Twenty years ago today, Michael Jordan took the greatest bow in NBA Finals history

With just under 10 seconds to go in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals, the Chicago Bulls found themselves a heartbeat away from a legendary shot.

That’s right: Steve Kerr was about to crash the offensive glass for a put-back that’d go down in NBA history.

“I just remember I had inside position for the rebound on [John] Stockton,” said Kerr — then a sharpshooting guard for the Bulls, now the head coach of the Golden State Warriors — during a scrum with reporters at shootaround before Game 4 of the 2018 NBA Finals in Cleveland. “I beat him baseline and I was going to get the tip, to tip it in.”

for this site five years ago. “It was the way you could map out the final seconds of any close contest, with the assurance [even if the shots rimmed out] that a make here, stop there, and make here could turn any three-point deficit in the waning minutes into a win for the red and black. It wasn’t hubris or even misplaced optimism. It was just … Jordan. We had Jordan.”’ data-reactid=”35″>“It wasn’t just that having Michael Jordan on your side was luxury enough as a Bulls fan,” Kelly Dwyer wrote for this site five years ago. “It was the way you could map out the final seconds of any close contest, with the assurance [even if the shots rimmed out] that a make here, stop there, and make here could turn any three-point deficit in the waning minutes into a win for the red and black. It wasn’t hubris or even misplaced optimism. It was just … Jordan. We had Jordan.”

said after the game. “And [Jazz guard Jeff] Hornacek was trying to, I guess, pick Karl Malone, and he never really cleared, which gave me an opportunity to go back. Karl never saw me coming, and I was able to knock the ball away.”’ data-reactid=”45″>“We’ve been trying to double-team [Malone],” Jordan said after the game. “And [Jazz guard Jeff] Hornacek was trying to, I guess, pick Karl Malone, and he never really cleared, which gave me an opportunity to go back. Karl never saw me coming, and I was able to knock the ball away.”

Jordan came up with the loose ball with just over 20 seconds to go, presenting Jazz fans with the most frightening sight the NBA had to offer in 1998 — Michael Jordan, with a live dribble and a chance, coming into the frontcourt needing only one basket to beat you.

All eyes were on Jordan as he prepared to make his move against Russell. One year earlier, in a similar situation, Stockton swooped in to double-team Jordan, and Kerr, the man he left, became a Finals legend. This time, Utah played it straight up, with Russell having sole responsibility for getting a stop on arguably the greatest scorer of all time.

He didn’t.

“Once you get in the moment, you know when you’re there,” Jordan said after the game. “Things start to move slowly. You start to see the court very well. You start reading what the defense is trying to do. And I saw that. I saw that moment.”

Russell stepped up to close out Jordan’s air space and get right in his hip pocket; in doing so, he gave Jordan a path for a right-hand drive to the middle of the floor, and put himself in danger of falling off-balance. “I made my initial drive, and he bit on it, and I stopped, pulled up and I had an easy jump shot,” Jordan said.

Mike Wise wrote for the New York Times. “No one has ever done it better.”’ data-reactid=”57″>“I think it’s the best performance ever by Michael Jordan at a critical moment in a critical series,” said a cigar-puffing Jackson after the game, as Mike Wise wrote for the New York Times. “No one has ever done it better.”

back in 2013. “It goes back to the actual beginning. My career actually began on a shot to win a championship in 1982. The essence of who Michael Jordan became, and who Michael Jordan was, ended with that shot in 1998.”’ data-reactid=”61″>“I think it was a very defining moment of what my career was in Chicago,” Jordan told longtime friend and broadcaster Ahmad Rashad during an interview on the occasion of Jordan’s 50th birthday back in 2013. “It goes back to the actual beginning. My career actually began on a shot to win a championship in 1982. The essence of who Michael Jordan became, and who Michael Jordan was, ended with that shot in 1998.”

Dan Devine is a writer and editor for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoosports.com or follow him on Twitter!’ data-reactid=”71″>Dan Devine is a writer and editor for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoosports.com or follow him on Twitter!

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