The greatest Michael Jordan game you definitely don’t remember

first_img Michael Jordan celebrates with Jerry Stackhouse after Stackhouse’s game-winning dunk against the Lakers on Nov. 8, 2002. https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/8/b/mj-stack-051919-getty-ftrjpg_1szvkdrrao4z515ojpbg4zj8no.jpg?t=417815242&w=500&quality=80O’Neal wasn’t the show, however. Reporters flocked around Kobe Bryant, who was reveling in another pregame before another matchup with his idol. These Lakers were coming off three straight championships, but this clearly wasn’t just another game. Bryant would score 27 points that night, and you couldn’t help but watch every 1-on-1 battle between him and Jordan.  The crossovers, fadeaways and drives to the basket. You didn’t realize at the time how much you should appreciate those exchanges, which mean so much more now, months after Bryant tragically died in a helicopter crash.  There was much more to this game. Doug Collins was the Wizards’ coach, and Patrick Ewing was an assistant. I was walking with my head down in the tunnel and almost bumped into Ewing — a moving screen that nearly led to me being wiped out. Magic Johnson was working for ESPN at the time, and I made it a point to introduce myself to my favorite basketball player of all time and shake his hand.  That was really awesome.  FOSTER: I saw Michael Jordan play in person only once, and my one memory isn’t even realYou look back at the box score and see other names. Robert Horry won seven rings. Christian Laettner and Charles Oakley came off the Wizards’ bench. Bryon Russell was Jordan’s teammate. Remember Kwame Brown? He was there, too.  You looked out in the stands that night and Mike Tyson was sitting next to Ray Lewis. Bruce Smith was in the locker room after the game.  That game was decided with Jordan playing the role of decoy. Jerry Stackhouse took a pass from Russell in the final seconds for a dunk at the buzzer that gave the Wizards a 100-99 victory.  I still wish Jordan would have taken the last shot, but it’s OK that he didn’t. Jordan didn’t have a press conference afterward. He spoke in the locker room for a few minutes, then walked out the door. When I left the arena, I thought to myself, “I might never cover something like that ever again.”  On a certain level, that’s true.  Imagine being in the same building as five of the greatest basketball players of all time, the greatest basketball coach of all time and countless other players whose threads intersected those basketball careers.GREER: Three flaws in “The Last Dance”Michael Jordan was there, of course. He was in the final season with the Wizards, and he came off the bench that night to score 25 points. Even at 38 years old, it was impossible to ignore his presence on and off the court. Before the game, Phil Jackson was talking to reporters when Jordan called out the Lakers coach from down the hallway. I can’t remember what Jordan said, but I remember Jackson smiling and shaking his head.  Then you walk into the Lakers’ locker room. Shaquille O’Neal was there. He didn’t play that night while recovering from foot surgery, and that was the story I was tasked to write. I snuck in two questions to O’Neal, who joked that he painted his toenails “money green.” I watched my hand disappear when I shook O’Neal’s hand afterward.  That was awesome.   For those who watched Jordan play in person, the experience never left. Whether it was during his college career at North Carolina, the run with the Bulls in the 1990s or the last chapter with the Wizards. Countless fans have an MJ story to tell.  That’s why “The Last Dance” was a huge hit.  It told that story the best. Getty Images Most NBA fans might not remember the game between the Lakers and Wizards on Nov. 8, 2002, as a significant date in basketball history. But it’s still the coolest sporting even I have ever covered.I was a 22-year-old intern for the Scripps Howard News Service, and those memories flooded back while watching the final installments of “The Last Dance” on Sunday.  last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *