HAWL IN: 30 years since “The Shot” started the Bulls’ greatest era

The Chicago Bulls' Michael Jordan reacts after hitting the game-winning basket over Cleveland's Craig Ehlo, left rear, in Game 5 of the NBA playoffs May 7, 1989, in Cleveland, Ohio. (Ed Wagner Jr./Chicago Tribune/MCT via Getty Images)

CHICAGO – There are a number of moments that reflective fans will look back on when it comes to the Bulls’ dynasty of the 1990s, especially with the team’s struggles over the last few years.

One can debate which moment was the best – from the first title in 1991, to John Paxson’s championship-winning three-pointer in 1993, the 72-win season in 1995-1996, and Michael Jordan’s final shot to win the 1998 title.

All are worthy for consideration, but one thing that many people can agree on is when this incredible run of success had its figurative beginning.

May 7, 1989 – 30-years ago this Tuesday. For a Bulls fan, it’s the first true “where were you” moment of the greatest era in franchise history.

I was in my living room in Rolling Meadows, watching a back-and-forth game between a favored Cleveland team and the Bulls, who’d missed the chance to eliminate the Cavaliers in Game 4. One of the reasons was a few missed free throws as the end of the game at Chicago Stadium.

Safe to say that redemption was in store for Jordan on a May afternoon in Richfield, Ohio.

In Game 5 of the 1989 Eastern Division quarterfinal series against the Cavaliers at Richfield Coliseum, Michael Jordan took an inbounds pass from Brad Sellers, drove towards the free throw line, put up a shot and hit it over Cleveland guard Craig Ehlo.

The jubilant Jordan threw himself in the air once it went in, fist pumping for a few seconds before getting mobbed by his teammates. Ehlo could only sit on the ground and watch as they underdog Bulls moved onto the second round with the 101-100 victory.

The Bulls, along with many basketball fans around the country, have paid tribute to the 30th anniversary of the iconic moment, and there are a few reasons why.

  • This was the first major game-winning, series-winning shot of Jordan’s career that came in front of a nationally televised audience on CBS on a Sunday afternoon. While his 63-point performance against the Celtics was also a major moment, this game-winner showed Jordan’s last-second heroics that would become a staple of his Hall of Fame career.
  • The images of the shot – the hanging in the air to make sure to get over Ehlo, the leap to the side of the floor, and the fist pumps – were some of the most iconic of Jordan’s career.
  • By hitting the shot, the Bulls won just their second playoff series in the Jordan era, knocking off the favored and third-seeded Cavaliers. The Bulls would ride the momentum of “The Shot” to beat the second-seeded Knicks in the Eastern Conference semifinals before falling to the Pistons in the conference finals. It was the first time they made it to the NBA’s Final Four since the 1974-1975 season.
  • That season, which kept going thanks to “The Shot,” would establish the Bulls as significant championship contenders the next decade, one in which they won six championships from 1991-1998.

For me, who was just shy of a ninth birthday, its the first moments when you realized that Michael Jordan was something truly special. We knew he was good before that, but this gave indication that this would be a player among the NBA’s all-time greats.

All good things do indeed come to an end, but they’ve got to start somewhere. For the Bulls’ dynasty, it was 30 years ago today.

 

 

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