Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls faced Charles Barkley and the Phoenix Suns in the 1993 NBA Finals. The Suns had the best record in the NBA during the 1992-93 regular season, and Barkley won the MVP Award, so Jordan was extra motivated to beat his pal, Chuck.
At first, it looked like the Bulls would sweep the Suns after winning the first two games of the series on the road. However, Barkley and Co. didn’t go down without a fight and won two out of the three games in Chicago to bring the Finals back to Phoenix for Game 6, setting up one of the wildest finishes in NBA history.
Michael Jordan averaged 41.0 points in the ’93 Finals
Jordan was unstoppable against the Suns in the ’93 Finals. He averaged 41.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 6.3 assists while shooting 50.8% from the field, 40.0% from beyond the arc, and 69.4% from the free-throw line.
In episode 6 of the Last Dance docuseries, Jordan said he attacked Suns swingman Dan Majerle the entire series since he knew Bulls general manager Jerry Krause liked him. He was also upset Barkley won the 1992-93 regular-season MVP and used that as extra motivation.
The Bulls won Games 1 and 2 in Phoenix to take a 2-0 lead. Jordan scored 31 points in Game 1 and 42 in Game 2. No team in NBA history has come back from a 3-0 deficit in the Finals, so if Chicago won Game 3 at home, the series was essentially over.
Game 3 went into triple overtime. Jordan finished with 44 points, but the Suns won by a final score of 129-121. The Bulls bounced back in Game 4 to take a 3-1 lead, with Jordan pouring in 55 points. They had a chance to finish the series in Game 5 at home in front of their raucous crowd.
However, the valiant Suns wouldn’t go down without a fight. They won Game 5 by 10 points, and the series shifted back to Phoenix.
Michael Jordan scored 33 points in Game 6, but he wasn’t the hero
Game 6 went right down to the wire. With 12.3 seconds left in regulation, the Suns led 98-96. Jordan scored all nine points for the Bulls in the fourth quarter up until their final possession, so everyone in the building expected him to take the final shot.
Jordan brought the ball up the court and passed it to Scottie Pippen, who caught the ball just past the half-court logo. Barkley gambled on Jordan’s pass, allowing Pippen to go downhill toward the basket. He took a few steps into the paint and passed it to Horace Grant, who could have shot a tough floater from the left side to tie the game, but instead made the right basketball play.
John Paxson was wide open from the left-wing since Danny Ainge left him to cover Grant. The Bulls guard, who hit several clutch shots in Game 5 of the ’91 Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers, sank the 3-pointer with 3.9 seconds left to give the Bulls a 99-98 lead.
The Suns had a chance to win the game on their final possession, but the Bulls got the stop and won their third straight championship. Jordan, who won his third consecutive Finals MVP Award, knew Paxson’s shot would go in before anyone else.
MJ knew Paxson would come through
During Jordan’s postgame press conference after Game 6, he told Dan Patrick he knew Paxson’s shot was going in.
“When I saw Paxson shoot it, I mean I’ve seen him make so many shots when we really, really needed it,” Jordan said. “I just knew it was going in.”
Paxson only had eight points in Game 6. However, his third and final field goal proved to be the most important shot of his career.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.