The 1993 NBA Finals pitted Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls against Charles Barkley and the Phoenix Suns. The two superstars were close friends, so they were presumably excited to play each other on the NBA’s biggest stage.
The Suns had home-court advantage in the series, so Games 1 and 2 were in Phoenix. Jordan was obviously focused on beating Barkley and capturing his third straight championship, but he wasn’t going to let his pursuit of greatness stop him from enjoying his time in Phoenix.
Michael Jordan played cards with Charles Barkley and golfed before Game 2
According to Suns forward Cedric Ceballos, Jordan played cards with Barkley past three in the morning and golfed before Game 2. The Bulls superstar then scored 42 points in 40 minutes in Game 2. Ceballos was in awe of how much energy Jordan had.
“We leave the nightclub and go to Michael’s hotel room, and they goof around playing cards, and I leave at maybe 2:30 or 3 o’clock in the morning,” Ceballos told NBA scribe Landon Buford. “So I don’t know how long Charles and Michael stayed up after I left, but I do know he (MJ) woke up to a 7 am tee time and walked 18 holes on the golf course before beating us in the Finals in game two. Like unbelievable, and this is not a late game. This a Finals game on the weekend, meaning it started to accommodate Eastern Conference standard time, and we are playing at home. So our game started at 4 or 5 o’clock to accommodate the east coast time zone.”
Jordan shot 18-of-36 from the field in Game 2 and had 12 rebounds and nine assists. Barkley also poured in 42 points, but the Bulls won by a final score of 111-108 to take a 2-0 lead.
It appeared Jordan and Co. were on their way to sweeping Barkley and the Suns. However, Chuck and his crew had other ideas.
Michael Jordan and Bulls lost Games 3 and 5 at home
Barkley and the Suns won Games 3 and 5 in Chicago, stunning the national media. Even though Jordan went off for 44 points in Game 3 and 41 in Game 5, it wasn’t enough to defeat a resilient Phoenix team. Barkley wasn’t going to allow his team to get swept by his close friend and used the Bulls fans as motivation.
Before Game 5, Chicago supporters began gearing up for a celebration since the Bulls were up 3-1. Barkley and the Suns saw all of the commotion take place on their way to the stadium and knew they couldn’t lose. Jordan and his teammates looked stunned sitting on the bench at the end of Game 5, and suddenly, the Suns had the momentum in the series.
Games 6 and 7 were set to take place in Phoenix. Bulls players were not looking forward to flying back to Arizona and didn’t look to be in good spirits. That’s when Jordan got on the plane with a cigar in his mouth and talked to the team.
MJ: I’m only packing one suit
In Episode 6 of The Last Dance, Jordan revealed that he told his teammates on the plane he was only packing one suit for Phoenix. The Hall of Famer was only planning to play one game and wanted his teammates to see his sense of urgency.
Behind 33 points from Jordan, the Bulls beat the Suns in Game 6 to capture their third consecutive ring. John Paxson hit the game-winning shot with 3.9 seconds left, and Horace Grant blocked Kevin Johnson’s shot attempt at the buzzer to preserve Chicago’s win.
Barkley never got back to the NBA Finals, while Jordan won three more titles with the Bulls to finish with six for his career. Maybe the Round Mound of Rebound shouldn’t have partied with MJ before Game 2 and taken the Finals more seriously.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.