Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls faced Patrick Ewing and the New York Knicks in the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals, and the series was thrilling to watch from start to finish. The Knicks had homecourt advantage in the seven-game series and won Games 1 and 2 at Madison Square Garden.
Jordan and the Bulls bounced back by winning Games 3 and 4 in Chicago, setting the stage for a crucial Game 5 in New York. The Knicks entered the contest riding a 27-game home winning streak and had a chance to win on their final possession. However, Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Horace Grant refused to allow Charles Smith to score the ball and collectively broke the Knicks’ spirit.
Bulls won Game 5, 97-94
The Bulls had a one-point lead over the Knicks with roughly 20 seconds left in regulation. Ewing drove to the basket and passed it to Smith as he fell down. What happened next is one of the best defensive stands in NBA history.
Jordan, Pippen, and Grant blocked and stripped Smith multiple times until Grant finally got possession of the ball and passed it to Jordan. MJ then looked up the floor and dished it to BJ Armstrong, who hit a layup at the buzzer to give the Bulls a 97-94 win.
The Knicks were devastated after losing Game 5, so much so that Doc Rivers told Chris Herring of Sports Illustrated that the defeat felt like a family member had died (h/t Chicago sports historian Jack M Silverstein).
“I think Doc Rivers described it best,” Herring told Silverstein. “He said, ‘This will sound extreme, but that loss felt a lot like a really close relative dying out of nowhere. It was that painful.'”
After stealing Game 5 on the road, the Bulls went back home with a chance to end the series, and Jordan made sure he and his teammates didn’t have to return to New York.
Michael Jordan and Bulls won Game 6 by eight
Behind 25 points from Jordan, the Bulls beat the Knicks in Game 6 by a final score of 96-88 to advance to their third straight NBA Finals. His Airness averaged 32.2 points in the six-game series and scored a whopping 54 points in Game 4.
Jordan dealt with a lot of outside noise during the series. He had to answer questions about his decision to gamble in Atlantic City before Game 2 and respond to Richard Esquinas’s allegation that he had lost $1.3 million to him in golf bets. Superman was so angry with the media that he stopped talking to the press.
Jordan ended his media boycott before Game 1 of the Finals against the Phoenix Suns. He told Ahmad Rashad that he didn’t have a gambling problem and would soon walk away from the NBA.
Before he left basketball, though, Jordan had four more games to win.
Michael Jordan averaged 41.0 points in ’93 Finals
Jordan was simply magnificent in the 1993 Finals. He averaged 41.0 points while shooting 50.8% from the field against the Suns and led the Bulls to a six-game series win. The UNC product won his third straight Finals MVP and defeated his close friend, Charles Barkley.
In October 1993, Jordan made good on his statement to Rashad by announcing his retirement. His father was murdered in the summer, and he was mentally and physically exhausted from playing in three straight Finals.
The Knicks never won a championship during the Ewing era, although they did reach the 1994 and 1999 Finals. Ironically, Jordan was retired both times New York won the East.