Some images in the mind do not fade, do not obscure, and, for certain folks, do not heal.
Michael Jordan’s shot that won Game 6 and the NBA title for his Chicago Bulls over the Jazz on this date, June 14, 1998, remains completely clear. Maybe you remember it, too.
The two decades since have cluttered or wiped clean nothing.
The energy in the Delta Center during that game was ionospheric. It was as thick and palpable as any arena had ever experienced.
Throughout much of the game, and certainly during the fourth quarter, the Jazz and Bulls stayed within a fistful of points of each other. Neither team could build any kind of lead, the Jazz hitting 50 percent of their shots, the Bulls 50 percent.
Jordan made two free throws with 59 seconds left, tying the game at 83.
With 41 seconds left, Stockton popped the net with a 3-pointer that would have given the Jazz the edge they needed.
Would have. But Jordan’s drive, seconds later, cut the Bulls’ deficit to one.
And then came what the best player in NBA history was compelled, was demanded by his own greatness, to do.
Jordan stripped Karl Malone with 18 seconds left, ran down the floor, pushed off on Bryon Russell, and nailed the floating jumper that won the thing. Boom.
John Stockton’s rushed shot in the final seconds skidded off the rim.
In that moment, the old Delta Center fell silent, except for the celebration erupting among the Bulls. Phil Jackson hugged his assistants, Dennis Rodman ran the length of the court, pointing and yakking at the crowd, and Jordan smiled.
Most memorably, I recall the dejected looks on the faces of Malone and Stockton, the two Jazz greats having missed their chance at a ring. Scottie Pippen’s back was a mess, and he likely would have missed a Game 7 in the Jazz’s home arena.
“It’s a bitter pill to swallow,” Jerry Sloan said, shaking his head.
“This is tough,” said Malone.
And those pictures are vivid, still, 20 years on.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.