Michael Jordan’s defining moment? You might be surprised...
"As long as there was time on the clock, we could still win the game," Jordan said of his early Bulls teams' mentality that would lay the foundation for years to come.
Who knew that for Michael Jordan, it wasn’t the shot against Cleveland in 1989 or the shot against Utah in 1998 or the 63 points against Boston in the playoffs or the 69 points against Cleveland or the 55 points in Madison Square Garden or the first or second or third or fourth or fifth or sixth championship that he remembers most about his career with the Bulls that led to Jordan’s Hall of Fame selection, which was made official Monday in Detroit.
It was Game 3 of Jordan’s rookie pro career, a mundane home game against the Milwaukee Bucks with fewer than 10,000 in the stands at the old Chicago Stadium.
Yet, that may be the essence of Jordan and why he would become the man who most acknowledge as the greatest player the game has known.
Though Jordan achieved all the milestones and special moments and accolades, it was always the journey. And when the journey is done right, without shortcuts and without ulterior motives, it is most successful.
Jordan's 37 points led the Bulls to a 116-110 win on Oct. 29 of his rookie season.
(Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images)
So for Jordan, as he looked back Monday during a conference call with reporters following the official announcement of his election to the Basketball Hall of Fame, it was that 116-110 win Oct. 29 in a season when the Bulls would win 38 games and be knocked out of the playoffs in the first round in four games.
The Bulls trailed the then powerful Bucks by 16 points, and that, from Jordan’s quick history of his new basketball home, always meant it was time to be making late dinner plans.
But not for Michael Jordan.
In scoring 37 points to lead the Bulls in scoring for the first time in his young pro career, Jordan led the Bulls back to a 116-110 win.
“It was coming to a program rebounding from rock bottom, trying to work your way to the top from the bottom,” recalled Jordan. “Looking at that game, 16 points down to Milwaukee and having the attitude you believe you can win. And I could impact that the way I played.
“We came back and won and that was the motivation from that point forward that we believed we could turn things positively in the city and we did,” said Jordan. “That game signified a change in Chicago. Those 16-point games were not always going to be a loss. As long as there was time on the clock, we could still win the game. That was the type of attitude I wanted to bring to Chicago.”
In a sense, that is what Jordan stood for, and why he’ll take his place among the lords of the game.
It wasn’t about any particular game or achievement, but about an attitude and a desire, a willingness to lead and a refusal to accept defeat. It had to come at times, but it never had to be accepted. Jordan never would, and so he lifted everything and everyone around him.
The result was success for his colleagues and his team.
It’s also why there aren’t many like Jordan. Most treasure the feats. Jordan exalts the competition and beating the odds, the naysayers and the impossible.
Jordan will be inducted in at ceremonies in Springfield, Mass. Sept 10 through 12 along with one-time Bulls star Jerry Sloan, who was elected for his coaching with the Utah Jazz, John Stockton, one of Sloan’s longtime players and the all-time NBA assists leader, David Robinson of the San Antonio Spurs and Rutgers U. women’s coach C. Vivian Stringer. Sloan was the first Bulls player to have his jersey number retired and began his coaching career with the Bulls.
They were selected from a group of 16. There are 24 revolving voters and a candidate needs 18 votes. Jordan, Sloan, Stockton and Robinson all were elected in their first year of eligibility.
Among those not selected were the late Bulls broadcaster Johnny Kerr, Chris Mullin, Don Nelson, Dennis Johnson, Bernard King and Richie Guerin.
Jordan is the obvious headliner of the class of 2009, which is the 50th anniversary of the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Jordan was quick to credit his college coach, Dean Smith, and worried aloud how he’d be able to get enough tickets for those special to him who might want to attend the induction ceremonies.
Asked about a great moment, Jordan joked he could say the shot against the Jazz to close out his Bulls career in 1998, “being that John (Stockton) is next to me.”
But Jordan said it all started for him with the game winning shot in the NCAA tournament when he was a freshman at the University of North Carolina. That was appropriate since the announcement was in Detroit on the eve of the championship game between Michigan State and North Carolina.
“Hitting that shot propelled me from a confidence standpoint of belonging at that level,” said Jordan. “And it just grew. It was one of the biggest shots I ever made.”
The shots just kept on coming, many to shock the basketball world. Now it reaches its appropriate culmination with Jordan’s place among the immortals of the game.
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