14.1 seconds remained in Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals. The Phoenix Suns led the Chicago Bulls, 98-96.
Michael Jordan stood out of balance, waiting, ready to take the ball from the referee. Jordan knew this was his chance to be different from Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.
Both Johnson and Bird dominated the 1980s. Yet, none of those players have ever won three straight titles.
Heck, even Jordan's arch-enemy, Isiah Thomas, couldn't complete a three-peat. But Jordan was confident he could.
After the Bulls lost 108-98 in Game 5 in Chicago, Jordan said this to his team before boarding the team's plane:
“Anyone that doesn't think we're gonna win the championship, get off the d*mn plane… let's go boys, I didn't even pack for two games.”
The Suns played presser defense on the inbounds, but Jordan found B.J. Armstrong running towards the right sideline. Jordan passes the ball into Armstrong, who immediately passes back to Jordan.
Armstrong runs down the court to prevent his defender, Dan Majerle, from trapping Jordan.
Jordan, who is being guarded by Kevin Johnson, attacks him, but Johnson's quickness helps him stay with Jordan.
Scottie Pippen then makes a cut from the baseline to the top of the 3-point line.
As Jordan approached the half-court line, he passed the ball to Pippen. This is where the Bulls would break down the Suns' defense.
Charles Barkley attempted to steal Jordan's pass from Pippen… he was unsuccessful.
This gave Pippen an opening to drive to the hoop, which he did. Ainge and Suns' center, Mark West, collapsed into the paint to stop Pippen.
Pippen then passed the ball to Horace Grant on the baseline. Ainge rotated over to prevent a Grant layup.
With Ainge cutting Grant off, Grant made the smart play… he found the player, who in the 1993 Playoffs was shooting 62.5% from behind the arch, wide open.
That player was Bulls guard, John Paxson. He received the pass from Grant and calmly drilled the wide-open three-point basket, giving the Bulls a 99-98 lead.
The Suns would have one last chance to try to regain the lead, but Grant would block Kevin Johnson's shot attempt.
The Bulls were now three-time champions, and Michael Jordan was a three-time Finals MVP.
After the Finals were over, Jordan wouldn't get a lot of time to celebrate. On July 23, 1993, the unthinkable happened. Michael Jordan's father, James Jordan, was murdered.
On October 6, 1993, Jordan shocked the world when he announced his retirement from the NBA. Jordan, who was still at the top of his game, the greatest player to ever lace 'em up, called it quits.
A lot of people didn't understand why Jordan would retire out of the blue like that. Many people attributed his early retirement to the death of his father.
Jordan admitted this helped to push him to his decision, but he also revealed he'd already contemplated retirement after the 1992 season.
The only reason Jordan didn't retire in 1992 was that he wanted to win three straight since Magic and Bird failed to do so.
After the Bulls won their third straight title, Jordan thought about retiring even more. This was when his father was still alive.
In fact, Jordan's last conversation with his father was on this subject:
“We were debating, me and him, we were debating about me playing baseball,” Jordan said. “'I wanna go play baseball. I'm thinking about retiring and I wanna go play baseball.' And… he was saying 'Do it, do it' because he got me started in baseball.”
So, that's what Jordan did after he retired, he played baseball. On February 7, 1994, Jordan signed a Minor League Baseball contract with the Chicago White Sox.
While Jordan was attempting to fulfill his father's wishes for him to at baseball, the Chicago Bulls were planning a number retirement for Jordan.
On top of retiring the number 23 into the rafters, the Bulls wanted to honor Jordan in a more dramatic way.
Of course, they did, after all, Jordan had done, not only for the Bulls franchise but for the city of Chicago as a whole, Jordan deserved to be honored in a big way.
Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls played basketball in the Chicago Arena. But for the 1994-95 season, the Bulls would be getting a new, modern stadium.
This stadium would be called the United Center, and what a perfect play it would be to throw Jordan's number retirement ceremony.
Chicago Bulls owner, Jerry Reinsdorf, knew the perfect way to not only honor Michael Jordan but to bring in the new arena. Reinsdorf would get a statue of Jordan made.
Reinsdorf started looking for artists who could handle such an important task. He'd eventually find Omri and Julie Rotblatt-Amrany, a husband-and-wife sculptor team from Highland Park, Illinois.
The sculptor's rented a studio to keep their work a secret from the rest of the world. It took the husband-and-wife sculptor team four months to complete the statue.
On November 1, 1994, the Michael Jordan number retirement happened. Jordan showed up wearing a spiffy blue suit and the show would begin.
A show it would be. From comedian Sinbad to a bunch of musical acts, to actors, and NBA greats showing up, Jordan's number retirement was a sight to see.
The retirement event was held inside the new United Center, which, unknowingly to Jordan and everyone in attendance, would be the home to three more titles.
The event also featured TV host, Larry King, wearing a Chicago Bulls jacket. King stood outside the United Center, next to something large covered in a sheet.
Jordan, along with his then-wife, Juanita, his mother, Deloris, and Reinsdorf, the statue was revealed on live TV.
This actually would not be the first time Jordan saw his statue.
A little before the number retirement ceremony, Jordan, sporting a cool leather jacket, saw the statue for the first time.
The cement in front of the statue was still wet and because of this, Jordan ended up signing his name, as well as placing his handprints and his Jordan 10s into the cement.
The statue sits on a 5-foot-high black granite base with Jordan's basketball achievements inscribed in it.
The words, "The best there ever was. The best there ever will be”, are also inscribed.
After Jordan's second retirement from the game, his new achievements were added, as well as this quote:
“At that moment I knew, surely and clearly, that I was witnessing perfection. He stood before us, suspended above the earth, free from all its laws like a work of art, and I knew, just as surely and clearly, that life is not a work of art, and that the moment could not last.”
-- A River Runs Through It
When the statue was first revealed it had mixed reviews from fans. The problem some fans had was the fact the statue didn't have Jordan's famous tongue hanging from his mouth.
The statue sat out in front of the United Center until March 1, 2017, when it was moved into the United Center’s east addition.
The Jordan statue is a hotspot for fans to take a picture with.
So, if you're ever in Chicago, and you happen to be at the United Center, getting a picture with the G.O.A.T. statue is definitely a must.