "It was just like a football play, where I sent all the receivers down and out. I made a half-court set shot in a playoff game against the Pistons a few years earlier, but the shot against the Spurs was easily my longest. And when it got past half-court, I just knew it was going in."
Despite Van Lier's long-distance heroics, the Spurs still defeated the Bulls, 115-107, despite 29 points from Artis Gilmore.
7. Reggie Miller takes a bow
Toni Kukoc has had several game-winning buzzer beaters in his three seasons with the Bulls, including his 1.8 second shot to beat the Knicks in the 1994 Playoffs. But the funnest one occurred on Jan. 21, 1994, against the Indiana Pacers. Reggie Miller sank a jumper with two seconds left to put his team up by one. Then Miller felt compelled to sprint to center court and bow to the fans in Chicago Stadium. But the fat lady hadn't sang her song yet, and with 0.8 seconds left, Kukoc banked in the game winner. "I didn't ask for the bank. I wanted a straight shot," Coach Phil Jackson said after the game, with a wry smile.
Twenty-four hours later the Bulls and Pacers were in Market Square Arena, a game the Bulls won 90-81. And as the buzzer sounded, there was Pippen at center court, bowing to the departing Pacer fans. "I just couldn't resist," Pippen said after the game.
8. Wennington, Jordan combine for 57 points
After Michael Jordan "unretired" in March 1995, the Bulls experienced a few ups and downs as Jordan reacquainted himself with the hardcourt. One of the "up" nights was March 28, 1995, his fourth game back. The Bulls and Jordan returning to Madison Square Garden to play the Knicks was being described in the same breath as the Beatles playing Shea Stadium. T-shirts reading "Just when you thought it was safe . . . he's back" were selling at the Garden like Italian ice on Oak Street Beach.
Jordan burned John Starks and his Knickerbocker mates for 55 points. But it was the shot Jordan didn't take that Bulls fans remember best. With 14 seconds left and the score knotted at 111, Jordan drove the lane for the winning bucket. That's when Patrick Ewing came out to double team Jordan, leaving Bill Wennington wide open for an easy dunk. Game over. In the victorious locker room, Wennington was telling everyone who would listen: "How about that? Michael and I combined for 57 points."
9. Shaler Halimon is Houdini for 8 seconds
A Bulls' trivia question: Who came to Chicago along with Chet Walker from the 76ers in the trade for Jimmy Washington? Answer: Shaler Halimon. But what Halimon did on Jan. 17, 1970, on the road against rookie center Lew Alcindor (now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and the Milwaukee Bucks certainly wasn't trivial. Halimon scored three baskets in the last eight seconds of regulation to force overtime in a 132-130 Bulls win.
Bucks fans started packing up their winter coats and heading for the exits when Alcindor hit a hook shot with 3:47 to go in the fourth quarter to put the Bucks up 115-100. That's when Dick Motta's Bulls reserves put on a charge, and Halimon hit a jumper with eight seconds to go to bring the Bulls within three. The Bulls quickly fouled, and the Bucks' Fred Crawford made one free throw to make it a four-point lead. So Halimon calmly sank a 25-footer to cut the Bucks' lead in half with one tick on the clock.
Rather than calling timeout and taking the ball at midcourt, the Bucks tried to bring it right in and Don Smith's in-bounds pass hit a basket brace. Bulls ball. Motta set up a play for Halimon to take a shot from the corner. Swish. Eight seconds, three baskets, overtime.
There were other highlights that night. Chet Walker crosses the 10,000-point mark for his career. Bobby Weiss sank some key free throws in overtime. Tom Boerwinkle held Alcindor to 7 of 25 shooting and scored 21 himself. But no one could top Halimon's flurry of game-saving buckets.
Jordan earned a perfect "50" on this dunk to capture the 1988 slam-dunk title.
10. Remembering the Doctor
It all began in 1977, when a 5-10 Michael Jordan dunked in a game for the first time, playing for Virgo Junior High School in Wilmington, N.C. Fast forward to 1988. The Stadium is jam-packed for NBA All-Star Saturday, and Jordan and Dominique Wilkins are dueling for the slam-dunk title.
That's when Air Jordan takes off, using the court as a runway before taking off from the free throw line. Ba-boom. Another poster is born. "It was my way of paying tribute to Dr. J," Jordan remembers. "I added a little with the pump, but the roots started with Dr. J.