The Game: 1991 Finals, Game 2
The Series Situation: Chicago Bulls lead Los Angeles Lakers, 1-0
The Play: Michael Jordan switches hands from right to left in mid-air for a layup in the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Significance: “Oh! A spec-TAC-ular move, by Michael Jordan!”
That was Marv Albert’s call on the most famously acrobatic scoring move in the NBA Finals since Julius Erving’s under-the-basket reverse layup against the Lakers in The 1980 Finals. Jordan’s move came as the Chicago Bulls were in the process of capping a big rally (they made 13 straight baskets at one stage) and blowing out the Lakers in the fourth quarter. Jordan missed much of the rally with foul trouble, then returned late the fourth.
Cliff Levingston had the ball, but decided (perhaps by instinct) to pass out to Jordan, who stood near the key. When he drove the lane, he went up with the ball in his right hand. Sam Perkins, the Lakers’ best defender, took a step toward Jordan but didn’t challenge him. Jordan was spooked anyway, and therefore chose to switch hands and used the right amount of spin to toss the ball high off the backboard for the layup.
The play became famous for three reasons: No. 1: Marv’s call, No. 2: the replay angle captured Jordan at his athletic best and No. 3: it was done by Jordan. Had any other player made the shot, the reaction would’ve been far more muted.
The Jordan switch layup easily was the signature moment of a series that fizzled trying to meet the impossible hype. This was Jordan’s first title shot, and it came against the Lakers and Magic Johnson, who was desperately trying to reinvent the franchise in the post-Showtime era. The Bulls won in five games in a series that lacked drama.
— Shaun Powell
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