And win it all.
Jordan had 30 points, 18 in the second half, as the Chicago Bulls won the NBA championship with a 108-101 victory last night at The Forum. By routing the Lakers 4-1 in the best-of-seven series, the Bulls will bring home the first title in their 25-year history. Jordan, who averaged 31.2 points in the series, was the unanimous choice as MVP.
"It has been a seven-year struggle for me and the city," said Jordan, choking back tears. "When I came to this team, we started from scratch. Each year we got a little closer. I never gave up hope that I'd be here someday. And I never thought I'd be this emotional publicly -- I'm very emotional right now.
"But, you know, I don't mind."
The torch has been passed. And as it was passed from Johnson to Jordan, John Paxson held it for a few, brief, remarkable minutes.
With the score 93-93 and nearly 5 minutes to play, Paxson took over. He scored 10 of the Bulls' next 12 points. Eight of Paxson's points came on jumpers in the 20-foot range. Six of Paxson's points came off three assists from Jordan. Behind them, the Bulls outscored the Lakers 15-8 at the end of the fourth quarter to clinch the title.
"Maybe now we can dispel all the talk that we're a one-man team for a while -- at least until training camp," Paxson said. "Three or four years ago we depended on Michael to win it down the stretch. This time, it was the team."
Paxson was 9-for-12 from the floor for 20 points. He was 32-for-64 (50 percent) on the series.
"I'm happy for Michael," Paxson said. "He has won now on every level -- in college, the Olympics and now here. He has taken all the talk [about a one-man team] and showed nothing but class."
Jordan took the torch. And experts said he wasn't supposed to. Not this year.
The Western Conference was supposed to be the best. The Portland Trail Blazers were supposed to be the team to beat. But they were knocked off by the wily Lakers, who entered the NBA Finals boasting five titles in 12 years. Behind Magic.
But they were overrun by the young Bulls, who completed a 15-2 run through the playoffs. In the past 20 years, only the 12-2 run by the 1971 champion Milwaukee Bucks, the 12-1 run by the 1983 champion Philadelphia 76ers and the 15-2 run by the 1989 champion Detroit Pistons compares.
"[After the game] I told Michael that now, he got what he wanted," Magic said. "I told him he proved the people wrong. I told him he was a winner, as well as a great basketball player."
After being manhandled three games in a row, Magic's Lakers went down with a fight, leading 49-48 at the half.
The Bulls put together two bursts in the third quarter. The first, a 6-0 run, gave them a 56-51 lead early in the quarter. Then an 8-0 surge opened a 66-60 lead midway through the period. Jordan and Scottie Pippen, who combined for 23 points in the quarter, played prominent, alley-ooping, slam-jamming roles in both runs.
The Lakers, who trailed by as many as eight, wouldn't go away. Two three-pointers by Magic and Sam Perkins sliced the Bulls' lead to two. The period ended with a layup and a jam by Lakers rookie Elden Campbell. The fourth quarter began tied, 80-80.
Campbell had 21 points and Tony Smith added 12 for the Lakers. But they were not enough to offset Lakers injuries, or the strength of Jordan's support crew. Pippen finished with 32 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists. Horace Grant had 11 points, six rebounds and two blocked shots. Too much.
"For us to win the championship, all the starters had to play at the top of their capabilities, as well as someone off the bench," Lakers coach Mike Dunleavy said.