SAN ANTONIO -- As Dwyane Wade spent Saturday preparing for Game 2 of the Finals against the Spurs, he took a moment to reminisce back to another Game 2 as the moment he fell in love with basketball.
In Game 2 of the 1991 Finals -- yes, 23 years ago -- Bulls legend Michael Jordan hit one of the most iconic shots of his career, darting down the middle of the paint to fake a right-handed dunk, hang in the air, and then flip home a left-handed layup against the Lakers. The shot -- dubbed the "spectacular move" by play-by-play man Marv Albert -- caused teammate Scott Williams to throw his arms in the air and brought a smile to the face of coach Phil Jackson. Chicago would go on to cruise to victory.
Wade, a Chicago native, told reporters at the Spurs' practice facility on Saturday that he spent hours as a child mimicking Jordan's hanging, improvisational layup.
"I was nine years old," said the 32-year-old Wade, who is regarded as one of the best two guards in NBA history, behind Jordan, of course. "That was a time when I fell in love with the game of basketball. There was a time when I went in the backyard, cold, outside, whatever it was. I was trying to emulate Michael Jordan's move against the Lakers when he decided he didn't want to dunk it, he wanted to go ahead and shoot the whoop-de-whoop shot with the left hand. I tried that so many times.
"The impact that it played on my life and so many kids' lives at the time. Obviously I'm still benefiting from that today."
Bulls guard Michael Jordan hit an iconic layup against the Lakers in the 1991 Finals. (Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images)
The fourth-quarter basket was set up by Cliff Levingston, who received a pass from Jordan and attacked the hoop from the left wing. Once the defense collapsed, Levingston shoveled the ball back to a wide open Jordan at the top of the key. Jordan used one gather dribble to get into the paint before taking off with both feet, angling his body as if preparing for a right-handed poster dunk.
Lakers big man Sam Perkins, a college teammate of Jordan's at UNC, moved towards the action as if he was going to contest the shot. Jordan pulled the ball down to shoulder level before changing hands and banking in the lefty layup on his way back down to the court.
Sports Illustrated's Jack McCallum wrote in June 1991 that Jordan's shot was actually viewed as taunting by the Lakers, and that Jordan became a man of few words when explaining his enduring highlight.
Early in the fourth period he drove the lane, raised the ball as if to dunk with his right hand and, upon seeing Perkins slide over, put the ball in his left hand for an underhanded scoop shot, thereby running the gamut of acrobatic possibilities in the wink of an eye. "It was just one of those creative things," said Jordan, as if we could all then sit back and say, "Ah, one of those."
The Lakers, [Byron] Scott in particular, were more inclined to remember what they considered to be Jordan's taunting during Chicago's 59-43 second-half roll. "That's something you just don't do this early in a series," said Scott. "But since he's Michael, I guess he feels he can get away with it. It angers us to see someone of his caliber act that way. But I've seen him do it before, so I'm not surprised."
Did he or didn't he? Well, the taunting tribunal is still out, and this thought comes to mind about the vacationing Detroit Pistons: When they taunted, they were at least considerate enough to be explicit about it. Jordan does make a lot of enthusiastic, hand-pumping gestures, and at one point, after hitting a jumper, he spread his palms upward toward the Laker bench as if to say, "What can you do? You can't stop me." But Jordan later denied the taunting charge. "I wasn't saying anything to any of their players. It was more or less my self-motivation and excitement at what I did."
Jordan's Bulls, like Wade's Heat this year, lost Game 1 of the 1991 Finals, but Jordan's 33 points, 13 assists and seven rebounds in a 21-point Game 2 blowout victory would help Chicago even the series. Chicago would ride the momentum to win the series in five games, capturing the first title of Jordan's career and the first championship in Bulls franchise history.
"As a Bulls fan, my favorite memory is probably the first championship they won," Wade continued. "Just being proud your city. You know the struggles that the Bulls went through, losing to Detroit two times in a row."Video via YouTube user youutoobe