#RememberWhensdays: The Michael Jordan fist pump
Closers gonna close
We are about a day away from what we’re all hoping is an epic Finals. The two most popular teams in the league — featuring the two most popular players — are set for a rematch. But can Game 1 of the 2016 Finals live up to the drama we witnessed back in 1997?
Remember the “fist pump”?
It’s June 1997 and the Chicago Bulls are on a back-to-back mission. This squad was a bunch of underachievers. They set a then-record winning 72 games the previous season (shout-out to this season’s Golden State Warriors for breaking said record) and returned the following year and had the audacity to only win 69 games. Then they had the added gall to drop a whopping two games during the first three rounds of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The Karl Malone and John Stockton-led Utah Jazz awaited them in the Finals.
Game 1 was a typical late-’90s affair: a lot of dribbling the shot-clock down to the red numbers, a lot of long twos, nothing resembling this year’s Warriors.
With the score tied at 82, Malone went to the line to put his Jazz up two. In keeping with his career’s narrative, he missed both free throws.
Jordan grabbed the board and called a timeout.
Scottie Pippen inbounded the ball to Jud Buechler, who got the ball to Jordan on the left wing. Byron Russell was on Jordan … we know how these scenarios end. Jordan rocked him to sleep and pulled up for a 20-footer. Money. He turned around and hit the world with the patented Jordan fist pump — the one Los Angeles Lake Kobe Bryant aped late in his career.
The Bulls would go on to win the series in six games for the second of three-peat. About a year later, Russell would get that game-winner work again.