When the clock ran out, he collapsed on the court, both arms
clutching the basketball. The United Center shook with the
crowd's delirious roar. All around him there was pandemonium.
But Michael Jordan lay there, his body jackknifed, his eyes
shut, his face registering--what? It wasn't joy, and it wasn't
The Chicago Bulls had just won their fourth championship in six
seasons, their first since Jordan ended his 18-month sabbatical
from the NBA. But suddenly this victory was not about validating
the Bulls' unprecedented 72-win season with the only ending
anyone would accept. And this falling to the floor was not a
spotlight-grabbing act by a smooth corporate pitchman who had
left pro basketball for a quixotic tilt at baseball and then
decided to come back. This was not the world's best-known
athlete since Muhammad Ali celebrating another triumph of his
A teammate tried to pry the ball from Jordan, but Jordan
wrestled it back. Another teammate piled on for a moment, but
Jordan scrambled to his feet. Then, with the ball still in his
grasp and a TV cameraman in hot pursuit, Jordan retreated to the
Bulls' locker room. There he fell to the floor again. This time
his shoulders began heaving, and he sobbed uncontrollably. A
locker room attendant tentatively reached down, as if to comfort
him. Then the attendant pulled back.
What do you say to a son whose murdered father couldn't be with
him to share this triumph on, of all days, Father's Day?
December 30, 1996
"I had to be alone, just me and my father," Jordan said later.
"My father means everything to me."