Michael Jordan was already an established star at the University of North Carolina in the US NCAA, leading the Tar Heels to the national championship in 1982 before joining the NBA two years later.
He was a member of the NBA champion Chicago Bulls in 1988 and led the team to several playoffs but had yet to prove his capability as a clutch player in basketball’s biggest stage.
A shot in the final seconds of Game 5 in Chicago’s first round best-of-five post season series made him so although he had to erase the enigma of being branded a “choker” in Game 4 of the same series that allowed the Cavaliers to tie 2-all coming from a 2-1 deficit.
That was a most difficult loss for MJ to accept. He missed a free throw with nine ticks remaining in that contest that could have given the Bulls the game’s winning margin and a slot in the second round had he made it.
That Game 5 in Cleveland came down anew in the final seconds and it appeared that it had to come down to another meltdown for the Bulls. Joran scored on a jump shot nine seconds left to put the Bulls ahead, 99-98, but Craig Ehlo countered with a lay in the next play cutting the shot clock to mere three ticls away from victory.
The count was 100-99 for the Cavs. His Airness received the inbound pass, dribbled to where he had a clear look and took the shot.
“Good! The Bulls win it! They win it!” the announcer of the Chicago radio network doing the game shouted in a voice heard in all four corners of the globe. Chicago fans listening on radio and watching the game on television celebrated. As well as those who read newspaper accounts the following day.
Jordan, who made the shot barely a second remained over Craig Ehlo ended up with 44 big points bursting into a wild fist pumping celebration with the thoughts that he had completely erased that embarrassing “choker” attached to his name.
The series was won by Chicago. The Bulls went on to bet the New York Knicks in the next round before being eliminated in the conference finals by the Detroit Pistons.
No one cared though and no one talked about that missed free throw in Game 4 again. The next decade would see him led the Bulls to to six NBA championship conquests in 1991-1993 and 1996-1998 when he crowned himself Finals MVP as well.
That’s besides cornering, too, the league MVP trophies in 1988, 1991, 1992, 1996 and 1998. He was chosen to the 10 All-NBA teams selection, nine All-Defensive First Team honors, fourteen NBA All-Star Game appearances, three All-Star Game MVP Awards, ten scoring titles and the 1988 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award.
Also included among Jordan’s numerous accomplishments were the NBA records for highest career regular season scoring average (30.12 points per game) and highest career playoff scoring average (33.45 points per game). In 1999, he was named the greatest North American athlete of the 20th century by ESPN, and was second to Babe Ruth on the Associated Press’s list of athletes of the century.
Jordan is a two-time inductee into the Basketball Hall of Fame, having been enshrined in 2009 for his individual career, and again in 2010 as part of the group induction of the 1992 United States men’s Olympic basketball team (“The Dream Team”). He became a member of the FIBA Hall of Fame in 2015.