Jordan moments 9-5

Updated: August 26, 2009, 2:03 PM ET


Jim Durham #8

I think Michael might have dunked on Patrick Ewing more than any big man in the league but he may have never done it more emphatically than when I saw him do it in that first round playoff game against the Knicks in 1991. It was a spectacular play. He probed the defense, found there wasn't an opening there at first. Then he tried again and beat a double-team, going past Charles Oakley to throw it down on Ewing's head. This wasn't one of his classic buzzer-beaters but this was a playoff dunk that was hard to forget. He's had so many of the greatest shots in NBA playoff history.

Will Perdue #7 Michael was hitting shots from all over in this game and he set a Finals record with 35 points in the first half. His ability to shoot the three consistently had been thought to be perhaps his one weakness but it certainly wasn't this night, he kept knocking down three-pointers, six in the first half alone. Obviously it was something that the Portland defense had made a decision to give him and he took full advantage. They were playing off of him so far that he several times he just came down on the dribble and rose up and knocked it down. A lot of time you try to work some clock as a team but when a player like Michael pulls up like that you aren't really going to say too much about it. Then when they all started falling, it was like "alright here we go!"

J.A. Adande #6 The pack of furiously backpedaling reporters and photographers forced me to press my back against the hallway wall, and in the middle of the scrum I saw a frail Michael Jordan, slowly making his way to the visitors' locker room in Utah. Instant confirmation of the reports that he was sick. He looked like he needed to change into a hospital gown, not a uniform.

But he pulled on that red Bulls jersey and proceeded to play the most inspirational game of his career. He looked physically taxed by the layup lines. During timeouts he dropped his head and appeared ready to vomit. Throughout the game I kept thinking he could collapse at any moment. Despite it all he scored more points than anyone else on the court, and made the go-ahead 3-pointer in the final minute. It didn't rank among his top 200 games in terms of points, yet it occupies a special spot in the Jordan pantheon. Of all the great performances this is the one that the rest of us can duplicate in some way ourselves. We might not be able to score 38 points in an NBA Finals game, but each of us can summon the will to fight on even when our own bodies provide our greatest opposition. Any one of us can provide the same explanation he gave when asked how he kept coming through: "Somehow I found the energy to stay strong."

Bill Walton #5 Michael only played 18 regular season games that season because of injury. The team didn't want him to play. It was a best-of-five series and in Game 1 of that series, Jordan scored 49 but we won. We were sitting in the locker room afterwards saying Jordan was scary, but at least we know he'll never do that again. Well the next game he came out, scored 63 points and the Celtics barely survived in double-overtime thanks only to the brilliance of Larry Bird who was at the peak of his career. So after that game we sat around and said, OK this guy's is pretty darn good. In fact I think it was after that game that Larry uttered that famous quote when he said, "I think it's just God disguised as Michael Jordan." Everything changed in basketball because of Michael Jordan and that was one of the early moments.