HAWL IN: “The Pose” that lasts a lifetime for the Bulls and their fans
CHICAGO – For just a moment, he paused. His right hand sitting in the air with arm extended, eyes gazed on the hoop in front of him.
It’s one of those “Frozen in Time” moments – and Michael Jordan knew it. There was a reason he took a moment, and it was just a moment, to admire the event that had just transpired.
It was a jumper with 5.6 seconds left. It gave the Bulls an 87-86 lead, and Jordan his final two of his 45 points on the night. It was a typical moment for “His Airness,” but the circumstances made it atypical.
Hence his arm and hand stayed in the air for that extra moment.
He probably knew his Bulls career was over. Often rumored going back to the previous year, the team’s dynasty was in the final few bars of the last song of the last dance. Phil Jackson was going to call it quits, for now, with Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman likely to follow behind.
This jumper, at least at that moment, represented the last piece of a Hall of Fame career, one that remains in debate to this very day. It was the 243rd that he made during the playoffs that includes 21 games and 16 victories, the last of those sealed by this shot, a sixth title won by Jordan and the Bulls in the 1990s.
All of this encased in a pose.
Things were different back then. You could say that mid-June was “appointment celebration” back in the 1990s when the Bulls won three championships in a row not once but twice. There was the joy of the first championship in 1991, the dominance of the 1992 squad, the drama of the 1993 run, all of which led to the same successful conclusion.
Jordan’s detour to baseball left Chicago with two championship seasons, but then they came back with a vengeance in 1995-1996. Among the greatest teams in history, the team won 72 games to take the title back, then got 69 more victories before another championship run that Spring.
The 1997-1998 season, like the 1992-1993 season in the first run, featured its own drama. Scottie Pippen missed a significant amount of the year and it wasn’t until late in the season that the Bulls finally pulled away for the East’s top spot. In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Pacers pushed the Bulls to seven games, then Utah took the first game of the Finals before the Bulls rose up to win three-straight.
A loss in Game 5 at home, one in which Jordan missed an off-balance shot for a chance at the title, led to Game 6. Like the entire season, it wasn’t easy, but the guard saved his best for last.
There was a hoop, followed by a steal, which then led to the moment. A dribble up the court, stare towards the bucket, a move (and perhaps a minor shove) on Bryon Russell, and Jordan rose up to shoot it. With his left arm and hand still in the air, it went straight through the net with 5.6 seconds to go.
Strike a pose, but forgive us Maddonna, there was something to it.
It was the end of the greatest run by any Chicago professional team in the city’s history. It drew the curtain on arguably the greatest athlete in Chicago and NBA history. It ended an era of unprecidented success for the franchise, a run not seen in the league since the Celtics’ eight-straight championships from 1959-1966. Their were legends, personalities, characters, and role players, brought together by a spiritual coach that produced a group that’s revered to this day.
“The Pose” was the perfect way to end the dynasty, one that delivered more success than fans have seen before or since in Chicago sports. Twenty-years later, it remains the last moment of an iconic destiny, a reminder of what was for a franchise and their star.
Leave it to the man who brought a championship play consisting of six acts to the Windy City to know the right way to drop the curtain.