With 14 seconds left in Game 6 of the Finals, Jordan had scored all nine of Chicago’s fourth-quarter points. That’s why it was all the more striking when John Paxson — not Jordan — drilled the series-winning three-pointer off a kickout.
That said, for a player known for individual achievement, Jordan has deferred to teammates at some of the most high-profile times. His pass to Bill Wennington clinched the double-nickel game at MSG, and he famously dished it to Steve Kerr to ice the 1997 NBA Finals. Sometimes, being a leader entails having the capability to trust your teammates. “Once Paxson got the ball,” Jordan said, “I knew it was over.”
The moments following that first three-peat are incredibly poignant, as Jordan celebrated with his father for what would be the last time — at least in a physical sense. There’s no question he had his dad with him for his next championship three seasons later, won on Father’s Day.
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We’re cheating a little bit here, considering Mike wasn’t the one actually wearing them, but this still warrants mentioning. About three weeks before Jordan wrapped up his magnificent career in 2003, he took the court against one of the would-be heirs to his throne, Lakers phenom Kobe Bryant. Wouldn’t you know it: Bryant wore a pair of Lakers-colored Air Jordan VIIIs. Jordan played well, scoring 23 points. But Kobe, fittingly, scored 55 — the proverbial double nickel. Jordan admitted postgame that Bryant “definitely has a share of the torch.”
The events of that game demonstrated something that we already knew: Time waits for no man, and there’s always someone else waiting in the wings. A dozen years later, perhaps it’s Kobe’s turn to take that wisdom to heart.
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For longtime collectors, Air Jordan retros continue to be wildly successful due in large part to the historical significance that helped make them iconic. Look no further than the sneakers’ nicknames themselves: Playoff XIs, Last Shot XIVs and so on. The moments are what make the sneakers special and, in some cases, vault them past the hype to become certified classics.
But the memories aren’t limited to on-court genius. For those of us who like to dig a little deeper, our sneakers become unique for the niche moments that give them a little extra character. The commercials. The collectibles. The movies. It’s that dichotomy that has made Jordan not just the best player of all time, but an enduring pop culture phenomenon.
Perhaps you wanted the lowtop XIs because Michael Jordan wore them for the 1996 championship parade — or, later on, to dominate in other games. Maybe you recall MJ donning Bordeaux VIIs in the 1992 All-Star Game — or maybe it was Michael Jackson’s music video for “Jam.” Jordan wore the Infrared VI to win his first championship; Jay Z wore them on the rooftop at 560 State Street.
Like all Air Jordan VIII colorways, the Aquas — available at Champs Sports on Black Friday — have plenty of history behind them and are so rare that we’ve seen only one retro before now since their original debut in 1993. While you prepare to make your own memories in the Aquas, Champs Sports presents Michael Jordan’s 8 Greatest Moments in the Air Jordan 8 — some on court, some off.
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image via Jordan Brand